September is upon us and with it the High Holidays.
A new year means new beginnings, new synagogue outfits and—probably if you’re a JFE® reader—new recipes. I love seeing what our writers and other bloggers come up with every year—honey cake variations, a new roasted chicken, beautifully braided challot.
But a lot of holidays in one month means a lot of meals, and with blogs, Instagram and online recipe databases, not to mention cookbooks and old favorites, each of those meals seems to have ballooned into a feast of excess. Even Yom Kippur—a day of not eating, for goodness’ sake!—ends up being almost eclipsed by the meals on either end.
By the end of just a couple of holiday meals, it’s easy to feel stuffed to the gills. And after all that over-eating, a lot of those leftovers end up in the trash. That’s why this year we’re embracing a little more minimalism in holiday meal planning. It’s better for our bodies, our September minds (which are already in overdrive thanks to the rush back to school/work and the end of summer) and our planet.
One of Each: A table of several appetizers, a few main dishes, sides and then, of course, a spread of desserts is so beautiful. So Instagram-able! But oy, the preparation! The dishes! And the leftovers! To avoid fatigue, limit yourself to four or five dishes at most (for example, one appetizer or soup, one salad, one meat/fish main and two sides, including a hearty one for vegetarians/vegans) and one or two desserts (maybe even a fruit platter for one of them), all served family style. Add challah, apples and honey, and you’re set. You’ll spend less time slaving away over the stove and serving and more time just reflecting and enjoying the time with family and friends.
Old Favorites: Did your Bubbe make a great brisket? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That constant is what a lot of people love most about the holidays. An old favorite—whether it’s the soup, main or dessert—can anchor the meal and make your planning easier, too.
Less Sugar: When it comes to the High Holidays, particularly Rosh Hashanah, there’s a tendency to make everything sweet: honey-glazed chicken, tzimmes, salad with fruit and, of course, sweet challah. We’re all looking for a sweet new year, after all. But so much sugar is what often leads to that Thanksgiving-like heaviness and the next day’s hangover, even if no Manischewitz was involved. Make just one or two dishes sweet (remember, you have challah and apples, too!), and incorporate acidity and freshness in everything else (for example, a lemony side dish or a fresh green salad with lots of herbs and/or a mustard dressing).
More Plants: Whether you have vegetarians and vegans at your table or not, more nutrient-rich plant-based foods are good for us all. Even if you go for a hearty meat main, balance it out with lots of greens (try herbs!), legumes, vegetables or a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa or freekeh, rather than more starches or animal proteins.
Shana tova! Here’s to gathering around the table for what really matters.