A few nights ago, I began my annual pre-Rosh Hashanah ritual: “The Review of Menus Past.”
Since 2004 I have kept a record of what I planned to serve each year for Rosh Hashanah. Over the years, the record keeping has been refined. In the second year of this project, I decided to list who was “responsible” for making the item on the menu like me, Mom A, or Mom B (my mother-in-law and my mom, designated this way because of last names, not priority, of course).
In 2006 I realized that it would be really helpful to add in the cookbook title and page number so that when I went to cook the food I could find the recipe quickly. It turned out to be even more helpful years later when I decided to make something again and I didn’t have to rack my brain to remember where it was (I have a lot of cookbooks). Finally, four years ago I added the schedule of cooking so I knew what I had to accomplish each day to stay on track. (Perfect for my busy life and my type A personality!)
So now, when I start to think about what to make for Rosh Hashanah, my first step is to pull up the files from previous years for inspiration. I see how each year I’ve tried to incorporate some of the traditional foods for the holiday. I can’t quite bring myself to have a fish head on the table, even if it’s supposed to symbolize abundance and the head of the year. However, I’ve worked in leeks with leek latkes and potato leek soup (the Hebrew words for “leek” and “cut off” are similar so the word play has leeks represent cutting off your enemies or other negatives), pomegranates in a pomegranate chicken (the seeds represent abundance and the 613 mitzvot) and, of course, apples and honey–sliced and drizzled or in cakes or salad (for a sweet new year).
Reviewing the menus is a nice trip down memory lane. I laugh at the listing for 2005 that says “meat tzimmes.” This was a dish that did *not* turn out well. Luckily, I had made it a few days before the holiday and snuck a taste, so we ended up with a last minute substitution. I smile (and get a little bit hungry) remembering the delicious contributions from other family members or friends who became like family, sharing our festive meal each year. I love that most years there’s a listing for Grandma Shirley’s Apple Cake, made famous by my husband’s grandmother who would bake it all year round and freeze it in sections, giving it to us as a parting gift whenever we visited. Then there’s the longing that rises in my heart when I read menus from before my mom died:
2004: Matzah Balls–Mom B, Lemon Chicken–Mom B
2005: Matzah Balls–Mom B, Carrot Soufflé–Mom B
(She made some great matzah balls.)
This year as I looked over my list of meals and enjoyed the memories of flavors, friends, and festivities, I realized that the review of menus was a nice prelude to the traditional High Holiday season review I am supposed to do of my behavior for the past year. Looking over what we’ve served at our Rosh Hashanah meals inspires me to think about what I’d like to add or change this year or something I’d like to repeat. Thinking about who was at each meal reminds me of the goodness that comes from inviting others to share in a joyful day and the relationships I hold dear. These thoughts ease me into thinking about these same kinds of questions about my actions and relationships in the greater sense–what have I done well this year that I’d like to repeat, what mitzvot or behavior would I like to add this year, what shouldn’t be repeated. “The Review of Menus Past” may not be the most traditional of pre-Rosh Hashanah reviews, but it has become a ritual I value. I pray that the review of my year will be just as pleasant and satisfying, even if it’s not as tasty.
Check out all of our high holiday recipes here.