The pumpkin craze—from home decor to lattes—has had a good run. The pumpkin has become the ubiquitous symbol of fall, harvest, and thanks-giving. But, like all good things... sometimes it's a good idea to give it a rest for a bit.
My pumpkin challah recipe (pg 146 in my cookbook, RISING: The Book of Challah) is still a huge hit. It has graced many a sukkah and thanksgiving table, and if the recent posts on instagram are any indication... it's still going strong. But as the leaves are falling once more, and the air grows chilly... I find myself dreaming of something a bit different this year. Perhaps it's a bit of nostalgia for my hometown (Vancouver, CA) and the maple flavors that are the trademark of countless Canadian dishes, or perhaps its just a hankering for something new.
Thanksgiving is one of those days that I can't seem to make to make up my mind about. Do we celebrate it? Don't we have enough days on our Jewish calendar devoted to gratitude? (eg; every single shabbat!) but each year as it approaches, I find myself drawn to it... It's not just a day of general thanksgiving, it's a day in which we take the time to be grateful for this country we call home. A place of unprecedented freedom and opportunity. Never before in the history of the Jewish people in exile, (and many other peoples, for that matter) has there been such a thing as the ability to create your own destiny, and follow your dreams.
So perhaps, as Jewish people we are obligated in a way to take this day to remember. To give up thanks to the Creator of the universe, for creating this land of opportunity, and this golden age of potential for all of humanity. (and to eat some good food obviously...)
Part of the uniqueness of living in the United States of America is the ability to dream up your reality, and make it happen. We aren't tied to our birth story, our place of birth, or our circumstances... each of us can imagine something better... and then make it happen. This is the intersection between the credo of Judaism, and the founding fathers of our country.
Something like this challah I'm dreaming of...
Challah is the embodiment of gratitude and recognition of the Source of all of creation and our sustenance—and its manifestation in the most physical and tangible of creations. Maple syrup is the sap of the tree that is native—and emblematic of—Canada, my home-of-birth. Pecan trees are native to the United States and grow profusely in the heartland of this country, my home-of-choice. Put these flavors together in a challah... and it's basically the story of my life (and all of us immigrants, after all) The traditions of my family, my culture and religion, combined with the flavors of the lands I call home!
In that spirit... my mind has dreamed up a glorious challah that is fragrant and sticky with maple and pecan... and I decided to do something about it!
Imagine a challah, amber golden and flavored throughout with a hint of maple.... a bit caramelly, and a hint of toffee. Cut open the challah to reveal swirls of sticky maple bourbon studded with pecans... are you drooling yet?
It's just bread-y enough that we can still serve it for dinner... but decadent enough that it deserves a place of honor at any meal that calls forth gratitude!
So here's to a day of true reflection and gratitude, for the imperfect, yet gloriously democratic nation we call home, the fusion of all aspects of ourselves, into one beautiful and delicious whole. And until the day when the world experiences its true healing and perfection, and we all call Israel our true home, l'chaim to Maple-Pecan Challah and the US of A.