- So you’ve probably heard of Hannukah, Passover, Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur. Well on the evening of June 3rd through the evening of June 5th, I will be celebrating the Jewish holiday of SHAVUOT (SHAH-VOO-OH-T) If you’re Ashkenazi your grandparents called it Shavues.
- Shavuot is fifty days after Passover. It commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Israelites in the wilderness.
- Shavuot is the holiday I often call “the forgotten Jewish holiday,” because of its simplicity it doesn’t often get the attention other holidays in the Jewish calendar do, despite the important nature of its meaning.
To get a full and vibrant lesson on Shavuot–the holiday where we celebrate the giving of the Torah, please go to one of my favorite new sites for Jewish learning, www.njop.org. On the Shavuot page, you’ll get the full run down. For example, I didn’t know that Shavuot is the only holiday in the Torah for which a month and specific day are not recorded! The holiday is very special because we read the book of Ruth which speaks of the conversion of the very special woman who would be an ancestor to King David.
For now, let’s talk about Shavuot and food. It is one of the rare Jewish holidays that really specifies a dairy meal. Some say its because the Torah came with the promise of a land of “chalav u’d’vash,” a land of milk and honey. Some say its because this is the time of the year when cows, goats and sheep give lots of milk. Some say its because the Israelites didn’t fully know the laws of kashrut. Whatever your explanation, for Jews of different backgrounds, Shavuot means cheesecake, blintzes, burekas, and pasta dishes made with soft cheeses. Why all the carbs? In ancient Israel, Shavuot was the time of the wheat harvest!
One of the things I like to emphasize about my koshersoul side…(keep that separate from Mr. Antebellum Chef) is that both the Jewish and African diasporas have been absorbed and have absorbed all of the places we have been. Where have we been? Every corner of the earth. Inasmuch as other peoples have contributed to our cultures, to be both Black and Jewish means that I have incredible freedom in creating my holiday recipes. It also means we have the opportunity to make new meanings and draw people’s attention to different aspects of our heritage. Furthermore, our food speaks to all the peoples who have been a part of it’s path….it is an invitation to see our mutual tradition as larger than the boxes of Black or Jewish, color, ethnicity or faith; this is an opportunity to see where we have been as a human family, and the glowing possibilities of where we can go, with peace and mutual understanding. Food is no small thing–it is a scripture of its own.
Kosher/Soul Shavuot food ideas:
—Watermelon and Feta Salad– Simple Math—Take 6 cups of cubed, seeded watermelon, 6 ounces of crumbled feta cheese, a 1/3 cup of minced red onion, 2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley and a tablespoon of minced chives, and 2 tablespoons of thinly sliced mint (chiffonade), throw in some chopped preserved lemon–2-3 tablespoons, and throw in a 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of champagne or white wine or chive vinegar (search here on Afroculinaria) and kosher salt and coarse black pepper. What the heck, throw in a pinch of red pepper while you are at it.
—Mango Chai Syrup— for your cheesecake, blintzes and ice cream
4 cups chopped ripe mango
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup water (you can also substitute a thin, light, organic juice of your choice)
a small cheesecloth bag with chai spices: a small stick of cinnamon, a few whole cloves, dried allspice berries, a cardamom pod and a small piece of ginger.
Pulse mangoes in a blender until liquified. Bring mango pap, sugar, and water to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer on a steady low temperature, covered, stirring occasionally, until mangoes are very soft, about 45 minutes. Add a cheesecloth with the spices and allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Strain the syrup using a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, softly pushing the pulp against the mesh. Save the separated solids for blintzes. Cool, then chill until ready to drizzle over your cheesecake, blintzes or ice cream.
Collard Green Lasagna —Hey just substitute thinly sliced collards for spinach in your favorite veggie lasagna recipe. That simple..no thrills here–just a fun, Southern, soulful substitution. Spice up those greens with red pepper and “tobacco” style caramelized onions and please only use ricotta….I know my Black folks out there will reach for the cottage cheese but try it with ricotta–yes it’s rich and….but Lord is it tasty….and more authentic.