If you ask me which Yom Tov I like best, I’d answer without hesitation: Sukkos! This surely doesn’t exclude the other Yamim Tovim, but the z’man simchaseinu really affects me. Scented schach… beautifully decorated sukkos… the blend of tantalizing cooking accenting the air… These are just a few reasons for my affection for this joyful and peaceful Chag.
At times like this, when reflecting what my mission in life is, I wonder if I’m in the right place.
I should be pursuing plateaus of pure and holy, but I’m busy delving and developing palatable palates instead. Isn’t food supposed to be a means, not a goal in itself? What sort of service am I doing, then, by serving recipes and food tips to readers who are interested in making delectable meals?
In quest for an answer, I figure: If I help people prepare meaningful meals with healthier recipes for their families, I might be doing something right. Since our holidays are closely connected with symbolic dishes, helping women make delicious Yom Tov meals might score a few points for turning the mundane into holiday holy-fare. Maybe this means that I’m in the right direction after all…
And then, this email exchange was another eye-opener for me:
Are you the amazing woman from Chicago who was selling the single greatest challah I have ever eaten?
If you aren’t that Mindy, but some other Mindy who just loves challah, then I respectfully tell you that I’ll try your recipe, because your advice seems to be sage counsel, and hopefully you will get me close to replicating this king of all bread recipes that I am quixotically trying to find. It’s the kind of thing that haunts you, and now, I CANT GET IT ANYMORE!
Nobody should have to live like that!
I wish you peace,
When I told him that I wasn’t the Mindy he was looking for, he sent me this email:
Wow. That is a crushing blow, but undaunted, I will soldier on in my quest for the perfect challah!
One of the things about the challah that haunts me is the unbelievable crumb that it has, and you gave some rather specific instructions about how to incorporate air into your dough, so I thought that you might be telling me the secret to this bread I love so much.
I’m multiracial – half black, half Lithuanian, and all American. Judaism being matrilineal, I know that being a landsman comes from your mom, but alas, my people are Baltic state peasant stock. However, I am proud to say that Jewish people basically saved my life by coming along at a time when I was very lost and alone, and effectively adopting me into their families and homes. I speak a fair amount of kitchen Yiddish. I have bubbies that complain that I don’t call them often enough. I am known to bust out a tzimmes or a cholent for a cold winter night.
Above all that, though, I treasure my family and friends, which is to me the most remarkable thing about the Jewish tradition. Every holiday, every Shabbos, it all comes down to spending time with the people you love most in the world and being grateful for what you have. If Passover and Chanukah and Sukkot have taught me nothing else, they have shown me that Judaism is a faith of colossal beauty and peace. I really can’t understand how the world has gotten this so wrong.
Heck, maybe after I try this recipe, a trip to Israel won’t be totally out of the question! If your bread is that good, I’ll travel to study at the feet of the master, don’t you doubt it!