Thursday, July 11, 2013

Food and the Holidays

We're in the United States for an extended vacation, and we took the family to the Natural History Museum in New York, where there's an interesting exhibit on different aspects of food. There's a great display of a Roman banquet, which immediately brought to mind both the Pesach seder as well as the Gemara in Brachot which describes such a meal in precise detail. (By the way, the exhibit says that they leaned to their left so that they could eat with their right hand. We were always taught that we lean left so that the food will go down properly, but I wonder whether doctors among my readers can chime in and let me know if that's an anatomically correct assertion...)
Towards the end of the display, there's a film about the role of food in culture, focusing on Thanksgiving, the Chinese New Year, and Hindu culture. It could, of course, have been about Jewish culture as well. After all, think about how the following foods conjure in our minds religious experience:
  • Hand matzah
  • Apples and honey
  • Hamentashen
  • Latkes
  • Challah
I asked two of my children to name the food that most makes them think of a certain time of the year, and they both, to my great surprise, gave the same answer: Fricasee.
Twice a year, on Pesach and Sukkot, I make a recipe for Fricasee that I learned from my mother that she learned from hers. It's got meatballs, chicken wings, necks, lots of onions, and a ton of paprika. I just like how it tastes, but never realized just how closely my kids associate it with the Chagim.
Ask your kids what food most makes them think of a time of the year. Their answer might surprise you.

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