Apple Of My Eye With Some Honey On It.Posted: September 17, 2012
I’m a minister’s kid from a backwater God-fearing town in Washington. (I can just imagine my parents saying “Hey now!” to their computer screens.) Thus, the High Holidays were obviously not celebrated much around those parts. In fact, the one observant Jewish family that I knew in town growing up had to order all their Kosher for Passover foods a month in advance from the local piggly wiggly. You can imagine how diverse we were back then.
So its pretty safe to say that I’m kind of new to the whole High Holiday concept. I knew that Rosh Hashanah was a big deal as it got kids out of school for it and I didn’t have to move my car. But what was it? Was is like Thanksgiving where you kind of just sat around with a bunch of relatives uncomfortably and ate too much? Were there special Rosh Hashanah dishes? If you were a Rosh Hashanah orphan would you have to have three kinds of potatoes like those people did in that one year in that episode of Friends?
Time for some investigative journalism. I texted my two Jewish friends about this potentially controversial subject at midnight .
My friend Nina, who I text chat with gleefully all day long, gave me my first glimpse into Rosh Hashanah food. Here’s how it went:
Me: Anything special? Eating wise?
Nina: Tzimmus, which is a stewed fruit dish.
Nina: Matzoh ball soup
Me: Nice. Any special homemade favorites?
Nina: We catered it this year, mom broke her foot. But she makes great tzimmus and brisket.
Me: Cool. You’re going to be in an article!
Nina: Hahaha yay! I made it onto Unprofessional Cookery!
It was a good start, but I needed to be objective. I needed more answers. I texted my other friend, who shall remain nameless, about what his family ate. It went as such:
Me: What does your family usually eat for the holiday? (I know thismuch about traditional holiday fare)
Nameless Friend: I’m a horrible Jew and know nothing.
Nameless Friend: I don’t even know what this holiday is.
Nameless Friend: But my sis is making a thanksgiving type meal
Nameless Friend: However I convinced fams a few years ago turkey tastes weird
Nameless Friend: So we eat chicken now
Nameless Friend: Sorry not helpful for the blogg
Me: My other Jewish friends said the same thing! How humble everyone is!
Nameless Friend: Oy Vey.
Nameless Friend: There’s a schmear of guilt on my conscience.
I was beginning to be swayed in the direction that it was kind of a three potato type of event. So I visited my old friend the internet. The internet always has the answers.
The answer on what to eat for Rosh Hashanah dinner is that there really isn’t a standard Rosh Hashanah dinner menu. A Sephardic menu may look totally different from a Tunisian one and those may be totally different from what grandma used to make. You just kind of feel it out as you go. However, there are a few traditional food items that you’ll probably find on every table regardless. They sound quite tasty.
Just about everyone will probably eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year. There’s also a wide variety of dishes involving dates, black eyed peas, spinach, gourds and leeks as those foods are all mentioned in the Talmud. Pomegranates are often served as a quiet nod to be fruitful like the many seeds within. Round challah bread loaves are also pretty normal as well, they represent the circle of the new year (and in some cultures are also used during a pocket cleaning tradition).
Some other foods that are not as widely common as those ones served are pumpkin filled rodancha pastries, beet dishes, leek fritters or stuffed vegetables called legumbres yaprakes. Also, if you’re a Sephardic or Mizrahi Jew, you might be used to eating a special Rosh Hashanah Seder that includes (in order) dates, small white beans, leeks, beets, gourds, pomegranates, apples (with honey) and the head of a kosher animal (ram or fish).
No matter where you came from, I would probably happily eat just about everything off of that menu if you were to invite me. I mean, I know it’s a little late in the game, but I’d show up if you asked.
So if you’re celebrating Rosh Hashanah this year, L’Shana Tovah. Call me maybe.