Of all the Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashana easily tops the list as my favorite. Sure, as a little kid, Hanukkah’s eight days of presents mixed with the ability to play with fire, retain fond memories, but in my somewhat adulthood, it has become all about Rosh.
For those of you that don’t know, Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It’s our own version of December 31st without the overly priced bottle service, expensive dresses that you ruin in moments and failed expectations. Instead, this holiday revolves around time with family, great food without any limitations and you can still go to bed at a reasonable hour. It does involve two days of services at temple, but in the midst of prayer, it’s nice to catch up with old friends from High School I haven’t seen since ’07 and have my mom introduce me to far too many “nice Jewish boys.”
My Mom is the Queen of the holidays. She cooks up some of the best food around. I’m pretty sure this led me to host Rosh Hashana dinner for my friends each year of college, with all of us having a pot luck in our apartment to eat all of our favorite home dishes. I am still in awe of my mom’s ability to feed the masses and still find time for great conversation with our wonderful family and friends.
My Mom begins cooking weeks in advance, with gigantic gallon containers filled high with matzah ball and her famous cabbage soup. All of the side components have been perfected over the years and the noodle kugel (or noodle pudding) recipe has been passed down from my grandmother and still to this day, is one of my favorite dishes. Everything about traditional Jewish delights brings a smile to my face.
We start off the meal the same way every year with the choice between matzah ball and cabbage soup. Although matzah ball is traditional, I am slightly partial to the cabbage soup. My mom slow cooks the cabbage until it wilts, but still gives a little crunch with each bite. It sits in a broth of rich tomato soup, which has just the right balance between heavy and light. Then two fluffy matzah balls join the mix, giving the light, fresh taste. Who needs oyster crackers when you have matzah balls?
We all slurp our soup with glee, enjoying the wonderful broth and never ending supply of matzah balls. I’m seated at the “kid’s table,” with the median age being 22. My parents now joke that the tables are divided, married vs. unmarried. Each of us practically licked our bowls clean, before picking up our big plates for the main feast.
My mom lines all of the dishes up on the kitchen counter, with a wide range of choices. Huge platters of noodle kugel, Brazilian cheese quiche, roasted carrots, steak, creamed spinach, roasted potatoes, chicken with apricots and salad over flow, filling my lungs with the most delicious smells of home. The toughest part is deciding where to begin, my small plate haunting me. Even though I know the opportunity for seconds is just a few steps away, I need to strategize and lay out my plate properly as I make my way down the line.
Finally, my plate began to fill with the wonderful, all-homemade dishes. I couldn’t wait to dig in.
Everything was wonderful, and I’m not just saying it because I know the chef (hi Mom!). There’s something even more special knowing all the time, effort and love that went into each dish. Food and Family epitomizes the holidays. Even though I love my family and family friends, it’s nice to eat some wonderful food at the same time.
Until next year.
L’Shana Tova (Happy New Years)