One thing I love is certainty, but I’m learning that one thing is certain in life and that is uncertainty. This Sukkot the days have been wet with humidity that breaks into clapping thunder and blazing lightning and cool, sweet rain. No one expected rain. It’s hot and the rain is a welcome to wash up of tired, summer dust.
The night before Sukkot, booths were put up outside many Jerusalem restaurants. At Kadosh, it was put up above the customers’ heads as they enjoyed their food.
I was told growing up that rain on Sukkot is not a good sign, that it means God does not want your mitzva of sitting in a sukkah. But, it’s rained now and meaning is determined by our perspective.
My perspective at the moment is clouded by food menus. On the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, my nose deep in a prayer book, my mind wizzes through different recipes and food combinations. That’s what happens when family from all over the world ascends to Jerusalem for the Festival of Booths, and yes, when one is fasting.
The youngsters of Jerusalem sell the four species on the streets.
The festival period means that my kitchen footage is far higher than my iPhone usage. I’m in the kitchen so much that it’s either a punishment, or if I choose, a space that’s as meditative as a prayer book.
So thoughts swim in between chopping parsley and onion such as the one I had as I peeled kilos of apples for my Rosh Hashana jam, that life is like a recipe, and we are born with certain ingredients, and I’m learning that the biggest factor is how we use them in creating the unknown.
On Friday I was privileged to be joined in my food marathon by my cousin from LA. We made Morrocan fish balls, mustard honey salmon, and spinach quiche in a kitchen cluttered with pots. As we rolled out the quiche dough, my cousin opened the second dough package, but we didn’t have enough spinach ingredients for my original two pie intentions. She said, “Make a fruit pie.” I didn’t think I had enough time. Until later, a bit before Shabbat candle lighting my other cousin (also visiting from LA) arrived with a bag of peaches, and she said, “Could you use these?” And so a peach pie was whipped up. There was no time for a recipe. I threw in a bowl: cream, eggs and honey. We rolled the dough into the pie dish and my cousin layered the fresh peach slices. Pouring the cream mixture on top I popped it in the hot oven, and the pie was done. Or so I thought.
Meah Shearim is a rocking Haredi/Hassidic Sukkot party all night long.
Half an hour later the pie had not set. I hadn’t put enough eggs. My mother in law suggested adding ground almonds to absorb the liquid. So five minutes before Shabbat I was grinding almonds and spooning it on top of my wobbly, peach pie with a generous, drizzle of honey. I then turned the temperature off and shut the oven door, praying the pie would set.
It did, and I learned an important lesson, that it takes good ingredients to make a pie, but it also takes input from many others. So my recipe for life is taking the good ingredients in who we are, and leaping into the unknown to create
wonderful experiences, and yes delicious pies, whilst surrounding ourselves with those who love and can advise us.
This is where I should post a picture of the pie, but the next day my family all came for lunch and there was none left.
May we all have a year of happy cooking and wonderful recipes which take us into the unknown.