There are many recipes I consider sacred, but my version of them pales in comparison with the original. My mother-in-law’s soups were legendary, but all I have is her beautiful soup tureen to remind me of their excellence. I was never able to come close when I tried. Same with my mother’s baked goods. She was famous for her mandle bread and rugelach. Sadly, my efforts fell far short of hers. But I do make a mean challah. Here is the front of the original recipe card:
The sacred recipes I shared have a few things in common. They are easy to create, and they bring people joy.
45 years ago, we joined a group of six neighbors to form a friendship group called a Chavurah. Our original intention was to celebrate Jewish holidays together and raise our children outside of the confines of formal religious education. Eventually we all joined a synagogue so our kids could attend religious school. We had hoped they would enjoy it but, as one of our sage members reminded us, hating Hebrew School is part of our tradition.
While we may have failed at our original plan to educate the kids ourselves, we did excel at eating. Our religious practices were unconventional but our recipes were sacred. Every holiday had its assortment of special foods. One of our members was a gourmet cook whose Chanukah party was something our children looked forward to, even as they grew older and more cynical about many of our celebrations. My special contribution to all of our holiday get togethers was challah.
In the early days when our Chavurah decided to home-Sunday School the kids, we hired a young woman named Cheryl, whose knowledge of Judaic history and practices far exceeded ours. She taught my friend Jan and me how to make challah. There has been a long-running dispute about this recipe because Jan made hers in a food processor and I made mine by hand or in a Kitchen-aid mixer. For years, we had dueling challahs at our celebrations, but my recipe eventually prevailed. Or perhaps Jan got tired to making it.
My kids and grandkids love the challah, which is an essential part of all of our holiday gatherings. Here’s the secret to making challah. It’s not that hard to do, but it takes a long time. That’s probably a deal breaker in normal times, but in the current climate of staying home, why not try. After mixing it, you have to let it rise for 60-90 minutes, depending on the kind of yeast you use. Punch it down and repeat. Braid it and repeat. Then bake it for about 45 minutes. That adds up to over four hours. Using a mixer with a dough hook makes the entire process pretty easy and clean. I also bake it at 325 degrees for the entire time, as I am too lazy to change the oven temperature as the original recipe requires. It’s very doable when you have to be home anyhow. Trust me, it’s delicious.
As a bonus for those who are stuck at home with young kids, I will share another sacred recipe. It’s my preschool’s famous playdough. The version below makes a large amount for a preschool class, but you can cut it down for smaller numbers of children. And, of course, everyone washes hands before making it and before each use.
The sacred recipes I shared have a few things in common. They are made with very basic ingredients: flour, salt, and oil. They are easy to create. And, most of all, they bring people joy.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.