This past week, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year. The name literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew. Besides being a time to think reflectively about the past year, and ponder how you can improve during the next one, it is customary to celebrate with a big meal and a trip to temple. Yet while customs and traditions are important to me, especially as I hand them down to my children, there’s always room for a little bit of modernization and improvement. Especially when the Earth is involved.
My family has been hosting Rosh Hashanah dinners for the past few years and usually have the same type of spread. Since Covid started, however, it’s just been the four of us plus grandma. Here’s a confession – while I love having people over, I also find it very stressful. I like things to be spic, span and perfect, so having a more relaxed holiday has been a little bit of a blessing for me. It gives me time to experiment and relax, rather than striving to please and impress. This year, I therefore I decided to serve some different and local foods, instead of all of the standard fare.
I love going to the Farmers’ Market every week and have been trying some new-to-me veggies. Some are fails – I managed to destroy the kohlrabi I bought and it was bland at best. But I continue to forge on and love getting cooking tips from the people who grow my food. Kearsarge Gore Farm has been great with sharing recipes (I have some tomatillos that will soon turn into salsa), so I picked up some delicata squash and served that at my Rosh Hashanah dinner. Was it different? Yes? Did everyone love it? No. But I was happy to serve local food at my table, rather than more “crowd pleasers” that tend to be grown far away. *
In an ideal world, my family would be vegetarians. We are working on cutting back and this book is on my wish list. But there are certain food traditions we have in our family and, though I don’t love the idea of eating animals, I don’t think it’s awful to eat consume on a limited basis. But how can we improve? Buy locally and keep your money in your community. Support farmers who support the Earth. This year we bought our brisket from Beech Hill Farm and will likely continue.
The practice of tashlich is also part of Rosh Hashanah services. This year, we met our congregation near a local waterfront and the Rabbi handed out bird seed after a short kids service. If you read the above link, you’ll see the bread, rather than seed, tends to be the traditional throwing choice. However the Rabbi explained that they decided to change to birdseed this year because it’s better for the fish and the general environment. My husband and I were really impressed. Sure, this is a small change, but it also shows that you can grow with the times, rethink your customs and improve them for the better without having to relinquish the principles. It got me thinking about the other ways we can continue making our habits friendlier to the Earth, yet still comfortable. Perhaps next year, I will set a goal of having only local food at my holiday table. In fact, I think I just did. Mission accepted! – Rachel
PS Want to know more about organic farming? The Concord Monitor ran a really informative article the other day
*Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? It’s admittedly a DNF for me. Just found it too slow for my taste. However there are few pieces I always remember from that book. One is when they had a party and only served seasonal food that had been purchased locally. The author specifically says that there was orange and green melon in sight (think a standard fruit salad), and no one was unhappy about it.