RESOURCEFUL RECIPE

A gourmet cook, I’m not. Quite frankly, I see myself as culinary-ly challenged. Even though I have never taken the time or expressed any interest to look at the various possibilities for the sumptuous repast that adorns the table of American homes on the fourth Thursday of November, I stand in awe at the plethora of recipes that come out each year. There is, however, one recipe that I should like to share, in the hope that one’s Thanksgiving dinner truly lives up to its name.

Having seen the how very easy it is to have those at the table lose their appetite when politics is brought up, might I suggest that rather than speak about the Democrats or Republicans, there other “parties” that deserve to be serve as the main topic of discussion for all who are present. Perhaps the host can go around the table asking each invited guest to name the best Thanksgiving meal he or she has ever attended and why. Alternately, the host could ask those present to tell about the most interesting guest that has ever graced their Thanksgiving table and what made them so interesting. Far better to have everyone involved discussing a neutral topic than see two people going at each other, as they argue the merits or the worthlessness of a political view that they hold sacrosanct. Remember, the turkey is on the platter, not someone seeking or holding political office.

A little more than two months ago, various foods, symbolic in nature (either because of taste or because of name) adorned the Rosh Hashana table in traditional Jewish homes. For example, honey flowed freely as  it coated slices of apple dipped into to it, thereby tastefully telling us that in Judaism we look forward to a sweet, rather than happy year. However, historically flawed it may be, the apple serves to remind us of the primordial fruit, as we celebrate the creation of the world. Carrots, especially in stewed form, are a staple in Eastern European homes (the Yiddish word for carrots is “merren”, a homonym for the Yiddish word “increase”) in that it is our hope and prayer that the year bring with it an increase of all things good. Why shouldn’t foods similar in intent, adorn the Thanksgiving meal as well? Rather than make a “tsimmes” over sweet potatoes, perhaps it’s time to introduce (pareve)  au gratin potatoes to the table. Served either, instead of or in addition, to the sacrosanct sweet potato, au gratin potato, by its very name, could serve as a word play for “gratitude.” As peachy keen as peach cobbler is, why relegate apple pie to July 4th? One not need be suffering from a bad head cold to realize that that there very little difference between  the sound of “apple” and “ample.” Ample food, ample comradery, ample blessings are hopefully what Thanksgiving is all about. Last but not least, the final course of the Thanksgiving meal ought to be replete with a hot toddy, given the similarity in sound of “toddy”  to the Hebrew word “todah”(thanks.)

Chances are that no one is at a loss for words at a Thanksgiving dinner, especially if there are friends or relatives in attendance. Yet, prior to carving the Turkey, perhaps a request can be made by the host, asking that those in attendance to come up with three reasons (non-compulsory) to give thanks. Better yet, set a pen/pencil with a sheet of paper at each place setting for the invited guests to jot down their gratitude, to be shared during the meal. Should the host really want to add a dash of spice, the directive may include that the reason for thanks omit standard platitudes . It would be interesting to see if anyone takes the time to thank the volunteers who helped provide the “have-nots” with a Turkey dinner or the those on the police force or those at the firehouse who are putting the welfare of others before being with family. Or airline captains, flight attendants who are miles from home. Or bus drivers and cab drivers who are helping take people to Thanksgiving dinners and bringing them home again. This Thursday….

May you savor the flavor.

May the symbolic food not elude.

May the conversation merit positive evaluation.

Happy Thanksgiving

HOW SWEET IT IS

Unlike non-Jews whose lives are guided solely by the Gregorian calendar and unless we Jews give in to copy-cat behavior, we do not wish one another a Happy New Year. Instead, we extend blessings for a good year, a healthy year and a sweet year. It is this third wish that ought to appeal to our tastes more than any other wish that we either extend or reciprocate.

Wouldn’t it make for a much more interesting Rosh Hashanah, if at each meal, instead of honey, we dipped a piece of our  round challah as well as a slice of our apple into a different type of sugar? We could begin with brown sugar at the first Rosh Hashanah meal, segue into confectioners’ sugar for lunch the first day, go over to sanding sugar (coarse granules, often dyed different colors) for dinner that night and conclude by using table sugar for the final Rosh Hashanah meal, at lunch, the second day of the festival. Aside from the argument found in the Talmud that the honey in question was fig honey rather than bee honey, we would do well to wonder why, in emphasizing a sweet year, we grant honey – that is to say bee honey – an exclusive each Rosh Hashanah?

Those who insist that bee honey is not kosher are unfortunately jumping to conclusions. Savannah Bee, Busy Bee, Sue Bee are three companies that to the best of my knowledge have kosher certification. All three, sell honey derived from bees and honeycombs. Perhaps one of the reasons that honey is our dip of choice is to remind us that an essential ingredient for a a good year is not to jump to conclusions. Just as there is no foundation in claiming that honey from bees can’t be kosher, so too could many a rift have been avoided, innumerable friendships could have remained strong, and untold individuals would have been spared from looking foolish, had all the facts been assembled and carefully assessed a situation. Once someone forgoes the necessary facts and jumps to conclusions, there is simply no way of knowing where that individual will land.

Life is complex. Rarely, if ever are things straightforward. No different is the explanation that while the bee is germane to the production of honey, the bee does not actually “produce” the honey, the same way the cow produces milk. That too is anything but straightforward. Each year, we are apt to find that our pathways of life are filled with blind curves, hairpin turns, lane closures and detours, false stars, breakdowns and accidents. Perhaps for these reasons, we never wish one another an “easy” year. Life is not intended to be easy.

It might very well be that honey is the best visual lingual aid when it comes to explaining the aphorism “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Like so many other foods that any number of us simply love to eat, what is of essence is not the process, but the final product. Few, if any are interested in how hotdogs are made, how hamburgers start out and how Jell-O comes into being. Similarly, I have yet to meet anyone who has been devastated or even hurt  by somebody else’s intentions; I have yet to encounter someone who has been publicly humiliated by another person’s thoughts. It is the bee that stings, not the honey.

We ask HaShem’s blessing for a year that is mere days old. Let’s develop a taste for wishing each other  sweet times ahead. We pray that 5779 is as honey of a year. .