There is an endless list of things to be thankful for on this bitter cold windy night without running water. I sit by a warm fire with plenty of wood stacked high to last all winter. I shared a Thanksgiving meal with each side of the family. I ate until my belly ached, then walked around the block to make room for more pumpkin chévre cheesecake. I listened to a Great Aunt who I met for the fist time on Friday tell us stories about her upbringing as a Jewish woman. We laughed together as a family, simply because life is better that way.
The winter is for recharging our batteries after a long season of hard work. The garden is put to rest and we are forbidden to take food from the earth now that the ground is frozen. We go to our root cellars, freezers and shelves of canned goods grateful for putting up so much delicious food in August and September.
This time, in addition to frozen fruits and vegetables, I have an abundance of chicken and goat meat. I have begun to wonder if my devotion to raising, processing, and eating food is at all connected to my heritage as a Jew. Listening to 93 year-old Aunt Sarah talk about her mother’s cooking, I’ve come to realize how deep my relationship to food has always been. Of course we all have stuff around food and diet. And even though I always had plenty to eat, I pick up on my ancestor’s fear of not having enough to eat because it is deeply rooted in our heritage.
Deprivation of good, whole, healthy food is a major fear I have inherited. I wonder, too, what being deprived of culturally appropriate foods after emigrating to this country was like for Jews. Could any of this be related to my often overzealous food projects? I stock up on food not only because I enjoy learning how to preserve the harvest and eat well all year, but could there be some hidden terror around starvation that I consequently inherited as Jew? There could be, but regardless, there is nothing wrong with my strong passion for all aspects of food. It’s hard to know if I belong to a culture of food having grown up in the U.S. That’s why I am committed to creating my own rituals and looking at Jewish culture around food.
“Every Passover my mother would bake a cake. Now, you know how difficult that is considering we don’t use any flour on Passover,” explained Aunt Sarah. “But my mother’s cakes were always this tall,” she demonstrates by raising one hand about eight inches above the other.
Pride is the only word that comes to mind for this story. Just like Aunt Sarah, as you all know, I also enjoy sharing about my cooking projects. I am proud too, for my accomplishments over the last few years in regards to sustainable food production. And I am thankful for a family that supports my endeavors.