While the secular world celebrates the calendar new year with parties where champagne flows and party horns blow (I’ve never actually been to one, but am relying on old movies), the Jewish world marks its new year, Rosh Hashana, with prayer, the sound of the shofar (a ram’s horn) and special meals enjoyed with family and friends.
Traditional foods that we eat at this time of year are pomegranates and apple slices dipped in honey. But there are other eatables of note that may not be as well known.
At the beginning of each of the two days of Rosh Hashana, which according to the Jewish calendar starts at sundown, some prepare a simunim tray or a tray of ‘significant omens’. Carrots, leeks, beets, dates and squash are among the favourites. Before we take a bite, we say a blessing so that through our heightened awareness of each lowly fruit or vegetable, we elevate the very physical act of eating.
So much can be achieved together, seated around the table. But to go there is a journey. There is work to be done.
In the cooking leading up to the holiday, the kitchen is redolent with these featured ingredients as they find their way into many of the dishes. So, to begin, I market. Baskets of this and bushels of that beckon. I’m sure you can see, with your minds eye, the hills of produce that begin to assemble themselves on my kitchen counter. A mini produce stall sets up residence. Where to start?
I always begin with soup.
Soup is so good, so easy. You just give the vegetables a little love and before you know it your pots are simmering away with the promise of warmth, comfort and security. This is because the soups prepared at this time of year freeze beautifully. An able cook can move through pounds of produce and make signature soups that always hit the spot.
My featured trio are; zucchini (recipe follows), carrot and parsnip, and butternut squash. Others come to mind, but I grow giddy with possibility.
This is always a busy time of year, usually indicated by the new in front of so many of our experiences. New school year, new friends, new emotional adjustments as kids move away to university or new countries (awww, mom, you said you wouldn’t cry).
But what do we do with the old feelings?
My therapy is to make soup. Soup to sip, soup to share and soup to nourish.
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada