As the High Holidays approach, and we reflect upon the year past, we are in touch with the essence of our deeds, the essence of one’s soul and the essence of our relationship to and with G-d, while committing to a year anew.
Hopefully, we remember that forgiveness is an expression of unconditional love while demonstrating unity through acts of kindness and friendship, giving and receiving the gifts of life and holding a deep desire to do good this coming New Year.
Having said all that, my reflections always take me back “home,” remembering the preparation for the High Holidays. While it coincided with the beginning of the new school year, new school clothes, notebooks, a new lunch box and new friends, there was also the anticipation of several new outfits for Shul! Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Southern California, it was most often Fall, so it was a change from the summer clothes to the fashionable winter look. Everything new!
And when everyone entered Temple, the whispers and comments as to who was wearing what, along with the essence of the Rabbi’s sermon, was a big part of the long day’s end conversation over a very well prepared meal. While I was pondering over my Holiday wardrobe, my Bubie and Mother were planning the dinners, Break-the-Fast and numerous leftovers for after Shul.
Which brings me to food. Of course, it wasn’t until I was married and had the responsibility to prepare the Holiday meals, did I realize what a big job this was! As a teen I remember taking my Bubie to Fairfax, the ultimate Los Angeles Jewish neighborhood where the butcher, the baker and produce people cringed every time they saw my Bubie enter their store! After the multitude of humiliating experiences I had to endure standing next to her side in these establishments, I finally chose to hang-out outside and not be a part of the embarrassing harassment she bestowed upon these store owners!
How does one respond when a little Russian accented Jewish Bubie confronts the butcher with, “Mister, how fresh is this cheecken?!” I listened as he quickly but annoyingly answers, “Lady, they’re still saying Kaddish in Shul for this chicken!” Or when she says to the fish man, “Sooooooooo, new, vhy does this carp smell like this?” and he looks her straight in the eyes and barks at her, “Sister, YOU should only smell so good!” And the poor produce farmer, “So vhen did you pick these celeries and onions?” and without missing a beat the man answers, “The same day I picked my nose!” Oy vey, don’t ask!
But after all the years of watching and listening to the traditions that went along with getting the house ready for the High Holidays, I realized what a big part food plays in our family culture. Of all the definitions of food, this is the one I like best because it says what my family is all about: “Food: Something that nourishes, sustains.” Food, in our family, is a reason, and sometimes an excuse, to bring people together.
After my daughter married her non-Jewish husband, he told me he didn’t understand why there was always a decision to be made about where we were going to eat, what we were going to eat, what time we were going to eat and who was cooking what! “I thought food was just to eat!” he said, “I didn’t know it had ceremony behind it.” (It’s here I’d like to point out that he has blamed me for the weight he has gained during his marriage!)
Food brings people to the table for many reasons. It is tradition, ritual, religion and ceremony in good times and bad. Food has power and that’s why we have to honor its importance, for it gathers us to talk, celebrate, mourn, honor, share and reminisce. Remember in the movie Avalon when the oldest brother left the Thanksgiving table screaming, “You carved the turkey without me!” That was all about tradition and ceremony, love and anger—all good reasons to eat!
What would Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur be without gefilte fish and chicken soup? Chanukah without latkes or donuts? Could you come to the Passover table without matzo or the food on the seder plate? Do you know why there are always hard-boiled eggs at a shiva house? Even if no one eats them, they are there to represent life and its continuity. I love the tradition that when someone moves into a new home, you bring them a little salt so that amount is the only bitterness they will have, lots of sugar so lots of sweetness comes to them and a piece of bread so they will always have food in their home. In our house, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be worth the day without cashew stuffing. Through food, we create traditions and memories that we hope our children will smell, taste, savor and then pass on and on.
Most importantly for me, gathering around a table is an excuse for the coming together of family and friends to share stories, tears and laughter through the celebration of food. Can you imagine a gathering of people with no food? Just the thought is funny! The best part for me is the gathering for food preparation when the division of labor is taken for granted and we share in the tasks. It makes the taste of the meal that much sweeter knowing it was a shared experience.
So having shared my High Holiday memories, as a Baby Boomer Bubie, and one who has the grandchildren already helping with the holiday meal, I’d like to share some of our family’s most favorite Holiday recipes! May you be blessed in the Book of Life and live a happy and healthy New Year! La Shana Tova! And enjoy!
