November 2012: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving will be here soon and I hope that everyone will have a wonderful holiday. For me, there is nothing better than a feast along with watching football. I enjoy the planning and preparation of the meal with my family. The fresh kosher turkey is ordered weeks in advance. The bird is cooked to perfection. In my family, it seems that I am in the minority of those who still appreciate meat and potatoes. Many have become vegetarians. The abundance of different vegetables has become the center of the meal. We serve the winter squash and sweet potatoes that we grew in our garden. The cranberry sauce is made from fresh local cranberries. The beauty of the meal is in the simplicity of the recipes. Linda Burghardt, author of Jewish Holiday Traditions says “Sukkot is considered a model for Thanksgiving. Both holidays revolve around showing gratitude for a bountiful harvest…stuffing one food inside another as a metaphor for abundance is the hallmark of Sukkot cuisine”.

The first Thanksgiving meal was most likely in early autumn around the time of Sukkot. The Pilgrim’s search for religious freedom is a similar theme recurring in Jewish history. The current Thanksgiving celebration retains less of its English Pilgrim origins. Most of our modern national holidays are devoid of religious content. Gloria Kaufer Greene, one of my favorite Jewish cookbook authors, believes “there’s something spiritual about the whole country partaking in a communal meal, even though menus and customs vary from home to home.”

We plan on including some of our traditional dishes along with new recipes. Pumpkin latkes adapted from Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking: Recipes and Traditions may be an interesting addition to our meal. Joan Nathan’s recipe for Tunisian Winter Squash Salad also sounds wonderful. I am excited for the opportunity to create new traditions for our Thanksgiving meal, while expanding our knowledge of other cultural cuisines.

This is a perfect time for all of us to be thankful for the many opportunities available in our community, and to contribute to our social programs designed to help those in need. We should be aware that some of our friends are not as concerned about how the meal is prepared, but rather how to provide food on the table from bare cupboards. For that reason, our family makes sure to donate to a local shelter. We deliver all the food necessary to provide a complete Thanksgiving meal.  Our Social Action Committee will also help distribute the dry/canned ingredients to the Hamden Food Bank. Please bring a contribution to the Temple and place it in the barrels in the Social Hall. Local Soup Kitchens are also in need of volunteers to serve food during the holidays. The experience is very rewarding for those who participate. I hope that we all have a warm and satisfying holiday. I’ll let you know if our new recipes are going to be keepers.