Religion aside though, it is also a major family holiday and an occasion for stuffing yourself silly at a huge holiday meal. We don't have any family here in Israel, but over the years we've developed a tradition of spending the three major holidays in our own Israeli/American calendar (which are of course Rosh Hashana, Passover and Thanksgiving - living outside of the US is no reason to give up on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie!) with two other "anglo" families. Both are old and dear friends and our children have grown up together like cousins. We're not family but after so many years together it almost feels that way, just without all the latent drama that goes with so many gatherings. Last night's festive dinner was held at another home, but as usual the menu itself was a joint effort.
Here are 13 different things that were on the table for the holiday meal:
1. Challah - braided egg bread traditionally eaten for Sabbath and festivals. For the High Holy Days the bread is made sweeter and is in a round shape instead of the traditional braid, to represent the continuity of years. This time of year the bread is dipped in honey instead of the salt used the rest of the year.
2. Wine - both for ceremonial purposes and for drinking
3. Apples and honey - it is traditional to eat apple sections dipped in honey for a "sweet" year
4. Pomegranate seeds - an Israeli holiday tradition. Some say it is because it is a "new fruit" representing the new year, others say it represents the good deeds you've done during the year. I just like the way they taste.
5. Soup - chicken soup and matza balls is traditional, but my friend's husband has been traveling to Korea quite a bit the past few years, so she decided to combine the usual chicken soup and the (gefilte) fish course which usually follows into a Korean fish soup instead. I don't like fish personally but everyone else said it was good.
6. Roast lamb
7. Roast chicken
8. Yam souffle (this recipe came from a friend of my grandmother's from Georgia back in the forties, but "Margie's yams" have since become a holiday tradition in my family. My surrogate family in Israel now request them each holiday too.
10. Creamed spinach (not at all traditional (and not kosher since it had milk in it) but oh so good)
11. Baked beets
12. Apple pie (mine, and quite delicious if I do say so myself)
13. The world's best (and oh so easy!) flourless chocolate cake - I originally found this recipe when I was searching for a cake to bake for Passover, but we all decided it was too good to be kept just for Passover! Skip the extra sauce if you make it though, it's more than rich enough the way it is.
There were other odds and ends like salad and roast potatoes, but since I only had room for 13 I left out the more boring dishes.
Happy TT everyone, and shana tova u'metuka (a happy and sweet new year) to everyone celebrating.
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