No holiday would be complete without a kuggle, whether it is a noodle or matzah kuggle, with apples, raisins, grapes, fruit cocktail or topped with granola! My personal favorite is to replace the milk with whipping cream OR Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream! Great for Sunday brunch or as a side dish for dinner!
– 8oz. medium noodles, cooked and drained
– ½ cup butter
– 4 eggs
– 1 pint sour cream
– ½ cup milk (whipping cream or Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream)
– 2 teaspoons vanilla
– 1 cup sugar
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 350 degree oven
While boiling the noodles, spray a Pyrex dish with Pam, put the butter in the Pyrex dish and heat in the oven till the butter melts. Mix all ingredients together very well. Drain the noodles, toss in the Pyrex with the butter and sprinkle with cinnamon then add mixture, add any of the toppings (or not) and sprinkle with more cinnamon. Bake for one hour or until center is dry andthe noodles are crispy on top but do not burn bottom! A winner forever!
Orange Glazed Biscuits
A delicious addition to any breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make lots because the longer they sit, the better they taste and leftovers are great for making French toast the next day!
– 2 packages Pillsbury Butterflake rolls or Hungry Jack—large or Grand size
– 1 stick butter
– ¾ cup sugar
– 3 tablespoons orange juice
– Grated peel of an orange, about ½ the orange
-Cook the butter, sugar, orange juice and peel in a sauce pan
– Separate the rolls and dip each piece in the above sauce, covering thoroughly
– Spray a Bundt pan or ring mold with Pam
– Arrange the rolls around the pan kind of standing up and layer
– Pour remaining mixture over the rolls and chopped nuts are optional to pour on now
– Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until they are browned
You’ll be licking your fingers!
Lemon Roasted Chicken
-One plump roasting chicken, washed, cleaned and seasoned the day before cooking
-Drizzle a bit of oil on the chicken then season with Lawry’s seasoning salt, garlic salt, pepper and squeeze the juice of two large lemons all over. Put the squeezed lemons inside the chicken and cut another lemon in slices and spread around the bottom of the pan. Let sit overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for two hours or until brown and crispy. The chicken juices merge with the lemon flavor and does NOT taste too lemony. If you have leftovers, great for sandwiches after Shul!
FABULOUS CARROT SOUFFLÈ
This recipe has become a staple for family get-togethers because we love it so much and the younger kids eat it!
-7 cups chopped carrots (about 2 lbs)
-2/3 cup granulated sugar
-1/4 cup sour cream
-3 tbs. all purpose flour
-2 tbs. melted butter
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1/4 tsp. salt
-3 large eggs lightly beaten
-Cinnamon and all-spice is optional but does add a great flavor
-Pre-heat oven to 350°
-Cook carrots in boiling water till very tender; drain. Place in food processor till smooth. Add granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients. Pulse to combine.
-Put mixture into a 2-quart baking dish sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until puffed and set. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. (Makes servings for 8).
Great Thanksgiving or Passover dish.
An unusual but yummy vegetable treat! Depending how many people you are serving, on head of cauliflower can feed about 6/8 people.
-Steam or boil cauliflower till very soft.
-Mash up like potatoes, add butter, sour cream, season to taste with garlic salt and pepper and add small pieces of sliced leeks. Like my Bubie, I don’t measure the sour cream or butter, I just taste!
-Put in a Pam sprayed Pyrex dish and bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.
-Fry some sliced leek till crispy and sprinkle on top before serving! May take a few minutes before your guests recognize the vegetable!
Too full for Dessert—not for this one!! The perfect light dessert!
-Wash and dry raspberries
-Package of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
-Spray a cookie sheet with Pam
-Put ½ the bag of chips in the microwave for 30 seconds, mix it up and put back for another 30 seconds and mix chocolate till very smooth
-Use a tea spoon to put a nickel size chocolate scoop on the cookie sheet and immediately add one raspberry with pointed side up, continue till all raspberries are gone—be careful because you might eat more than you make!!
-Put in frig and chill, for an hour or ok to make the day before. Let stand for a few minutes before taking the delight off the cookie sheet to place on a serving dish. Your guests will praise you for all your hard work!! They get eaten very quickly so don’t be afraid to make two batches!!