Reader Friday – Traditions

Reader Friday – Traditions.

TraditionstraditionsSundown today marks the start of the year 5781 on the Jewish calendar. Our family tradition revolves around the meal (which is true for virtually all Jewish holidays–they tried to kill us, we prevailed, let’s eat). Sweet dishes are the norm on Rosh Hashanah, to kick the new year off to a sweet start. At our table, dessert is always Pflaumkuchen (plum cake). The recipe varied, depending on which relative was in charge of dessert, and living where we do now, prune plums are almost impossible to get, but regardless of the details, it’s always going to be plum cake for dessert.

Any holiday traditions you’d like to share, food or otherwise? Have you ever included them in your writing?

31 thoughts on “Reader Friday – Traditions

  1. Shana tova, Terry!

    Used to have a prune plum tree that yielded a couple hundred pounds of plums each September. Sadly, that wonderful tree died but I sure would have appreciated your plum cake recipe then. And I’d have gladly shipped you some crates full.

    Not a holiday tradition but my female lead, who’s Christian, impresses her Jewish lover with homemade chicken soup that rivals his bubbe’s.

    • I remember, as a teen, I was getting ready to go somewhere, and my mom said, “Wait. I want to teach you how to make chicken soup.” I told her I didn’t have time, but she said, “You take a chicken and put everything in the pot including the kitchen sink.”

  2. We do a watered down version of a Ukrainian Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. My mum is of British descent, so she and Dad worked out a compromise when I was very young.. The meal isn’t meatless, and we don’t do the full number of courses, but we have perogies and cabbage rolls and borscht. Christmas Day we have the full out turkey and fixings.

    I do have a character of German\Ukrainian descent, like my father. Christmas at his house is similar to the Christmases I grew up with.

    • LOVE perogies. When we went to Poland, we ordered a different kind at every restaurant. And my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage was superb (although her blintzes were her trademark.)

  3. My wife’s family are the keepers of the plum cake! Although the family secret is out now that the aunt’s have died (my FIL had 4 sisters, “the aunts”). The plum cake is box pound cake dotted with canned plums.

    There will only be three at the table this year. The brisket will be in the oven soon. It spent the night in a mix of wine, onion soup mix and spices.

    • I live at 9100 feet now, so most baking is out of the question without major adjustments. Two of the kids live at a more reasonable altitude (around 6500 feet) so they’ve been tasked with the baking. Alas, no get together this year, so it’s just the two of us. It’ll be a roast chicken here, although the usual was Cornish game hens with red-currant raisin sauce.
      My Nana’s brisket was the “wrap in foil, sprinkle with a packet of dry onion soup mix.” But there was always a backup chicken in the oven, god forbid the brisket (and all the other sides) wasn’t enough.

      • Wow! 9100 feet? I’m impressed. It would take me a while to work up any appetite at that altitude. You’d have to stick a fork in my hand and remind me that that’s what people eat with ;-). I’m sure you’re food is delicious.

  4. For Rosh Hashannah we used to have orange chiffon cake. An old family friend would bring it from an old school Eastern European bakery. The year after she died, I brought one home.
    “I never liked the orange chiffon.” my MIL said. There was agreement around the table. They had eaten it for more than 35 years to be nice.

  5. Hi Terry,

    We had a silly Christmas tradition for years when the kids were small, and continued it with the grandkids…until they became too sophisticated to have fun. 🙁

    One of the kids made a refrigerator magnet felt project in Kids’ Church. It consisted of three holly berry leaves, two red berries, and the word NOEL. Each piece was separate with its own magnet attached. I hung it on the fridge every year.

    Each day, someone in the family would secretly rearrange the pieces. I started it…just to see if anyone would notice. Of course, they did and spent hours trying to figure out whodunnit. I finally ‘fessed up and fixed it. The next day, one of the kids caught on, and snuck (is that a word…should be!) to the kitchen, did the deed, and voila! a tradition was born.

    It’s one of the fondest memories I have of playing with the ankle-biters. 🙂

    • Those serendipitous traditions are the best, and it’s always a little sad when they disappear. Thanks for sharing, and glad it triggered writing fodder for you.
      And I use ‘snuck’ all the time, real word or not. Sneaked sounds so wrong.

  6. We celebrate Rosh HaShana and all the other feasts and festivals, but I’m culinarily challenged, so our sweets will be apples and honey. My husband and I will dine alone tomorrow on roast beef, but we’ll be zooming and celebrating the new year all day.

