12 September 2009

Food: How sweet it is!

What would Rosh Hashanah be without honey? We can't start a new sweet new year without dipping apple slices and slices of round challah. And what would we do without honey cake?

Another holiday sweet is teiglach, which has never appealed to me. After decades of making dense, heavy honey cakes, I've finally found an excellent chiffon honey cake that is moist, delicious and light.

Tablet magazine offered a great look at the New Year's best sweetener - honey - by famed food writer Mimi Sheraton.

Read "O Honey" here.
Sugar, of course, would be as sweet. But honey has a special place in Jewish culinary history and is mentioned often in the Hebrew Bible. Righteousness is rewarded with deliverance to the land of milk and honey, two of nature’s own foods that provide ready sustenance to humans. It is a promise repeated in both Exodus 3:8 (“And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey”) and Deuteronomy 26:15 (“Look forth from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the land which Thou hast given us, as Thou didst swear unto our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey”), though in Proverbs 25:16, it comes with a warning: “If you have found honey, eat in moderation lest you overeat and vomit.” Gluttons beware.
The article talks about bees, although bees are disappearing worldwide, possibly due to a virus. There is also honey made from dates, but I think it is an acquired taste. Honey's health benefits are touted in many areas. There was even a Fox News extra recently devoted to its use as a treatment to help cure skin infections.

And then there's the apple, which Sheraton also writes about.

As for apples’ part in the Rosh Hashanah ritual, they fit the definition of “new fruit,” supposed to be eaten at the New Year, and taken to mean either a fruit one has never tasted or which is new at the season, and celebrated with a recitation of the traditional shehechiyanu prayer marking first occasions. The apple also has biblical import; in the Song of Songs, Solomon sings, “Beneath the apple tree I aroused your love,” a gentle theme of affection for a new year, and a sentimental forerunner perhaps, of the World War II-era admonition not to “sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me,” popularized by the Andrews Sisters.
Some scholars say that the Garden of Eden's "apple" would not have supported our version of the apple as it requires a colder climate.

Sheraton includes her favorite honey cake (lekach) recipe, which she calls "the richly moist, mysteriously dark and spicy cake that has been a holiday fixture in my family for three generations."

Read the complete article and the recipe at the link above.

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