For The “Challah” It
When you do something new, you always have to set a goal of how far you are going to go, and celebrating a new holiday, like Rosh Hashanah, with a two year old…there’s always the limits of “How long will she sit?” and “How much time will I actually get to spend on this?” So, some things get done figuratively or early or late, but the goal is not to do it perfectly, the goal is to celebrate the presence of God in our lives and have fun doing it.
First, there was the pomegranate challenge. Pomegranates are one of the symbolic fruits shared to bless the new year. Sometimes eaten as a new fruit to literally taste the newness of the coming year, the seed feast invokes a visual image of the many possibilities awaiting us. Pomegranate juice is a staple in our house. Finding an actual Pomegranate in Texas in September is another question. Finding one with pandemic limitations was even trickier. Also, pomegranate seeds are not that safe around a toddler and an 8 month old…so, our celebration will have cookies shaped like bad impressions of a pomegranate…and POM juice. Dates will have to suffice as the new or unfamiliar fruit.
Second, there was the question of if we could make it to any temple worship services. I found out that our neighbors at Temple B’nai Israel are having all of the traditional services and the Tuesday night service is out at the pond by Sammi’s favorite playground. But on Friday we got the phone call that one of her teachers tested positive for Covid-19. Luckily the teacher wore a mask around Sammi and she was not exhibiting any symptoms, so she wasn’t coughing on Sammi. Therefore, we will be quarantined, so no special community celebrations, and a strange parallel with the waiting period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Well, next year at B’nai Israel!
Third, the fish head. I was standing at the Sam’s deli trying to figure out who to ask about a fish head, and looking at the fish they had, I didn’t think they fillet them in house, and I doubt the deli in United does either… “Who would have a fish head in Amarillo?” I wondered. At that moment, I saw the cutest little claws I’ve ever seen. Next year, I will find a fish head, this year we will “Be the hands”, next year we can say the traditional phrase, “Be the head and not the tail!” (Moses would not approve, but Peter would.) I wasn’t sure how to cook them, but I started chatting with a woman in the store and she suggested I could steam them or boil them lightly and then put them in the oven and cover them with butter and seasonings. I didn’t even look up another recipe, when I got home, I put them in the freezer so they would boil like shrimp. I’m trying to cook without butter, so I filled a pan with olive oil, avocado oil, cinnamon and Italian seasonings to give it a Mediterranean feel, rather than a Red Lobster taste. I boiled the frozen claws for three minutes and tossed them in the pan. (Later note: Sammi loved them!)
Fourth, didn’t we have pumpkin farms last year at this time? I know they usually put out pumpkins before I can even think about October, but this year I couldn’t find a one. Gourds are another essential table dressing for the celebration feast, so I was about to give up and get something plastic when Robbie offered me a candy corn pumpkin. Score! I decided to make up a gift bag with dates, candy pumpkins and apples for the Seder blessings! They look beautiful and festive!
Finally, why can’t I get a Challa on Walmart Pick-up? Seriously? Again, I thought, how far do I really want to go with this. As I was preparing the honey cookie dough(which is waiting in the freezer) in the cookbook from DAYS, I looked at the recipe for the Honey Round Challah. Could it really be this easy? Well, I ordered some new yeast, just to be safe, and I’m so grateful I did. The recipe turned out perfectly. I used 50/50 whole and white flour, because it turns out I used most of our white flour on the cookies…so, I added more yeast (5tsp instead of 3tsp) and more sugar (2 tsps instead of 1tsp). Look at this beautiful blossoming yeast!
The braiding was much simpler than I thought, and when I looked at the finished product, I realized why you can’t get Challah on pick-up—because it’s just so darn satisfying to make. Forget sourdough, I will be making my Sweet Honey Whole Wheat Challah!
As I looked at the beautiful Challah coming out of the oven, I realized why celebrating this holiday is so refreshing for me. There are so many terrifying and violent things happening in the world, I just really needed something holy, sweet and beautiful to appear out of no where, like this humongous Challah! May we find gratitude in this moment, and Adonai, come bless our home for a sweet year ahead.