By Paula Gottlieb Herman
When we hear the phrase, “Something old, something new,” we automatically think of a wedding. But, I think of it as the possibility of blending holiday rituals with a new spin.
I grew up in Brooklyn as an only child to two of the most giving and amazing parents. Food, as in many Jewish homes, was the centerpiece of our existence. Mom was a fabulous cook who never measured anything, but her meals came out consistently delicious every time. Dad taught me to read with Bon Appetit Magazine and Gourmet, and to be passionate about food.
At our holiday table, I especially loved Mom’s Chicken Fricassee with chicken wings, little meatballs, and tender onions and garlic in brownish gravy. So, when I got married, that was the one recipe I begged her for. She would make it for Rosh Hashanah and other holidays as a hearty appetizer. The only problem was that she had no recipe card, no newspaper or magazine cutout, or any real measurements to work with. So as a new bride, I invited her over to my kitchen table, and had assembled a food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons, before she arrived.
Now, when I asked her how much salt she used in the recipe, she would take a handful of salt, and I would transfer it to a measuring spoon. The same for paprika, black pepper, garlic, etc. Her fistful of matzo meal was poured into measuring cups, too. By the end of this cooking lesson, I had all the amounts necessary to recreate Mom’s signature dish that would bring smiles to all of my future guests sitting around my holiday table.
Sadly, Mom never got to taste my version of her Chicken Fricassee. She died Erev Rosh Hashanah 2005. But, a part of her is at every holiday meal I create. That’s when I got to thinking that holidays should be a blend of something old and something new. We should honor basic traditions but create some new family ones also.
So, this Rosh Hashanah, here are some tips to enhance your family’s holiday:
1. Pick Your Own Apples. Rather than buying your apples at the supermarket, go and pick them at one of our local fruit farms. When you dip those crisp slices of apple into honey, it will be even more meaningful, since your family plucked them off the trees themselves.
2. Honey Tasting. Purchase a few assorted brands and flavors of honey in advance of the holiday, and have a honey tasting. Set out an array of sliced fruits, crackers, cheeses, see which honey your family likes the best, and serve that one on the holiday.
3. Apple Crafts. With some of your extra apples from your apple picking adventure, have the kids decorate apple placemats, holiday cards, place cards, napkins, and welcome signs with apple print stamps (made from halved or quartered apples dipped in paint).
4. Preserve Your Recipes. Even if your children haven’t cornered you yet for your recipes, your holiday table will contain many recipes from different sources. Take the time to gather them together into your own holiday cookbook. Whether you share it with them now or later, it will be a valuable family heirloom.
5. Make a New Dish or Dessert. To keep things fresh and interesting each holiday, add in at least one new dish or dessert to your menu. It’s great to have your tried and true recipes on hand, but it’s also wonderful to create something different to excite those taste buds!
We wish you a bountiful and memorable Jewish New Year!
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P.S. Please feel free to contact me if you would like Mom’s recipe for Chicken Fricassee.