I like to joke that my family is not Jewish, but Jew-"ish". There are a few folks in the family who know the Torah from shineola, but most of my machatunim are non-observant and ignorant of the practice of Judaism, save the instinct to throw around the odd bit of Yiddish.
Though I lack "real" Jewish heritage, I usually find myself in the company of family or friends wo kindof-sortof honor the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. My contribution is usually a dish of roasted yams and prunes known as tsimmes. The dish is symbolic, like all other foods eaten during a ritual. It is a wish. It is a hope.
Shana tovah u'metukah. For a good and sweet new year.
I have never looked down the corridor of autumn with a more desperate wish for sweetness. This has been a profoundly sad time. The loss of my husband keeps washing over me, fresh every day. Every day there is a new struggle to make sense of the loss, to let go of the deep anger and resentment I have towards the Universe for our Exceptionally Shitty Luck. To find moments of sweetness and light where there seems to be neither. To find the tender bits and savor them.
I didn't make tsimmes for our sunset dinner this year. Other friends fed me and my stepson instead, gave us lamb and wine and plum cake, fish, and apples with honey, and deep red wine. I was grateful and hopeful.
But ritual is a funny thing. I know in my heart that good things could happen even if I don't lift a finger. I still feel like pushing back against something. I want to offer something up. I want to try.
Last night I made tsimmes and wept, wondering if there might be some slight enchantment in a couple of tears. In the Bernard Malamud short story, The Loan a Jewish baker seems to improve his bread by weeping into the dough. Could it change my luck? I wish this would all go away. Nevertheless, it will not. So instead, I wish us Good. I wish us Sweentess. I wish my amazing family and friends a happy New Year. I wish you love.
Dried Plum and Garnet Yam Tsimmes
- 3-4 small garnet yams, cut into ¾” pieces
- 5-6 dried plums (prunes), chopped
- 2 Tbsp. butter, margarine or coconut oil, melted
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice
- ¼ cup orange juice concentrate
- ½ cup red wine (you can substitute grape juice, the result will be slightly sweeter)
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss the sweet potatoes and the dried plums together with the melted fat, salt and the five-spice. Put the mixture into a small, greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 7-10 minutes longer, until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and beginning to caramelize. Serve warm. Serves 2-4.