The Truth about Dinner

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Even during the mounting activity that goes together with the week before Purim like your favourite shoes goes together with your favourite handbag, I still have to make dinner.

The reality is that the ones I love go off full each morning and come back hungry at the end of the day. Unless I, myself, am hungry, I am still almost always taken by surprise.

In the midst of this icy-rainy-slushy-freezy weather buffet we are experiencing daily, it’s hard to know whether we should put on rain boots, mukluks, or skates to go do our marketing. Some days it seems to make more sense to minimize running around, stay in, and make dinner from the (ever dwindling, Pre-Pesach) pantry.

But how can I possibly do that? How can I happily stay home when, in my mind’s eye, I see the colour coordinated, bow tied Shaloch Manos waiting to be created? How can I cozy up, comfy clothed in the kitchen, when I imagine the delectable homemade dishes to be made for the Seuda and the ingredients that need to be procured? What about the cards that beg to be written and posted to dear ones who are far away? And me? I can barely get my engine started (not just the automotive one) and put into the first gear of making dinner!

When I was younger, and had way too much energy, I used to cram all my imaginings into the precious few spaces that remained at the end of the day. The arts and crafts and baking tins used to come out in the wee hours. I knew even then that something was out of whack, but I just had to finish that one last detail.

Now that I’m older (and I can’t claim wiser, but certainly slower) I understand that I was doing it all backwards. I should have been chugging along at my own merry speed, sharing what I was already doing along the way. Not putting the whole kit and caboodle of life on hold to focus on the whipped cream-with-the-cherry on top. Perhaps you are more clever than I. Perhaps you have discovered the truth of self knowledge and prioritizing long ago.

A friend of mine sent me an email that claims you can tell where a product comes from by the first three numbers of its barcode. Apparently, the alleged ‘jig’ is up because now we’ve figured out when ingredients come from China, even when they don’t admit it. A savvy team of sleuths looked into this and discovered it was a hoax. There may still be information covertly hidden about the origins of nationality of a food product, but the bar codes don’t tell the secret.

I found this incident very telling because, as in life, there is no sneaky little formula that figures stuff out for you. Delusions abound, and the insight that Purim offers, if I am paying attention and not running around tying up bows, gives me the chance to realize what I really need to focus on. Making dinner.

Here is a recipe that can be offered anytime, (yes, its even perfect for your Purim seuda) that is based on a recipe by a favourite English cookbook author of mine, Rose Elliot. Her style of cooking is frugal, no-nonsense, and not particularly pretty, but it sure does the job when they come home hungry. This recipe lends itself to experimenting with other varieties of beans paired with different seasonings. Simple and satisfying.

Chickpea Pancakes
makes 12 medium sized pancakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 19 ounce tin or chick peas, drained
3 Tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
A little water
¼ cup wholewheat flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil

In a food processor, mince the garlic. Add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, egg and seasonings. If the mixture is too thick, let it down with a little water.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the flour.

Heat a skillet with the oil and form pancakes with a large spoon. Fry until lightly browned on one side, about 5 minutes, and gently turn over and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Serve warm on their own or with a garlicky dipping sauce.

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Purim,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

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