Each Jewish New Year, as we greet each other with a joyous shannah tovah, I add a happy birthday for myself. Being born on Rosh Hashanah, a holiday with a tradition of tasting new food, as well as being the owner of The Classic Catering People, I relish in the discovery of novel flavors.
Rosh Hashanah is associated with many food customs, such as eating apples and honey, that are meant to symbolize a sweet New Year. The holiday is a natural reflection of local and seasonal foods prepared by using what’s available wherever you are. So, just as Jewish people have settled in different parts of the world, meals served during this time should be adapted based on what’s accessible in that region.
This Rosh Hashanah, I am approaching meal planning in a way that pays homage to the old and introduces unexpected elements of the new.
First. Why not seek out one of the many varieties of heirloom apples that continue to delight shoppers at Baltimore’s farmers’ markets? The blend of old and new that these apples represent serves as a tangible reminder of Rosh Hashanah and its meaning: reflection of the past year and the celebration of the New Year to come. This year, slice several types of apples to dip into honey, or mix an heirloom variety of apples in a traditional cake or cobbler.
Second. Pomegranates are often an expression of the New Year because they are a fruit that arrives in early fall, and eating them is a ritual that encourages us to appreciate all the fruits of the earth. Furthermore, the pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds, equal to God’s 613 mitzvot. This Rosh Hashanah, try toasting the New Year with a nonalcoholic libation made with pomegranate juice as the base. Another way to enjoy pomegranates is to add its red-colored seeds to a salad or its sweet-tasting juice to a vinaigrette dressing.
Third. For the daring, seek out the fruit of the Pawpaw tree. Pawpaw trees are native to Maryland, and, until recently, the fruit could only be found by foraging. Today, it is available during select weeks in the fall at farmers’ markets or can be purchased frozen in pulp form. The Pawpaw tree is a part of American history; it was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and the seeds traveled across the county with Lewis and Clark. It is often compared to a banana in taste, has tropical characteristics and is perishable. Its fleeting nature is a wonderful expression of celebrating the moment and a new ingredient that can enliven your Rosh Hashanah menu.
While Rosh Hashanah is a time of tradition, it is also a time of celebrating new and exciting things. This year, consider adding an unexpected twist to your holiday meal.
Harriet Dopkin is president of The Classic Catering People in Owings Mills.