Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Feast of Traditions

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in the Jewish faith. Yom Kippur is marked by a 25-hour fast which began at sundown yesterday. Today is traditionally spent at home with family in self reflection, quietly atoning for the sins of the year. The fast is broken by a feast at sundown tonight.

I’m not Jewish, but I’ve just married a Jewish man (last Saturday, in fact!). In an effort to connect with his family, I’ve begun learning about and practicing the food traditions he grew up with. I’ve always found it fascinating to learn about a new culture through food. And in Judaism, there are some fascinating – and delicious – food traditions!

At Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, apples and honey are traditionally served, along with other sweet dishes with the hope of a sweet New Year. During Passover, leavening is avoided so traditionally matzo ball soup is served which is made from matzo meal, or unleavened bread. I’m told this is because when the Jews were leaving Egypt, there was no time to make their normal bread, so they made what they could without the yeast. A seder plate is also prepared which typically contains parsley, horseradish, an apple/honey mixture called haroset, a roasted lamb shank and a boiled egg, all of which are loaded with symbolism. Hanukkah is celebrated with fried foods to symbolize the shortage of oil for the lamp to light the temple that should have lasted for only one day but miraculously lasted for eight.

I’m no expert in these traditions, but I’m an enthusiastic student. So far I’ve ventured into beef brisket and latke territory for Hanukkah. Latke’s consist of shredded potatoes mixed with seasonings and egg, shaped into flat little pancakes and fried in oil. They’re traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream. I tried my hand at matzah ball soup last Passover. Matzo balls are fluffy, doughy balls traditionally served in a chicken soup with parsley and carrots. My matzah balls weren’t as fluffy as they should have been, but practice makes perfect!As a wedding gift, my mother-in-law wrote down several of the well-known and -loved family recipes for me, one of my very favorite gifts of all. One of the recipes was for kreplach, a dumpling typically filled with ground meat or potatoes, fried, and served in chicken soup. Both of my husband’s parents challenged me to master the kreplach as it’s one of the family’s favorites, but rather involved.There was also a cookie recipe from my husband’s grandmother. Charlotte’s Split Second Cookies are a family favorite for sure – they’re simple butter cookies with a layer of jam down the center, and they bring back lots of memories for him. I’ve had these cookies many times at my in-laws, and I absolutely love them with a glass of milk. You could enjoy them any time of year, but they might also be served as a snack to break the fast today on Yom Kippur, as I’ve learned it’s traditional to have something sweet right away as your blood sugar is low after the 25-hour fast.My husband tells me his grandmother Charlotte would often have these ready for him and his sister when they came for visits. They’re easy to throw together at the last minute and the recipe calls for mostly staple pantry ingredients. They also freeze well. This winter I intend to make dozens of these in advance of the holiday cookie season and unfreeze them as I need for guests, holiday gifts, etc.

Beyond their tastiness and convenience, what’s most important about these cookies is the tradition of them. I loved hearing about my husband’s memories of his grandmother’s kitchen, and eating these cookies with her. And I look forward to making these cookies – and lots of other traditional foods – for our family in the years to come.

before baking

after baking


This article also appeared in the Tennessean.


Charlotte's Split Second Cookies

Yield: About 2 dozen, depending on how you slice them

These cookies are addictive!! I made mine with raspberry and blueberry jam. Apricot is also delicious.


3/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raspberry jam (or any flavor jam)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well, until a soft dough forms.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Shape each into a 12-inch x ¾-inch log. Place 4 inches apart on two greased baking sheets. Make ½-inch depressions down center of logs. Fill with jam.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, till lightly browned. Cool in pan for 2 minutes. Cut diagonally into ¾-inch slices. Put on wire racks to cool.


6 Responses to “A Feast of Traditions”

  1. 1

    Julia — September 26, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    I love this post! (BTW I hope you’re having an amazing time on your honeymoon). I had more fun than I can normally handle at your wedding and you looked AMAZING.

    My grandmother’s kugel recipe will blow people away. I’m sharing below. I get asked to make it for every Jewish holiday I attend. Here it is!

    2 beaten eggs
    8 oz noodles cooked
    1 lb cottage cheese small curd
    1-3 TBSP Sour Cream
    1-3 TBSP Cream Cheese
    ½ cup sugar
    1 cup milk

    Dot with butter

    Bake 350 degrees for 1.5 hours in greased dish. We use a shallow dish so I think less baking time is okay. Should be slightly brown on top

    • Annakate replied: — October 1st, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

      You! I will totally make this! And thanks for the kind words about the wedding. I absolutely loved it!! Great seeing you guys, too. I loved that Peter got to spend some quality time with my parents and Aunt Linda and Uncle Gerry. Hilarious. Hopefully see you on the West Coast soon!

  2. 2

    Aunt Julie — September 26, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

    Annakate…STOP BLOGGING!!! You are on your honeymoon—go have fun!

    • Annakate replied: — October 1st, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

      Haha! I scheduled it before I left. Don’t worry – I remained solidly on holiday while I was away….didn’t even check email! What a wedding it was…Thank you for all you did!

  3. 3

    Lesley Eats — October 2, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

    Ooh, I love this recipe! I love jam and have tons of it, but I don’t eat it on biscuits or toast. Now I know what to do with it!

    And congratulations!

    • Annakate replied: — October 4th, 2012 @ 10:29 am

      It’s so easy! I’m craving some myself. I want to try them with apple butter too. Any kind of jelly/jam/fruit butter will probably work!

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