    Traditions? Here’s one that’s probably unique to us. My husband, son, and I go to the dollar store a few days before Christmas where we each buy a gift for the other two. All very secret, of course. They’re the most fun to open on Christmas morning. My favorite was a ballpoint pen with a little image of Elvis on top. When you pushed Elvis’s head, the pen played “Don’t Be Cruel.”

    • Those ‘special little somethings’ are wonderful traditions. I love that Elvis pen!
      I remember back in Miami when the kids were little, the local PD had a “shop with a cop” day at Sears. Each kid went shopping with a police officer who helped them pick out special (and secret) gifts for family members. On the parental-provided budget, of course.

  7. Happy New Year, Terry!

    My slogan for 2020 is: “2020: The year that’s actively trying to kill you.” I live in Oregon, so that’s really on the nose at the moment 🙂 Here’s to 5781 being far better! I hope we all are safe and healthy in this new year.

    A beloved holiday tradition at my house is Christmas morning cinnamon rolls. My mother made those every year. Not the frosted kind. Mom loved the flavor of maple, so these were maple glazed, with pecans. My wife has continued that tradition. Such a warm, sweet smell to fill the house with.

    Love reading about everyone’s holiday traditions here!

  8. Yum. That looks good.

    I make the holiday dinners every year and incorporate some of the side dishes, such as a mixed vegetable dish, that my mother made and my children continue to ask for. I’ve gradually eliminated some of them and substituted others. It’s a moveable feast in that way.

    Shanah Tovah Umetukah, Terry. Have a good and sweet year.

  9. Shana tova!

    My mother’s sweet specialty at holidays was more of a Pflaumentorte (tort vs. cake). So in my writing about Neanderthals, who celebrate the solstices, I created a modified version of “pruno” or prison wine yielding an alcoholic beverage made from fermented, dried summer fruit, specifically the native figs and grapes of that location. I call it “neek,” and it packs a punch! 😉

  10. Sadly, most of the sugar and flour based goodies in our family traditions are no more thanks to a BIL with gluten intolerance and the rest of us avoiding sugar for various health reasons. My SIL’s younger kids from her first marriage are the only reason for food funsies at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they are sugar addicts so, even then, not that much. The meals at both holidays are mainly Southern traditional with an infusion of the Midwest from my BIL and SIL. (Why do they want mashed potatoes in a meal with two major carbs already? But it’s tradition so we do.)

    My characters rarely sit down for a nice restarant meal unless it gives the bad guy’s goons time to gather in the parking lot to kill them. Since I base most of my books locally, Lexington-style BBQ (pork smoked with hickory and a vinegar-based sauce) has appeared on more than one ocassion, though, when the characters are on the move.

  11. Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. It’s a day devoted to the overconsumption of food and alcohol. No guilt. No gifts. No singing. What could be better? So as an adult I was always the one to prepare the meal for my parents, and, after my my father died, my mother. So you’re probably thinking, what’s the big deal? You don’t need much food for 2-3 people. Lemme tell ya, need had nothing to do with it. I could have fed the half the neighbors. Nobody was allowed in the kitchen when I was working. My biggest tradition was that much of the meal would be things we hadn’t had before. There were some consistencies. I always made my excellent cranberry sauce. We always had both pumpkin and pecan pies. They used to be homemade, but eventually we outsourced these to Costco. I always loved traditional bread stuffing, but after I discovered a recipe for Chanterelle Sage Bread Pudding in the LA Times that replaced it. Parsnips were always a staple, usually in my standard delicious preparation, but a couple of times in a starter soup. I would make multiple vegetable side dishes. Some years I did traditional relish trays, other years a starter salad, sometimes appetizers, sometimes soup. You know all those holidays recipes various publications come out with for the holidays? I would comb through those every year looking for new dishes. So I guess you could say my tradition was overdoing it.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: I figured 2+ bottles of wine per person.

    The year my mother died my mother told me she thought I’d really outdone myself.

    Believe it or not I really miss my Thanksgiving dinners.

    • Those sound wonderful. I tried a recipe for a curried fruit-bread stuffing that was meant for a goose one Thanksgiving, and it immediately became a requirement. When my son moved to California for college, he insisted my mom make that recipe for Thanksgiving. When my daughter couldn’t get home from college one Thanksgiving because she was involved in marching band activities, she had a friend stop by and pick some up and deliver it on her way back to school.

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