Challah On Christmas.
Saturday before Christmas and my son William left an urgent note on the kitchen countertop. “We need cat food!” Day three of his plea; it was time to act.
Our cat eats Iams brand cat food. Since it was Christmas, I thought it would be nice to get her a little wet food and a cat toy as Christmas presents. Mercury has never stated a particular religious preference, but I knew she wouldn’t object to any holiday that would score her some Friskies pate. It was time to make a trip to Walmart. Unfortunately, a place to avoid on a Saturday afternoon is Walmart.
To buffer the trauma of hoards of Walmart shoppers I asked Grace and William to come along. To sweeten the deal, I promised them lunch at Portillo’s. They accepted.
“Do we need any groceries?” I asked the kids. Silence for a moment and then Grace said, “Dad, let’s make Challah bread.” Grace loves the stuff, which we usually buy at a local bread store. I had told her that I made Challah when I was a resident physician and was living in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Skokie. However, that was over 30 years ago. “OK,” I said. “Look up a recipe on your phone. At the very least we need to buy yeast.”
Back home and out came the Bosch Universal Mixer. In went water, oil, yeast, honey, eggs, salt, and flour. Around and around the mixture spun and kneaded. After a rise, we divided up the dough and braided it into two loaves. The smell of baking bread drove the entire family mad with desire. The result was worth our effort. The bread was much better than what we would have purchased. Soft, slightly sweet, warm. A little unsalted butter melted onto each slice… perfection.
I was raised Catholic and currently attend a non-denominational Christian church. With that said, I love Jewish food, which is very similar to the Eastern European food that I grew up with. Lox, bagels, kreplach, latkes, the list of mouthwatering delicacies are endless.
Growing up I had no exposure to other cultures and religions. As I grew up, I started to meet people that were “different” than me. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and so on.
One of the things that brought us together was food. Brisket, hummus, shawarma, mango chutney, dal, tandoori chicken. Dining at a friend’s house, eating at a restaurant; we ate delicious foods made with creativity and care.
When you eat with another person, you share something special. Breaking bread is much more than filling your stomach. You eat with people who you care about. You eat with people who you trust. You talk, you share, you laugh. Food becomes a link between the two of you. By eating together you realize your similarities and accept your differences.
Christmas signifies the birth of Christ and the start of Christianity. A belief system of inclusion, not division. There are those who will use any religion to control and manipulate others. They create “us versus them” scenarios to bolster their power. I don’t believe that exclusion and demonization of others has ever been the intent of any true religious dogma.
Our world is polarized. It is so easy to identify a group of people to vilify and blame. Perhaps we all should preach less at each other, and dine more with each other. Let’s do lunch!