Rosh is right around the corner and I’ve already been making my resolutions. I always love “The Jewish Holidays.” Yes, I know there are about a million Jewish Holidays, but my family (and I’m sure many others) dubs Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur time THE Jewish holidays.
While Passover will always be my favorite (call me when you’ve got 10 plague finger puppets, Tu Bishvat) THE Jewish Holidays are always special. In our family, it’s all about the FOOD. As with any holiday (or special occasion, or a Tuesday), when my mom is at the helm creating the menu you know that everyone will be overfed the most delicious food. And Rosh dinner is no exception. There are essentially three staples:
Staple 1: Mushroom and Barley Soup
Mushroom and barley soup is a nice hearty treat that can warm the cockles (yeah, I don’t know where the cockles are either…) on a brisk autumn night. And when we lived in NY eating something that warmed you from the inside out made total and complete sense. However, my parents, husband, daughter, and myself now reside in Los Angeles… our cockles are not in as much need of a nice snuggle. But since our hearts could always use a nuzzle, mushroom and barley soup moved with us.
Staple 2: Standing Rib Roast
I come from a long line of meat eaters. My apologies to anyone who is vegetarian or vegan (my father-in-law is a vegan… and we don’t love him any less). But personally, I love me some meat. And a standing rib roast is always on the Rosh Hashanah menu. Medium rare, thank you very much.
Staple 3: Challah
Last and NEVER least. Challah. The delicious egg bread that symbolizes a Jewish celebration. From a wedding, to a baby naming, to Rosh Hashanah… ya gotta holla for the challah! Since I was born (or able to eat solid bread-like foods) I have enjoyed the fruits (or breads as the case may be) of my grandmother’s challah recipe. And since she passed away, we know she will forever live on in song and food. As I mentioned, my mom is the maven of the menu. But my grandma was the ummm… chairman of the challah. (That works to read it… not say it). Head of the challah? That sounds weird too. She was the best…. the best at baking challah.
Growing up, it was a tradition for all of the granddaughters to bake the challah with Grandma. We’d break a sweat kneading, but not over working, the dough. We’d let the dough take a nap so it could rise and then have fun punching it back down. We’ve been known to have flour fights (everything’s more fun when you’re covered in flour, right?). And whether it was topping-less (it’s too GOOD to call it “plain”), with seeds, raisins or… making our own twist on apples and honey… filled with apples to be dipped in honey, it was always (yes… ALWAYS) perfect.
So now, as we head into the New Year, I find myself wondering what I will do without challah by my side to celebrate. See, at the end of March (just before Passover in fact), my daughter started developing allergies through my breast milk. And after some trial and error and testing, we have determined that the culprits are dairy and eggs. So, I have been without dairy and eggs for five months. Sure, I’ve been known to have a craving for a grilled cheese sandwich (With brie? Yes, please.) And I do HATE being “that” girl. Ya know… the Sally Albright of the group. Asking for things on the side or making a million requests: no mayo, no aioli, is it cooked in butter? Can I get that without cheese?
But throughout the five months, I’ve found alternatives for things (good thing being a vegan is so popular… it allows for a lot of options). But what could replace challah? My mom said she found a recipe for egg-less challah. And it made me so happy that she was trying so hard to make me still feel included. And then it hit me… Sure, the challah substitute won’t taste like challah. It just won’t, let’s be honest. But that isn’t what matters. That never is what REALLY matters for the holidays. There may be alternatives for food, but there are no alternatives for friends and family. We’re going to be sharing the holiday with my parents, our newly married friends, the wife’s sister, and her husband. And what matters is being together. I wish we could be together with our entire extended family, but I can rest easy knowing that no one will be alone and everyone will feel loved. We are thankful and praying that this year will be more special than the last (don’t know how that will be possible with the birth of our little girl but heck, we’ll strive for it).
At our Rosh dinner we’ll have dairy and egg-free me, someone who is gluten-intolerant, and another person who has citrus allergies. Are we all going to enjoy the holiday any less because of these food restrictions? Will the year be any less “new?” Or are we going to be thankful for having people to share the New Year with, and spend a majority of the time talking about the newlyweds being newlyweds and our (hopefully sleeping by dinner) bundle of joy?
I will cherish being with people I care about. Cherish that although I am unable to eat challah, I AM able to nurse my 9-month-old into the New Year. Not a terrible trade.
L’Shanah Tova to all of you! May your new year be filled with love, food (whatever your restrictions may be), friends, and family.