Posted on November 1, 2013
Once in a while I encounter a person who “eats to live,” i.e., they eat what they need, what they must, and no more. My friend Lori is such a person. She is perpetually on a severely restricted diet in which she is constantly avoiding sugars and carbohydrates, and eats especially formulated high protein foods in order to compete in her next bikini building contest. Once she joined me on an afternoon with boiled, flavorless pieces of chicken in a baggie. “No, no,” I said, “I really don’t want any. I’m going to enjoy my margarita and guacamole. Thank you anyway.” Don’t get me wrong; she looks amazing at 52. However, she just eats what she needs to in order to maintain her awesome physique. Even though I want to lose weight and look better, I really, really like eating. I find myself scouring the L.A. Times’ Saturday section for new recipes, taking an occasional cooking class, and being very excited when I make something new that tastes great.
My primary way of experiencing Judaism is, of course, through food. I can’t even describe my delight, years ago, when I first made chicken soup from scratch. Proudly feeling the link with my bubbies of years past, I stirred and tasted my soup as the chicken bones, leeks, onions, carrots and dill continued to release their flavors. Now, I love making foods that remind my family and me of the upcoming holiday. The delicious aroma of latkes frying in oil during Chanukah, honey cake baking on Rosh Hashanah, and Grandma’s cheesecake at Shavuot announce to all the joyful start of another glorious Jewish holiday. Days before Purim, I blissfully had the confirmation class over to my house as we filled dough with nutella, apricot and strawberry jam. I know it’s not very traditional but it was delicious.
Before any of us can blink an eye, it will be Passover. Pesach begins on Monday night, March 25 and our congregational seder will be on Tuesday, March 26 beginning at 6:00 p.m. RSVP to the office soon. While it can be a challenge avoiding hametz (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye and for those who are Ashkenazim from Eastern Europe, corn, rice, and legumes) there are many alternatives. Ground almonds can easily be substituted for many cookies that are normally made with flour. This can make wonderful almond meal macaroons flavored with chocolate, orange zest, coconut, and more. And who can resist a flourless chocolate torte? In order to balance the Passover sweets, we can try to be healthier with our meals by serving fish, meats, with lots and lots of veggies. Eggs for breakfast can be delightful with so many recipes for omelets and frittatas, and salads for lunch are good for all.
Well, there are people who live to eat, and others who eat to live. We Jews do both. As one who loves to eat, I take special joy in tailoring my menus to the season of the year. So here’s to eating with joy, connecting with our history, and making meaningful moments around the table.