Recognizing Jewish Food Cultural Religious Practices

Table Set for Seder

Since today is the last day of September, I would like to reflect on the different diverse cultural religious food practices that had happened this month.  This  month for the Jewish community was Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 4th (sunset) thru Sept 6th (nightfall) ) which is a holiday, recognized in the Jewish New Year.  It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, and is marked by abstinence, prayer, repentance and rest. During this time on the second day, fruits not yet eaten in the new season are served in tandem with a special blessing.  The first meal is consist of round challah, apples dipped in honey, chicken matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradaish, tsimmes (sweet orange colored mix of vegetables and fruit starting with carrots and adding either sweet potatoes, prunes, pineapple and sugar)  honey cake; apple cake; strudel; nuts.  The second meal: dates, figs, pomegranates, pumpkin, leeks and beets.

Then there was Yom Kippur (Sept 13th (sunset) thru  Sept 14th(nightfall) ) This holiday is the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar and is a day of atonement marked by fasting and ceremonial repentance.  This is a large, festive, high-carbohydrate, low-sodium meal is recommended before a 25-hour fast.  the fast is followed by meat, chicken, or dairy meals. (Choices vary depending on the family’s place of origin).  In America the meal is usually similar to a brunch with bagels, lox, cream cheese, herring and other fish, and sweet kugels (Jewish pudding made from potatoes, eggs, onions and vegetables).

Then last was the Jewish Holiday Sukkot.  The 7-day festival of the Tabernacle is celebrated 5 days after fasting on Yom Kippur.  It is a time of remembrance of the fragile tabernacles that Israelites lived in as they wandered the wilderness for 40 years.  The first day of the holiday is celebrated with prayers and special meats such as Kreplach which is small triangular pieces of dough filled with meat in soup.  The fall harvest is celebrated by eating fruits, vegetables, and sweets in outdoor boothe called sukkot.  Interesting to note that the Pomegranates (also called the Chinese apples) – eaten at this holiday because of the number of pits in each fruit symbolizes the 613 commandments in the Torah.

Alot of this wonderful information about cultural diverse food and nutrition practices were taken from the book of:  Cultural Food Practices – Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Group – Cynthia M. Goody, PhD, MBA, RD and Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, Editors.  It is truly amazing how much food has such a impact with our own cultural religious practices.

Next week I will be discussing about food and nutrition impact with Hispanic Heritage Month.

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