Rosh Hashanah honey cake

It’s now officially 5771. Last night’s sunset marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year. The holiday typically falls in September (163 days after the first day of Passover). For me it always signals a shift from the light, fruity days of summer to a brisker and and more sober season.

Rosh Hashanah apples + honey

It’s common for Jews to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey and other sweet foods to usher in a sweet new year. I grew up eating gefilte fish, which my mother prepares mostly from scratch with carp and pike from the local fishmonger.

Gefilte fish evokes a childhood memory of reading Barbara Cohen’s classic, The Carp in the Bathtub. It’s the story of a girl and her brother in Flatbush, Brooklyn who become attached to a live carp their mother intends to use for gefilte fish. The children try to save the carp from its fate. I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say it’s bittersweet.

The Carp in the BathtubApparently I’m not the only one with a fond memory of gefilte fish and Cohen’s book. Last night, a friend posted on Facebook that she’d rediscovered A Carp in the Bathtub; she and her son planned to catch a carp and keep it for a few days until the creature fulfilled its gefilte fish destiny with some help from grandma. But things did not go according to plan. The carp evaded capture and stole off with the family fishing rod. They ate salad at Rosh Hashanah dinner instead of gelatinous fish balls. There was one bright spot: everyone got to use the bathtub this week.

For those of you who observe Rosh Hashanah, how are you continuing or adapting family traditions during these Days of Awe? What Rosh Hashanah memories do you cherish and carry forward into this new year?

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Baking round Hallah with raisins is traditional for a sweet New year is also symbolic of the circle of life. Since food is so greatly tied into our memories, I make sure to serve up traditional family recipes that are associated with the holidays, like a sweet noodle raisin kugel and brisket that roasts with chili sauce and beer. I have learned my husband's aunt's way of cooking chicken soup for the matzoh balls where she adds some sweet onion, tomato and pepper to the traditional celery and carrots. The house smells incredible. My family is not religious....just I try to "feed" their souls with the traditions of generations of Jews. When my children become parents, they may wish to continue these food traditions with their families, and maybe seek spiritual fulfillment to make the dinner more meaningful.

Another great book (for Friday Sabbath) is "How Yussle Caught the Gefilte Fish." It's another coming of age book where a young boy goes fishing for the gefilte fish and only catches a carp, pike and trout, but not a gefilte.....he watches his mother in the kitchen make magic happen....("The Carp in the Bathtub" is a favorite of ours as well.)