Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From fast to feast

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It's a complicated Holy Day, wherein the Book of Life is written, closed and sealed - everything you did for the previous year has been recorded and your fate for the coming year is written. It's also a fast day, a full 25 hours without food and water. I admit, I drink water; exceptions can be made in case of medical need and with a history of kidney stones I'm not going to get that dehydrated. I wrote about some of my experiences this year here.

At the end of this day of fasting and contemplation you break fast, entering the new year with joyful celebration. I did so last night with friends and family, a lovely meal that I spent several hours preparing. For any observant Jews reading this, yes, I know violates the admonition against work, but cooking is contemplative for me. It brought me tremendous peace knowing I was preparing a meal for those I love, an offering of life and forgiveness. This meal was prepared with the accompanying music of my growling stomach and the constant reminder to not nibble, trust my sense of seasoning, all will be well.

I wanted it to be special but not extravagant. Roasted chicken stuffed with lemon and tarragon, lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, roasted potatoes and garlic cloves, asparagus, roasted figs, kugel, honeycake (these last two brought by guests). Maybe I went a little overboard, but, oh, it was worth it.

With each slice of the knife I considered the beauty of the ingredients. The gaping mouths of the figs as I drizzled them with honey. The naked chicken, whom I thanked for its life and offering. The garlic cloves, each and every one sheathed in papery skin, their pungent stickiness on my fingers. The lamb, such an ancient offering, such a lovely living thing, now an offering for those whom I love. Potatoes and asparagus, from under the earth and over, each laughing with their own secret lives of green tips and round bodies. And the herbs fresh from my garden, the product of sunlight and soil and time.

The meal was a prayer to prepare and a communion to eat. A fine closure to a day of contemplation and community.

May this new season find you well, with luscious tastes and welcoming smiles to greet you.

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer

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