Dear Shaina,

The house is quiet and the kitchen is clean, sort of. Rosh Hashanah is over, the menu and chicken soup prepared long before, and Yom Kippur is resting lightly on my brain.

This is the time of year when I like to look back at the year’s happenings and forward to the coming year in hopes that we all make it into the Big Book of Life. At this point in my life, goals, resolutions and even prayers take on a whole new dimension. Retirement has a way of slowing down the urgency of doing and refocusing your energy on being. A lifetime is a very short time, even at its longest. Learning to cherish and use your gifts while accepting the value and intractability of your imperfections makes it a whole lot easier to prioritize goals for the new year.

So, no torturous unattainable New Year’s goals for me! I will try to eat healthy and exercise, but I will likely still eat too much and carry an extra twenty pounds around my middle. I will strive to be kind and generous and tolerant…and accepting of my humanness when I fail. And I will work to acknowledge my gratitude for every single day—for life, for health, for peace…for all of us.

Back to food. The Rosh Hashanah menu is easy: all the traditional foods with some updated vegetarian sides and Dad’s favorite apple cake recipe. The break-the-fast buffet after Yom Kippur is also the usual much-loved traditional dairy spread. The meal that I seem to have the most challenging time with is the erev Yom Kippur meal. It’s not a meal that gets much press and has never been a celebratory meal in our home. We eat early without much fanfare in order to get to temple on time for Kol Nidre.

For years, I served some of the traditional chicken soup and meat and kugel dishes that I had set aside in the freezer from Rosh Hashanah. I later started creating satisfying dairy dishes that included comfort foods like classic macaroni and cheese or vegetarian chili served with fresh salads and hearty vegetables. Somehow, this pre-fast meal sustained and satisfied me for the next 25 hours of fasting without making me feel overstuffed. It’s become our newest holiday tradition.

We had a bumper crop of purple hull peas and corn from our garden at the farm, and they will be a main feature at our erev Yom Kippur table this year. Not only are they nourishing and satisfying, but I am also hoping that they will bring the same kind of mazel to the new year that their cousins, the black-eyed peas, bring to the secular new year and the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder. I happily embrace all positive traditions!

We will miss sharing our meals with you during these holidays, but our prayers will be all over you!

Love,
Mom
xoxoox