The Jewish New Year arrives at sunset tonight. I have warm memories of going to Temple with my grandmother on Rosh Hashanah every September when I was little.
With a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, I was actually brought up Unitarian. By and large Unitarianism worked for me. It encouraged both humanism and skepticism.
Nevertheless, as a religion (rather than a school of thought) it had its frustrating moments. I remember asking once in Sunday school what I should believe, theologically speaking. I was presented with statistics about what percentage of Unitarians believed in God, Jesus, and so forth.
It was interesting information but not very helpful to a nine year old.
The Jewish New Year always satisfied the young Tinky. Going to Temple gave me all the religious ritual and certainty the Unitarians lacked.
Even better, it was a social event as well as a religious one. My grandmother sat upstairs in the balcony with an entire community of women. They kept one ear focused on the service and the other on each others’ news.
Rosh Hashanah also appealed and appeals to me because it falls at a time of year that feels a lot newer than that of the Christian New Year.
We start school years in September. We start diets in September. (I usually do, anyway). Fall is a time of balance, of transition, of summing up and thinking ahead–in short, a perfect time to celebrate and calibrate the New Year.
Honey is a traditional addition to meals at Rosh Hashanah. It helps cooks wish everyone at the table a sweet year.
Last year at this time I made a tasty honey cake. This year I wanted to try something savory. A girl can have too much cake in her life.
I got a little help from the folks at Kosher.com, a web site that offers more than 15,000 different kosher products for home delivery.
Kosher.com publicized itself and celebrated the New Year earlier this week by distributing apples, honey, and recipes at various New York City locations by means of a giant motorized shopping cart. I wasn’t able to go to New York so its publicist kindly sent me a few recipes. They were devised by Jamie Geller, Kosher.com’s “chief foodie officer.”
I made this chicken dish last night. It couldn’t have been easier to prepare–and the soy sauce kept the honey from over-sweetening the chicken.
If I made it at another time of year, I’d probably raise the proportion of soy sauce to honey to make the sweetness even more subtle. I’d also try substituting maple syrup for the honey since I love maple syrup.
God did NOT promise the Israelites a land of milk and maple, however, so for Rosh Hashanah I’ll stick with the honey.
Jamie Geller’s Honey Chicken
1 chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds), cut into eight pieces
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced (Jamie actually suggested 1 tablespoon garlic powder, but I didn’t have any in the house so I used fresh instead)
1 teaspoon black pepper (I just turned the pepper grinder several times)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Rinse the chicken pieces, pat them dry, and place them in the baking dish.
In a small bowl combine the honey, soy sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Pour this mixture over the chicken.
Bake the chicken in the preheated oven until it is golden brown (about an hour–maybe a little less for some of the smaller pieces), basting from time to time. Serves 4 generously.
Jamie Geller (Courtesy of Kosher.com)
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