Minnesota Mamaleh: Yin Yang
If there’s one thing that we Jews have down, it’s the food bit. You can always count on something, and most often many things, to nibble on at our holidays. Every. Single. One.
So while my kitchen is in a constant state of dissaray and all of our waistlines are ahem challenged at times, our connection to our Judaism is strong– our noses and tummys will always lead us back for more.
More latkes. More matzoh balls. More challah. More Jewish-ness.
And while I would never claim to be anything but a recipe-following-kind of girl, cooking for the holidays? That I can do. And almost always, I can count on just a little bit of “help” from my children.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, I do get frustrated and impatient at times. Who wouldn’t with so many little hands helping, tasting and mess making. One of my favorite Israeli food bloggers called cooking with children an un-holy flour-y mess. Indeed. Another favorite and wise Mama noticed how egg-shell-full egg-cracking can really be. Indeed, yet again.
The chaos. The imperfect product. The tasting, so very much tasting, along the way. It’s not flawless or smooth. Easy or linear. It’s messy. And loud. And you get what you get and you try oh-so-very-hard to not get upset.
Because as Jason and I constantly look for ways to connect with our children Jewish-ly, for better or for worse, we often find ourselves in the kitchen. And that fun and frustrating, gratifying and helter-skelter mess that we make defines so very much of our Judaism. It’s a picture perfect example of yin yang. Complementary opposites within a greater whole. That’s us. In the kitchen. With our children. Being Jewish.
Let’s just face it, in Judaism there’s always something baking, stewing, roasting or freezing somewhere. So the opportunity to connect and to learn through scrumptious food arises often. And every one of those wonderful foods? They come with a shared memory, a story and an explanation of why we do what we do, bake what we bake and eat what we eat. The symbolism is deep and rich. And is generally easy to explain and to teach.
Our kids see with their own eyes the triangular hamantashen cookies at Purim. They feel with their own fingers the apples grated for charoset at Passover. They smell with their own noses the fall-ish aroma of honey cake baking at Rosh HaShannah. They hear with their own ears the latkes sizzling in the pan at Chanukah. And they taste with their own watering mouths…well, pretty much everything. Cooking for holidays screams authentic to me. And fun. And yummy. And the total yin to every single yang.
In the past two weeks not one but two little known, but hugely thought-provoking, holidays went by. Tisha B’Av is a reflective holiday that commemorates many tragedies of the Jewish people. Tu B’Av is a romantic holiday that used to serve as a matchmaking day for unmarried women.
One focuses on sadness and the other on joy. Parting and joining. Fasting and dancing. The Jewish people as a whole and couples as a unit.
It strikes me that they too exhibit the yin yang that are part of most aspects of life. Aging. Motherhood. Children growing up. That chocolate cake that’s in the fridge rightnow! No matter which part of our journey we’re on, it comes with it’s own set of complimentary opposites. Contrary. Different. Dual. Necessary. Like my children. Cooking.
My Judaism comes with it’s own yin yang. The sheer amount of special days on my calendar is a total dream for the teacher, shmaltzy part of me and a complete nightmare for that other part of me. The one that likes, you know, order. And down time.
But the part that balances the hectic-ness out? The yang, I guess? That’s powerful too. Or I wouldn’t be here, right? Our holiday celebrations hold a part of my soul within each food prepared, song sang and tradition tradition-ed. I’ve made, and eaten, these foods for as long as I can remember. There’s warmth, comfort and familiarity embedded within this calendar-ruling routine that’s hard to find just about anywhere else.
So when Tisha B’Av passed closely followed by Tu B’Av, we didn’t do the same things as you might have. No fasting or dancing in white dresses for this family. Although come to think of it, that dancing part? My kids would have been all over that. We also didn’t make any special foods this year. I couldn’t quite think of what to make, bake, smoosh and goosh. But we did turn to an old stand-by. Dips. Because didn’t you know? Absolutely everything (and I do mean everything) can be dipped in ranch dressing. Or catsup. I know, shudder.
But this time we had a goal with our dipping. Different from say, getting vegetables into our children’s mouths. We were aiming for yin yang. Equally yummy and important. But different. So no worries, there wasn’t any ranch or catsup in sight. Instead we had chocolate and hummus. I told you it was yummy. And important. And as for what was actually dipped? Besides fingers when it came to the chocolate, that is? Challah of course!
Our mini-talk about the days of communal sadness and love, about the good and the bad, the sweet and the salty were perfectly accompanied by the dip-dips.
So now you know what was discussed at our dinner table during Shabbat last week. And you also know, full-disclosure style, that we welcome our children into the kitchen whenever possible. So if you’re coming over for dinner anytime soon (yes you) don’t flinch if you stumble upon an egg shell. And don’t judge if something tastes too sweet, too salty or too ahem lumpy. Just think of it as yin yang and you’ll be fine. Just fine! Maybe, just maybe we’ll even have dip-dips for you to try out.