The mixed aromas of honey, strong coffee, whiskey, orange juice and cinnamon are wafting through the house. I’m making honey cake in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins tomorrow at sunset. Honey cake and dipping apples in honey symbolize the wish for a good and sweet year.
My mother, in her kitchen, is making her famous chicken soup and matzo balls, which we eat on every holiday not only Passover. Hers are the fluffiest and lightest ever, made so by the addition of some club soda. My daughter in-law is gathering the traditional foods associated with the holiday, beets, dates, pomegranates and fish heads among them. She’s baking challah with the help of two of the grands.
In my kitchen, I think of my grandmothers, who dutifully prepared for holiday meals. My paternal grandmother Rosie made the best apple strudel. Her recipe, passed to my siblings and cousins, doesn’t include exact measurements. She expertly knew how much of each ingredient to add. My grandmother Mae made chopped liver and chocolate cake. Neither used recipes for soups and stews.
Unlike my honey cake. I read different recipes. My daughter in-law asked me to make the one I made in May for a grandson’s Upsherin, eaten to symbolize the sweetness of learning that begins at age 3. I couldn’t remember which recipe I used. Loaded with ingredients, it’s hard finding the right balance of not too sweet and not too dry. Hadassah magazine features a recipe it claimed never fails, as long a you follow the directions exactly. I compared it to ones I’ve made and decided to try it.
On Thursday, I’ll listen to my son blow the shofar at the Columbia University Chabad. Later in the day, we’ll walk to the Hudson River and join thousands of New York City Jews in the Tashlich ceremony, symbolically casting away our sins into the water.
L’Shana Tova, Happy New Year to all.