Just as you don’t see a bus for ages, then a few arrive in short succession, so it is for simchas for Alex and I. In the course of 3 weekends, we have had 4 simchas including a bris and now there are none on the horizon. So be it – we’ve had fun and now it’s time to recuperate.
The first was a frum Sephardi wedding in London, hosted by lovely Lisa, who we met, together with her six children, when spending Pesach near Barcelona. (Link to previous blog.) We had been so surprised but delighted when she invited us to Nati’s barmitzvah. (How often does a holiday friendship last?) Unusual aspects of the service included the auctioning of aliyot, with men shouting out their bids for different mitzvahs, the highest of which was £380! Also, the barmitzvah boy carried the torah scroll, and he did weight training in preparation for this, because the casing was like a tree trunk- a large cylinder wrapped in silver and gilt, topped in swirls of silver. It was placed upright on the bimah and then opened, to be read vertically, with the scroll still held in place in its casing. Nati davened like a professional and seemed to have absolutely no nerves.
There was an expanse of food, on a table which stretched the full length of the hall. My favourite dishes included rye bread topped with smoked salmon, fresh salmon, little balls containing spicy potato and the cholent. As it was a Sephadi celebration, there was also the traditional baklava. This is usually super-sweet, but thanks to Nina Mellman, and her ‘Middle Eastern Delicacies’ recipe book, I have found that you can make it with just a little honey and no added sugar. (I once had a bite of a baklava which tasted as though it was made with lactulose (a popular laxative) as it was completely saturated in sugary syrup. I could not make it past the first bite.)
The second barmitzvah was hosted by our wonderful friends: Linda and David. The event started with Friday night dinner for about 30 guests, at their home. They had put a small marquee in their garden, attached onto the side of the house. It was reminiscent of being in a succah, but with better food, with plentiful chicken and salt beef, fruit salad and apple strudel among other dishes.
Our host, David attended a talk on healthy eating by Suzy Glaskie at Limmud about 2 years ago. Ever since then, he has cut down greatly on sugar and other refined carbohydrates and stayed ‘in good shape’ and felt better for this.
The barmitzvah boy, Josh, was fluent and had a good voice. In spite of his small stature, he is super-confident. His older brother, Sam, conducted a lot of the rest of the service, leaving the rabbi with little to do but a rather nice speech.
Our wedding was between Simon and beautiful Felicity and was held in a ‘wedding barn’ near Mobberley. When they said their wedding vows, he called her his ‘little mermaid’ and she made a Star Wars reference. The vows were very romantic. However, the ‘reading,’ given (I think) by the Registrar’s assistant, was ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’! She said afterwards that she had to struggle to keep a straight face. Once the rings had been exchanged and the first kiss kissed, the Registrar said there was still one more thing to go. The doors to the room opened and in walked a group of Storm Troopers! The groom’s chin nearly hit the floor!
Our meal was sea bass, roast parsnips, mashed potatoes, a creamy sauce and cauliflower cheese and I had a little bit of Yorkshire pudding. It was all, needless-to-say, delicious. Felicity had made 3 wedding cakes: one real and 2 decoy. The real one was what they call a ‘naked cake’ which I approve of, with minimal icing and so reduced sugar, but a decoration of flowers. She is highly talented.
One of our friends, who we sat with, is called Stuart. He told us that he is now sugar-free, and has been for several months. He had visited his doctors’ surgery and been told that his cholesterol was slightly high at five point something. He was offered a statin or to try healthy diet first. He had read about a celebrity who lost weight easily by going sugar-free, so decided to try this and cut out cakes, biscuits, and loose sugar etc.
He has lost about a stone in weight and also his cholesterol has come down to 3.5. He clearly has very good will-power, as at the wedding he declined all desserts and cake in favour of some fresh fruit. I was delighted to hear his story, as I used to tell patients that with dieting, their cholesterol might come down slightly but that statins will often halve it. Stuart had achieved a statin-like reduction through diet alone and that is phenomenal!
I also prioritize sugar reduction and eating healthy fats, to help with raised cholesterol. Such advice is vindicated. He looks great on it but more importantly, he will be cutting his risk of ever developing diabetes, coronary heart disease, dementia or stroke. That’s got to be worth a little self-control. So Stuart and David, I applaud you both and shall try to emulate you.