The start of the Jewish High Holy Days began two nights ago with Rosh Hashanah, the equivalent of the Jewish New Year. Everyone walks around saying “Happy New Year” and you’re supposed to dip apples in honey to signify the sweetness for the upcoming year. This marks the holiest season in the Jewish religion as opposed to the 272 other holidays that are celebrated by the tribe. Yeah, I can call them that because I am one of them, but in truth, I am only one of them by birth. Oh and I guess by the virtue of me using “Oy” in my regular speech and text patterns. Oy! I have come to describe myself as more of a “FoodJew” than anything. I make great chicken soup, with that perfect combo of floater vs. sinker matzoh balls, I actually enjoy gefilte fish and chopped liver, and I make perhaps the best rugelach this side of, well, this side of the Mississippi? Oy! People are always blown away by the notion that I make my own rugelach because it’s a process, and everyone assumes it’s a difficult process. For me, when I make rugelach, it is likely the most religious expression I have. It started when I was 15 and we had moved back to Miami Beach after a short but lovely stint in New Orelans. Not too many rugelach in The Big Easy. In Miami, we had Grandma Selma, and we looked to her every holiday for the rugelach we all coveted. So I asked Grandma Selma to teach me, because for some reason the fear of the recipe and method disappearing was palpable, and I also liked to hang out with my Grandma. A win-win. We made a lot of rugelach that afternoon, and we laughed as we ended up covered in flour and repeatedly shushed Grampa in the other room who kept asking if they were ready yet! I think back on that memory, and it brings tears to my eyes because it was perfect. That memory and the resulting passing down of the recipe is my temple, my shul, my synagogue. Grandma Selma gave me her rolling pin, much like her mother had passed it down to her before me. It’s not a traditional rolling pin in that it’s just a long rounded wooden stick, but just as the Torah is protected and passed down, for me, so is this rolling pin. It’s likely close to a hundred years old and I can’t imagine how many rugelach it’s had the privilege of making, but I am honored every time I use it, and I am transported somewhere magical when the pin hits the dough.
I love baking in general because I love to give it away and provide sweetness to as many people as I can. That’s my religion, and I know my congregation is huge and can be found in the smiles of anyone who takes a bite.
Bring some sweetness to someone today, and you will feel the exultation!
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