Lenny cooked a brisket for Passover. Lenny is a friend. He is a writer. And intellectual. He reads. Lenny is a black man living in an upstate New York City with his Jewish wife. Lenny is not Jewish. But Lenny cooked a brisket.
It was passover. Lenny and his wife - we'll call her Rachel - were hosting.
Lenny the writer was working on a tough piece about local politics that reflected a national issue on race and equity. Lenny was on a deadline. Lenny hated deadlines. Lenny prefered to be a procrastinator. Procrastination, he could do. Meeting deadlines...? Did he have to?
Lenny liked his job. He wanted to keep the job.
He had to meet the deadline.
Rachel asked Lenny to cook the brisket. Lenny refused. "I don't know how," he said.
"It's like corned beef. You roast it," said Rachel with mild assurance, underlined by annoyance.
"I don't know how to cook corned beef."
"Honey." She always 'honeyed him when she started getting impatient. "Honey. It's no big deal."
"Then why can't you cook it?"
"Because! I am hosting!"
Passover Seder on the first night. Everyone knows the first night is the hardest to pull off. It's opening night. Nerves through the roof.
"You braise it with something and then you stick it in the oven," Rachel said
"Whattaya braise it with?""
"I dunno. Like barbeque sauce or something. Make it up. Figure it out. Just no pork!"
"Why would I braise beef with pork?"
"I'm telling you," his wife said, "you don't wanna do that!"
"And I'm asking, who would?"
Lenny stood in the kitchen, facing his opponent - a five pound brisket, There was a torn sheet of crumpled notepaper on the kitchen counter. Pepper. Salt. paprika. Garlic. Onlion. Cumin. Some other spices. Some other stuff.
Lenny went to work, following the steps, listening to Charlie Parker, dancing as he basted.
DING - the timer. For the deadline, not the brisket.
Lenny jumped to his standing desk where his article sat unfinished, midway through. The piece needed three thousand words. Lenny had typed twenty eight so far. But he felt the rhythm kicking in. he typed and sang.
DING! The brisket.
Back in the kitchen, the brisket sits like a bare man's ass in a pan, staring up at Lenny. he flips it into the oven. Time to write.
Three hundred and fifty words in, and he's humming. Witty, poignant, terse, cutting. He's on the mark, moving into the meat of the piece.
Turn the fleshy ass of beef in the pan, baste it, rub it, moisten it; Rachel says it has to be moist. MOIST! She said it like a commandment!
Fifteen hundred and twenty three words in. he's losing momentum, not sure how to beef up the point. Time for research. Go to the notes. Google.
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a novelist, screenwriter, educator, and father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and optioned screenplays, articles, and this blog.