“Nosh” Hashanah: Happy Jewish New Year
Purists be warned: If you can’t stomach the idea of a radical departure from the traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner, stop reading right now. Because this is a story about hot dogs, homemade horseradish vodka, and store-bought cake.
Due to the convolutions of the Hebrew calendar, the Jewish New Year can fall anywhere between September 5 and October 5. Theoretically, this autumnal harvest holiday could take place the same week as the summer celebration of Labor Day. And last year, it did.
This resulted in some challenges. There are no fall vegetables to be found when temps are still in the 90s. You’d be crazy to heat up the house baking a brisket for three hours or more. The thought of boiling those balls of gefilte fish; well, that can be tough to take even with fall breezes to blow away the fumes.
And so the “Nosh” Hashanah cook-out was born.
We booked a picnic shelter in the park and fired up the grill. People brought dishes to share. No one had to dress up or sit down as we grazed our way through platters of backyard tomatoes, local apples and honey, a gorgeous rice pilaf with dried fruits and nuts – and yes, hot dogs. What it lacked in convention it more than made up for in sheer fun.
Then later, I wondered: How far had we really veered from the traditional meaning of the Rosh Hashanah foods on that picnic table of ours? Had we somehow managed to show our gratitude for plenty, and our hope for a prosperous new year anyway?
We didn’t have a round challah bread to depict the fullness of life, but we had a round spice cake from a bakery who wrote “Happy 5774!” in green icing. We didn’t have dates and pomegranates to represent the fruits of Israel, but we had raisins, currants, and almonds in the pilaf. The vodka was a nod to relatives in Russia. And although brisket is modern by comparison (it became popular when impoverished eastern European Jews elevated the low-cost cut of meat to an art form), weren’t our hoi-polloi hot-dogs kind of the same?
Perhaps this is more of a cultural and culinary stretch than anyone should attempt to rationalize. If you think so, that’s fine. But before you judge, consider this: The “Nosh Hashanah” hot dogs were kosher. And this year, I'm going to be baking my own honey cake.