Bitter/Sweet New Year

I like to joke that my family is not Jewish, but
Jew-"ish".  There are a few folks in the family who know the
Torah from shineola, but most of my machatunim are
non-observant and ignorant of the practice of Judaism, save the instinct to
throw around the odd bit of Yiddish.

Though I lack "real" Jewish heritage, I usually find
myself in the company of family or friends wo kindof-sortof honor the holiday
of Rosh Hashanah. My contribution is usually a dish of roasted yams and
prunes known as tsimmes. The dish is symbolic, like all other
foods eaten during a ritual. It is a wish. It is a hope. 

Shana tovah u'metukah. For a good and sweet
new year.


I have never looked down the corridor of autumn with a more
desperate wish for sweetness. This has been a profoundly sad time. The loss of
my husband keeps washing over me, fresh every day. Every day there is a new
struggle to make sense of the loss, to let go of the deep anger and resentment
I have towards the Universe for our Exceptionally Shitty Luck. To find moments
of sweetness and light where there seems to be neither. To find the tender bits
and savor them. 

I didn't make tsimmes for our sunset dinner this year. Other
friends fed me and my stepson instead, gave us lamb and wine and plum cake,
fish, and apples with honey, and deep red wine. I was grateful and hopeful.

But ritual is a funny thing. I know in my heart that good things
could happen even if I don't lift a finger. I still feel like pushing back
against something. I want to offer something up. I want to try.

Last night I made tsimmes and wept, wondering if there might be
some slight enchantment in a couple of tears. In the Bernard Malamud short story, The
 a Jewish baker seems to improve his bread by weeping into the
dough. Could it change my luck? I wish this would all go away. Nevertheless, it
will not. So instead, I wish us Good. I wish us Sweentess. I wish my
amazing family and friends a happy New Year. I wish you love.

Dried Plum and Garnet Yam Tsimmes

  • 3-4
     small garnet yams, cut into ¾” pieces
  • 5-6
    dried plums (prunes), chopped
  • 2
    Tbsp. butter, margarine or coconut oil, melted
  • 3
    tablespoons honey
  • 1/2
    teaspoon sea salt
  • 2
    teaspoons Chinese five-spice
  • ¼
    cup orange juice concentrate
  • ½
    cup red wine (you can substitute grape juice, the result will be slightly

 Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss the sweet potatoes and the
dried plums together with the melted fat, salt and the five-spice. Put the
mixture into a small, greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20
minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 7-10 minutes longer, until the
sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and beginning to caramelize.
Serve warm. Serves 2-4.


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