Since then I've been relegated to eating blintzes at delis, where they've been decent but far from sensational. However, with Shavuot approaching, a craving for Bertha's blintzes drove me to replicate the nirvana of that first experience.
Of all the family-oriented holidays on the Jewish calendar, Sukkot, which entails setting up a temporary house, is probably the most homey of all.
Make ahead recipes for Yom Kippur.
The first time Tina Wasserman prepared gefilte fish for Passover, it smelled up her whole house. The fish was past its prime, but it wasn't spoiled, so "it didn't make my family sick," she said. But still, the experience was so horrifying that she didn't attempt to prepare gefilte fish again for many years. Since then, Wasserman, who is Reform Judaism Magazine's food columnist, has learned a thing or two about gefilte fish.
While some food writers automatically push the same old latke and brisket menu at Chanukah, Susie Fishbein offers a lighter touch by mixing in Mediterranean fare. And although she tweaks culinary tradition, she honors it. Fishbein believes in presenting beautiful food in unique ways.
Following are pointers on livening up your Chanukah table from "Kosher by Design" by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah, 2003).
"My sister-in-law stuffs Thanksgiving turkeys with a matzah ball mixture," says Faye Levy, food columnist and author of 14 cookbooks. "Instead of making patties and poaching them, she cooks this tasty mixture inside the turkey."
This never struck Levy as odd, because her mother used to make noodle pudding on Thanksgiving.
"Her Thanksgiving dinners were almost like Shabbat meals," she says.
One of Levy's all-time favorite dishes is Thanksgiving potato kugel with asparagus. "I first tried it at the home of a friend from Colorado," she says, explaining that it was his grandmother's recipe.
"In his family, that dish was the essence of Thanksgiving."
I grew up in a family that never seemed to do anything right. Our approach to Yom Kippur, for example, was mixed: My father and I observed it; my mother and brother did not. Returning from synagogue at the end of the day, Dad and I were starving, so we grabbed a couple of slices of challah and spread chopped liver on top. Without ceremony, we leaned over a kitchen counter inhaling this snack.
Although the experience was a bonding one, by high school I realized that something was wrong with this picture, that something made me feel uncomfortable. Standing on linoleum, I'd pivot on one of my high heels and contemplate what routine other families followed when they came home from synagogue. How and when did they resume eating?
With the no-carb craze sweeping the nation, Atkins Diet adherents make sure to avoid pasta and potatoes, but when the High Holidays roll around, even purists are tempted by succulent Jewish breads.
It wouldn't be the second night of Rosh Hashanah if our friends didn't come for dinner, contributing a cornucopia of dishes, especially divine desserts. There are enough pastries covering the buffet to keep judges at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest busy for a week.
Conventional wisdom on the subject maintains that if honey cakes are removed from the oven at exactly the right time --whatever that is -- the dreaded dryness will be avoided.
"Mother used to leave jars full of schav in the refrigerator," says a friend of mine. "Because the stuff looked like seaweed, I would run from the kitchen in horror."
Did you know that Thanksgiving is really a Jewish holiday?
"The most common Sukkot dishes are filled foods, particularly stuffed vegetables and pastries, symbolizing the bounty of the harvest," wrote chef Rabbi Gil Marks in his cookbook, "The World of Jewish Entertaining" (Simon & Schuster, 1998).
Over the centuries, Jewish cooks have gutted and chopped nearly every edible plant species, mixing the pulp with onions, breadcrumbs, matzah meal, meat, spices and assorted vegetables and fruit. They then stuffed these aromatic concoctions inside the vegetables' cavities, roasting them to create heavenly results.
During the weeklong celebration of Sukkot, people eat their meals in a sukkah, or temporary hut, and holiday recipes call for seasonal produce.
Because Australia is situated below the equator, its seasons rebel against the Jewish calendar. Our winter is their summer; our spring their fall. Although Passover's rituals and symbols resonate spring, the holiday is celebrated in autumn Down Under.
"Passover begins just as the temperature drops, days grow shorter, and grapevines lose their leaves," said Jenni Neumann, a New Yorker who grew up in Sydney. "It's rather odd, if you're not used to it, I guess."
>"The sizzle of latkes in the kitchen, the glow of Chanukah candles in the window, the sounds of children playing with dreidels," these are what most of us associate with Chanukah celebrations, said Linda Burghardt, the author of "Jewish Holiday Traditions" (Citadel Press, 2001).
"Entertaining is a lot like gardening," Linda Burghardt said. "You can't make mistakes."
"I was searching for Chanukah on my calendar and couldn't find it in the month of December," said Jennifer Felicia Abadi, author of "A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen" (Harvard Common, $24.95)
Who could have guessed that this year Chanukah starts in November -- the day after Thanksgiving?
"Can't we spread these holidays out a bit?" Abadi said. "It's not fair,"
This merging of secular and religious holidays leaves many Jewish families in a quandary. Should they skip Thanksgiving in favor of Chanukah? Should they gather for celebrations two nights in a row? Because Thanksgiving comes first, will it overshadow the Festival of Lights? Because the first night of Chanukah falls on a Shabbat, doesn't it deserve special attention?
In America, the land of excess calories, boiled chicken has a bad reputation. People much prefer their chicken fried, barbecued or sautéed.
magine a Rosh Hashana table adorned with fruits and vegetables galore. Ruby-red pomegranates beckon; their jellied seeds symbolize your good deeds in the coming year. A bowl of crunchy sesame seeds promises that your virtues will be as numerous as the seeds themselves. You partake of pumpkins and squash for protection; you nibble on olives and fava beans, too. To keep enemies away, you sample spinach and beet greens. You taste tantalizing dishes seasoned with garlic and leeks, believed to cancel your bad deeds. And to guarantee a sweet year, you delight in figs, quince, dates -- and apples soaked in honey.
Full-blooded Ashkenazi Jews, we were equal-opportunity cheesecake lovers.
Many people feel passionately about foods associated with Passover, the Jewish holiday claiming the largest number of courses per meal, but not everyone has the talent to weave tasty morsels into literature.
Each year, Jews light Chanukah candles for eight evenings in a row, repeating the story of the Maccabees, the ancient guerrilla warriors who launched surprise attacks on the occupying armies of Syria.
Although most American Jews break the Yom Kippur fast with bagels and lox, there is no reason why the menu has to be limited to what has become for many people, everyday fare, the equivalent of Jewish fast food.
Potato latkes are Chanukah's signature dish, not because of the potato -- but because of the oil. Potatoes did not exist in the Holy Land when the ancient Israelites triumphed over the Syrians.