On the grain: routine holiday meal

The Jewish year is full of festivals, each with its own distinctive traditional food.

There’s nothing more symbolic (or caloric) than sinking your teeth into a jelly-filled sufganiya on Hanukkah, munching on matzo sandwiches on Pesach, or devouring hamentashen poppy seeds on Purim. These highlights of the year enrich our souls and our palates with their culinary food.

However, being diligently Jewish requires extensive preparation for the big event. We have to “build up” much earlier than scheduled so that we can get to the festival well practiced in art.

So the day after Simhat Torah, the store shelves are already full of donuts; the day after Hanukkah, you can already find hamentashen in some bakeries; And, if it weren’t for a rabbinic prohibition, we would probably start eating matza the day after Purim (okay, maybe not matza, but certainly kneidlach).

All these relentless preambles ensure that we finally get to the big day well prepared, but also totally discouraged by the prospect of taking another bite of the festive meal, which our wise ancestors intended to be the highlight of the holiday.

However, there is a period in the year, a period of almost two months, which is totally devoid of festivals. This is the period between Simhat Torah and Hanukkah.

While the most fervent among us already begin culinary preparations for Hanukkah during this period, the less devout may use it as a respite and a golden opportunity to shed a few pounds before the next attack.

Everyone has their favorite food. Some love spaghetti, others ribeye, or, if you’re vegan, maybe a lentil salad. Regardless of what your favorite food is, I can guarantee you one thing. If you are served that same beloved food three times a day, every day for two months in a row, you will eventually get so tired that even thinking about it will make you gag.

However, there is one food you will never tire of, no matter how often you eat it, day after day, year after year. No, I don’t mean the chocolate cake; I mean bread. There’s something about the universal staple that people never seem to get enough of.

This phenomenon is quite unique in culinary social behavior. One would think that for a meal to be consistently so appealing, it must be endowed with bells and whistles to thrill and delight the palate. However, if you examine the basic daily breads in various countries and cultures (French baguette, Italian ciabatta, Middle Eastern pita, etc.), what characterizes these breads is their lack of bells and whistles, their simplicity. They are not something you eat and then say “Oh wow!” They are simply tasty and satisfying.

The fact that we have something genetically encoded in our DNA that predisposes us to bread and keeps us from getting tired of it has confused sociologists over the centuries and is simply something that “makes us human.” Not in vain has bread been called the staff of life, because it has been associated with life itself, pure survival. Humans can survive without sufganiyot, without hamentashen, but not without bread.

Yes, it is nice to celebrate the holidays, the warm atmosphere and the bonhomie of the family gathered around the table, but there is also virtue in the times of the year when there is no party, the period of simple routine. Even these periods have their characteristic food: bread.


1⅓ cups of flour
⅔ cup of water (warm)
¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt

Mix, cover the bowl and let it sit overnight for 12 hours.

Main recipe:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons rye flour
¾ cup of water (warm)
¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt

Add the main ingredients of the recipe to the pool mix. Mix and knead for 12 minutes by hand (7 minutes in a mixer at medium speed). Let stand for 1 hour. Pierce and shape a country-style loaf (round / oval, etc.) on a baking sheet. Let it rest again for an hour and 15 minutes. Bake in a preheated 230 ° oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust begins to brown.

The writer, a master baker from Johannesburg, lives in Karnei Shomron with his wife, Sheryl, and four children. He is the Executive Director of the Saidel Jewish Baking Center (www.jewishbakingcenter.com), which specializes in baking and teaching how to bake traditional and healthy Jewish bread. He also runs the Showbread Institute (www.showbreadinstitute.org), which researches biblical showbread.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *