A harvest festival, Sukkot is among Judaism’s most food-centric holidays, Passover perhaps its only rival. In the greater Washington area, the holiday’s annual occurrence during the fall signifies an abundance of autumn fare such as gourds, apples and corn. In 1909, an article in The Washington Post entitled “Historic Feast Observed: Jewish People Hold Their Annual Succoth” described festivities at the Washington Hebrew Congregation on 8th Street Northwest:
Several hundred of the Jewish population of Washington participated in the celebration, in which the flowers, fruits and vegetables of the fall season figure as tributes of thanksgiving… [Special huts were] Constructed of lattice work and covered with vines and flowers by the ladies auxiliary of the congregation…200 children, ranging from tots just able to walk to boys and girls of 15 and 16 years of age, entered the synagogue, each bearing different kinds of fruits, flowers and vegetables.
Many of the Society’s historic cookbooks, discussed in last month’s post, recommend Sukkot menus and dishes to prepare during the eight-day holiday. Virtually all of these cookbooks, from Shaare Tefila Sisterhood’s Eating Pleasure by Sisterhood Measure in the 1950s to B’nai B’rith Women’s The Ten Condiments in 1992, recommend dried fruit and nuts, sweets and vegetable dishes such as stuffed cabbage, also known as holishkes in Yiddish, for the holiday.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East brought their families’ stuffed cabbage recipes with them to America. Sometimes they altered the recipes by adding tomato paste or sweet-and-sour sauce. One Jewish tradition holds that two stuffed cabbages side by side resemble a Torah scroll.
Below is a recipe for stuffed cabbage from Ohr Kodesh’s The Happy Cooker, (circa 1970) submitted by Hannah Burke. I was inspired to make a vegetarian version by omitting the marrowbone and substituting the beef for brown rice and chickpeas (top photo).
Another recipe (below) developed by I. Rokeach & Sons, Inc. and printed in a 1957 article in The Washington Post and Times Herald features a simplified version of strudel for busy households to enjoy in their sukkah. (Note the use of canned pineapple, an American pantry staple during that decade.) Since strudel contains fruit and nuts, it has become a Sukkot delicacy.
No matter how your family celebrates Sukkot this year, remember to enjoy the fruits of the season.