Every Jewish festival has a culinary significance and Shavout makes no exception. Also known as the spring harvest, this festival of weeks, directly translated from the Hebrew, makes two references to the connotations of food, the end of the spring barley and the start of the summer wheat harvest, as well as the dietary laws laid down in the Torah, when given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Shavout is by far my favourite festival, in so much as it is customary to only eat dairy products during the holiday and therefore a cheesecake fest takes place in Israel. The laws of keeping kosher does not allow milk to be eaten after meat and it is said that as the laws of the Torah were handed down to Moses on Shabbat, there was not enough time to slaughter the animals, so only dairy was eaten and therefore the tradition has been maintained. Israel is also the “land flowing with milk and honey” and it is from that Biblical saying that we eat the dairy products of the land. The food of Israel has always been …
Tu B’Shevat, is marked in the Jewish calendar as a celebration of the sign of the early saplings and the beginning of the Spring. Known as the New Year for Trees, this festival is traditionally known as the festival of nature and marked by the planting of young trees across Israel and the involvement in ecological projects up and down the country. Tu B’Shevat is thought to be an agricultural festival with strong biblical roots and as with most Jewish festivals, religious or non, food plays an integral part. It is the fruits and grains native to the land of milk and honey that are significant on Tu B’Shevat and therefore it is customary to eat pomegranates, dates, figs, grapes, barley, wheat and olives, known as the 7 species from the book of Deuteronomy. Despite the heavy rains in Israel today, young trees are being planted and beautiful seasonal produce are being eaten, for today is Tu’B’Shevat and spring is in the air…..
It’s that time of year; winter is upon us, darkness has fallen by late afternoon and we are looking to light the first candle in the menorah, for tonight we bring in the joyous festival of Chanukah. Chanukah is where we celebrate the miracle of light, when the Israelites found only enough oil to last for one night in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, but through a miracle this last drop kept burning for eight nights. Therefore, every night for eight nights, we light a new candle in the menorah in celebration. Like most of the Jewish festivals, Chanukah is heavily associated with food and so to keep with tradition, we typically eat fried foods, such as sufganyiot otherwise known as doughnuts and potato latkes or pancakes, symbolising the miracle of the burning lamps. In Israel today, sufganyiot or deep fried doughnuts are a delicacy that are enjoyed by making yeasted dough, rolled into balls which ere then plumped up by inserting fruit jam into the middle and once deep fried, granulated sugar is sprinkled on top, giving rise to a sweet, sugary bun…..
It is tradition on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year to eat foods that symbolises the hope we have for sweetness in the coming year. Apples are used as a reminder from the times when the Israelites were in slavery, where the giving of a apple became the symbol of hope and from the land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ we take our sweetener. Slices of apples dipped into sweet honey has become customary as our way of wishing family and friends a happy and sweet new year…..Shana Tova V’Metuka. Other food customs to bring in the new year include making a round Challah loaf instead of the plaited bread traditional on Shabbat, symbolising the continuity of the creation in the circle of life and the pomegranate, a fruit full of seeds, is also considered to be very special to have on the table as the ‘new fruit’, full of optimism for the coming year.
Tu Ba’av, celebrated on 15th Av, is both a traditional and modern celebration of love. In the time of the second temple, this day was a day of ‘matchmaking’ for unmarried women and today in Israel is it the ‘day of love’ likening itself to Valentine’s Day in England. Foods that we most associate with love are rich and unctuous, namely chocolate, honey and figs and there are many ways of serving these aphrodisiac’s on a plate, to show that food can be attractive to the eye and to the palate. The red and pink hearts are out in force in Israel today and menus in restaurants will reflect the mood of love, so whether it is a romantic meal, coffee and chocolate cake or just flowers and delicious chocolates…tantalise the taste buds with the food of love….