The holidays of Sukkoth (Feast of the Tabernacles) and Rosh HaShana (New Year) are nearing. That means autumn is here. Yes, the days are still hot and dry, but certain signs, coming back season after season, point to the change. I am reaching for a blanket at dawn. Early mornings are cooler. The nights are longer, the days shorter. The Chazavim ( Sea Squills) with their delicate appearance are blooming every where, and the Chavazalot HaChof (Sea Daffodils) are adorning the sandy beaches with their snow white lily like blossoms. Have a look at a previous post and photos:
And the pomegranates are ripe, ready to pick from the trees in the garden or to buy at the markets. Pomegranates (Rimonim) are a beloved addition to Rosh HaShana meals, wishing that the new year will be as fruitful and plenty as they are, referring to the many seeds of the fruit.
There is this book I love, by the Israeli author Meir Shalev, whom and all his other books I adore. It is called "The Loves of Judith" (Ke Yamim achadim). In its story is a lovely memory about the pomegranate, told by Zayde, the prominent figure of the book:
'Before Passover, Tonya Rabinovitch's pomegranates blossomed in a plethora of tiny leaves, then they glittered and bloomed red, and in the June Hamsins, the scarlet ovaries puffed up and decked themselves out in their crowns.
Judith made newspaper cones, took Naomi, and together they covered the tiny fruits, and in the autumn when that summer came to a close, the two of them sat on the new walk and ate pomegranates.
The first pomegranates, with big pink seeds, were ready to eat by Rosh HaShana, and the dark sourish ones Judith picked after Sukkoth, squeezed them and strained their juice with the white laundered cloth they used for straining milk, and taught Naomi how to make wine from it.
Years have passed since then, but I can easily picture them sitting on the gray cement, the woman who's dead now and the little girl who has grown up now, blue cloth kerchiefs on both their heads and their four knees bare. Their strong, bare feet are still pricked by the tiny spinning tops of the eucalyptus, which was still standing there, and by the hard little hedgehogs that kept dropping from the casuarinas.
Judith picked up a pomegranate, tapped it gently all around with the wooden handle of the knife and decapitated it. She peeled a bit around the stump, cut around the rind, and cracked the fruit with her fingers.
"Never cut it with a knife, Nomele, she said. "Metal gives pomegranates a bad taste."
With the pad of her thumb, she loosened and spilled the seeds into the palm of her other hand, and from there she poured them into her mouth.
"Don't let a single seed fall," Judith warned her, as she warned me, too, a few years later when I was also in the world and the two of us sat on that same walk and ate pomegranates. "Don't let a single seed fall. Anyone who drops a seed has lost."
Even today she warns me like that in my mind, but today I don't eat the fruit of those pomegranates. All winter they are occupied by robins and all spring they bloom red and they still ripen into a plethora of fruit. Out of a vague sense of obligation I cup them in paper cones every year, but I don't pick them when they're ripe.
Summer passes, the birds and the wind tear the paper cups, and the tiny fruit flies, who go nuts from the sweetness and lust, hover over the oozing cracks in the rind of the fruit and tell me it's autumn.
Then the pomegranates dry out and harden in their torn wrappers like mummies whose shrouds are undone. Their black rind tells me it's winter and their seeds crumble like corpses' teeth in its winds.'
In my husbands Rosh HaShana gift from work was included a small pretty recipe book, called: "Matkonei Tishrei", (Tishrei Recipes), with a collection of holiday meals for this period of time. Tishrei is now the first month of the Jewish year, and Rosh HaShana is celebrated at its first two days. But also the feasts of Sukkoth and the fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are present in this month (September/October).
Here is an easy and quick to prepare salad from this booklet, made with pomegranate seeds, very tasty:
1 packet of a baby salad leaves mix
1 cups pomegranate kernels
remember: don't cut the fruit open with a knife :-)
1/4 cup sugared pecan nuts, crushed
1/4 cup cashew nuts, small pieces
segments of red grapefruit, the white rind peeled off
2 spoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
1 spoon balsamic vinegar
1 spoon honey
Mix well and serve immediately.
SHANA TOVA U METUKA
שנה טובה ומתוקה - חג שמח