October 12, 2011
A Very Korean Sukkot [VIDEO + RECIPE]
Last year, just before the High Holidays, a producer from TVK24, Korean Broadcasting emailed me asking if I knew someone whom they could interview for a series about food and tradition in Jewish culture.
We invited my parents, our friends the Druckers, my niece, and our friends the Adlers. Jenna Adler’s parents are Korean, and it’s absolutely true we are happy to hang with them anytime, anywhere. But it did seem like we were trying awfully hard to show off by trotting out the one part-Korean heritage Jewish family we knew.
Jenna was up for it: she could tell her parents to catch her on Korean TV.
Many weeks after our meal, a DVD arrived in the mail. It was our Sukkah meal, translated into Korean (with English subtitles), and produced for a Korean audience.
The segment begins with a wide shot of me picking vegetables for dinner, and Naomi picking pomegranates. I wonder if Koreans are keyed in to the whole backyard local sustainable thing, or if what looks so cool to us looks like peasant life to them. Just how bad is that recession?
Watching the video a year later, two things jump out at me: For someone trying to explain the joyous nature of Sukkot, I look like a constipated undertaker. Naomi is smiling, explaining the holiday with a relaxed cheer.
I look at her like I just swallowed a bug. And when it’s my turn to speak, when Jisung asks me what’s special about Sukkot food, I mumble through my explanation of its seasonal nature, the symbolism, yada yada yada.
Here’s the insight I contribute: “It’s a really fun holiday,” I say. “You sit outside and eat a meal.”
Four thousand years of Jewish civilization as interpreted by Beavis.
I began to feel self conscious—never a good thing on camera. Jisung, an earnest and charming young woman, was hanging on my every word, like the entire Korean nation would take this as they way Jews are. Over my left shoulder, out the living room window, Goldie Horn, our Nigerian Dwarf goat, had climbed onto the chicken coop, and was watching through the bay window. She was probably thinking, “Hey, I could do better than you.”
Plus, I notice I keep using the word “traditional. Like, in every sentence.
“Nothing connects us more to the past than the smell of food from childhood,” she says on camera. “Every time we have a holiday it’s not just thinking about today, it’s rooting us in the past. For every people there’s a need to know where you come from, and what keeps you rooted where you are, and that food, that tradition, those aromas, that taste, bring you back to where you come from, and it’s so important to keep the traditions alive, to remember where you came from and feel that connection.”
The show really takes off for me when the guests arrive and the food comes out. We had plenty of bottles of wine, and the food really was good. The cameraman made the Sukkah, lit up in the center of a dark yard, look mysterious and warm.
They interviewed our guests at the table, and between bites I noticed everyone used the T word.
For some reason the one person they didn’t interview was Jenna. I still haven’t figured that one out.
Apple Strudel with Pomegranates and Dates
This recipe wants you to not follow it. Use pears instead of apples for all or part of the fruit. Figs instead of dates. Brown sugar instead of honey. Melted butter instead of olive oil, if you prefer.
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with bakers parchment or grease well.
In a large bowl, add apples, 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, honey and cinamon to taste. Taste: add enough lemon juice to balance flavor. Stir well.
Pulse remaining walnuts in a blender or food processor with sugar a dash more cinamon.
Place olive oil in a dish and get brush ready.
Lay out filo flat, and keep covered with saran.
Take a sheet of filo, brush lightly but thoroughly (and quickly) with olive oil. Sprinkle with ground nut mixture. Top with another sheet of filo. Repeat drill for up to 6 sheets. Spoon filling along the edge of the long side in 3 inch cylinder. Form into perfect shape with hands. Press ends closed.
Roll gently but not too tightly. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Use remaining filling to make another strudel.
Brush tops of strudel with olive oil and sprinkle with more walnut mixture. Bake until crispy brown and the apples inside are tender, about 40 minutes.
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE: