As an academic of Jewish food, I’m always on the lookout for new publications on the topic. It is a burgeoning area in which new research is being done all the time and a multitude of books and cookbooks are consistently being published. Despite wanting to buy all these books (especially the cookbooks), it is simply impossible, both financially and due to the fact that I can’t spend every waking hour reading about Jewish food (despite the fact that it would appear that’s what I do to the people close to me).
The words for this post seemed to escape me every time I sat down to write it, over the last few days. I got as far as a few sentences but seemed incapable of writing anymore. I can’t really say what stopped me from putting the words down on paper (or more accurately in a word document), but they simply weren’t flowing. I enjoyed making and eating these pumpkin pancakes but couldn’t find a way to express this. Yet after reading a friend’s thoughts concerning the act of cooking, I was reminded (something I’m grateful for) of some of the reasons I love spending so much time in the kitchen.
With all the delicious desserts that are part of the Ashkenazi culinary repertoire it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I think that after trying many of them I can safely say that babka is my favorite. My love for babka only developed relatively recently but it’s a strong one. I owe my introduction to this delightful dessert to my wonderful friend and fellow blogger Alma Heckman. We lived together in Boston over the summer of 2008 when we both cooked and ate considerable amounts of Jewish food.
I want to start off by saying that this may not be the prettiest dish to look at, but trust me, it is very tasty. I will admit that I was doubtful about how this dish would taste while it was being prepared. It looked more like an unappetizing mix of chicken and tomatoes to me than a delicious Indian chicken dish, and not something I wanted to be eating for dinner that night. I almost gave up on the whole thing and decided that I wouldn’t be writing about this dish for Eating Jewish, when my friend insisted otherwise and added the remaining ingredients that brought the dish together.
In the middle of brunch with friends on Sunday afternoon, a leaking ceiling in our apartment left my roommate and I scrambling. In the middle of preparing the meal we were going to serve, we had to stop cooking and deal with the water that clearly should not have been coming through the ceiling. Rather than frying eggs and baking potatoes, we were trying to strategically place buckets under the leaks, mopping the water that had accumulated on the floor, moving furniture and assessing the damage.
As I walked through the fruit and vegetable section of my local grocery store, I couldn’t help but notice the pile of oval shaped, deep purple Italian plums that were for sale. For weeks I had been buying deliciously juicy peaches and nectarines (of which every bite evoked summer), but it was impossible to ignore the dark color of these plums, which stood out against the bright oranges and reds of these other fruits, signaling the onset of fall. Aside from buying a few to eat that day, I knew I had to find a recipe that would highlight these fruits.
The meal that breaks the fast of Yom Kippur is one that is needed to revive the body after a long day of reflection and repentance, and the food which one eats to break the fast is an important consideration. The meal that is served after the fast should consist of dishes that are light on the stomach and easy to digest after this long period without food. Every community has their own traditions concerning the food that is usually served at this meal. Within the Ashkenazi community the fast may be broken with a dairy meal including things such as bagels and cream cheese or coffee cake.
After the celebration of the New Year and feasting on the many foods that make up a central part of its celebration, comes Yom Kippur and the time to fast. Despite the fact that this day is concerned with the abstention from eating, food still plays an important role in the observance of this holiday. One needs to fortify themselves with the proper food prior to the beginning of the fast in order to help sustain themselves through the day. Ideally foods should be filling and those that are salty or spicy are usually avoided so as not to cause excessive thirst.
As I may have previously mentioned, baking is one of my favorite things to do. When I first entered the kitchen, baking is what I began with. It came easy to me and I knew that if followed the instructions and measurements outlined in a recipe, the results would, more likely than not, turn out to be delicious. I have always felt more confident when it comes to baking and because of this it has become an activity that I try to do as often as possible.