I woke up last Wednesday morning with an idea: I wanted to host 2016's last Shabbat. So early Wednesday evening, I sent out a text to my (what we popularly refer to as) #squad.
I'm lucky; I know that. I have an amazing group of people I call friends, the kind of friends that feel more like family, really.
And so I wanted to gauge interest and everyone's availability because hosting the last Shabbat of the year would truly be an honor. It was the perfect opportunity because I had the day off work and the time I needed and wanted to cook and set up.
I wanted to have a true sit-down Shabbat with everything set on the table. Due to space and chairs, the best number was 6 to 8. And this amount of people proved to be just perfect. It hit the sweet spot for quality group conversation. Each person updated us on his/her life and I felt like I finally truly caught up with everyone.
And the holidays are the best time to unwind. We're usually so wrapped up in our professional lives, with every second planned and every day booked. I have two friends in graduate school and the rest of us have busy work and travel schedules, so this was a day we all had free.
I thoroughly enjoy cooking; it's more accurate to say I love it. If I have the time, I find it both relaxing and exciting. I get to experiment with flavors and spices and it's a way to share your favorite dishes with others.
Cooking for people is a big deal. You want to add your own spice and flavor to a dish, but also make sure this is something that would appeal to everyone. The best thing about cooking is that it's not an exact science (baking is different). You can add smaller or larger amounts of ingredients and a dish turns out differently every single time.
I rarely use exact recipes. I like to look at recipes to get an idea of foods that pair well with one another, but I always -- always -- add my own twist. I also like making a recipe healthier if I can without sacrificing flavor.
On the Shabbat menu, I had sweet potato and carrot soup, green salad, homemade guacamole, hummus, brown rice with carrots, and pineapple chicken. I wanted a spread that appealed to both veggie-lovers and meat-lovers alike. And most importantly, I really enjoyed making every single dish. I knew that each was an expression of my cooking and myself.
What started as dinner at 7 p.m. ended as laughing and reminiscing 'til midnight and I wouldn't have it any other way. We all remembered our college days, our first jobs, and the countless Jewish events we've attended in this city over the years. When enough time passes and you look at where you started versus where you are now, the changes and personal growth are astonishing.
One of my friends just started medical school, fulfilling her dream. Another is getting her MBA, and thinking about all the opportunities open to her upon completion. The rest of us are on our second or third jobs, finally working at companies we're excited about and making a difference to the bottom line.
We also took a moment to reflect on 2016 on a grander global scale. A LOT has happened, no matter which side of the election you were on. A lot of events happened that continue to shape the world, both for better and for worse. 2017 will be a year that reflects these decisions and events of 2016. It will be a year of many firsts and uncertainties.
Best of all was the tone in which we discussed the future. It was in a positive light because we are excited. A new year brings the unknown and the unknown brings new experiences. And despite everything, we're convinced it's only getting better.
I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and things that don't happen, don't happen in our favor. We're right where we should be, and it's always at the right time. Bring on 2017.