The Jewish holiday of Succos is coming up tomorrow night. Right on the heels of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it’s time to build the succah and get ready for Yom Tov again.
Succos, also called Succot, is sometimes translated as “The Holiday of Booths.” It’s a Biblical holiday where we live in temporary dwellings for the week, in memory of the tents the Israelites used in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. The roof needs to be made of 100% natural materials, such as bamboo or tree limbs, and can’t be completely water tight. There need to be holes in the “schach” that let us see the sky through it, or it’s not a kosher succah. I remember one year when friends built their first succah, using branches from deciduous trees for the schach. The leaves turned brown and fell off during the 7 day festival, and we kept getting leaves in our food!
Everybody eats in the succah, unless it's raining, and some people also sleep in the succah. The one year my daughters tried that, the sprinklers came on in the middle of the night and they got soaked! I’ve known families who build a small succah on the porch outside the master bedroom, and sleep in that, while entertaining guests in a larger succah on the patio outside the dining room.
We don’t have anything that fancy. Our succah has a metal frame, nylon canvas sides, and the roof is a bamboo mat specifically manufactured for this purpose. We can get it assembled in about an hour- two if you count the time it takes us to bring up the folding table and locate the folding chairs. We usually build it on our back lawn, right outside the back doors. Since my apartment is on the second floor, we have to carry all the food down a flight of stairs before we can eat in the succah. Plus the table that fits in the succah is smaller than the one in my kitchen, so there isn’t much space for a lot of dishes on the table.
This changes my meal planning somewhat. This isn’t a good time to roast a whole turkey, slice what we need, and save the leftovers for other meals. I used to only make “one meal dinners” in a foil pan for Succos. I’ve since discovered that it’s not all that hard to pile a small foil pan or two on top of a big one and carry both downstairs together. Plus, my kids are bigger now and it’s not too much to carry if we all take something. So now I’ll still make “meat and veggies” in one pan, but I don’t mind cooking the rice in a separate pan and roasting potatoes in a third- it all still fits well enough on the table and isn’t too hard to carry down.
The challenge is to find different ways to cook foil pans full of “meat and veggies” that doesn’t get repetitive or boring, and that’s still compliant for everybody- or at least “mostly compliant.” I’m OK with small “cheats” at holiday time. Feel free to post any recipe ideas in the “comments” section.
The CSA keeps on giving us new varieties of organic, locally grown produce every week. The farmers certainly don't know about the Blood Type Diet, nor that my type B son is away at camp!
We've been getting a bunch of cucumbers. My Mom took some, since she doesn't follow BTD. I gave some to my ex husband, since he's a B. But I got 4 rather large cucumbers this week. My mom still hasn't finished both of the cucumbers from last week, and my ex isn't seeing the girls this week because the girls are too busy with various activities.
I decided to make pickles, so the cucumbers will still be good to eat when Jack gets home from camp.
I spent quite a bit of time online searching for pickle recipes and techniques, and finally settled on one that called for salt, white vinegar, garlic, and dill. I substituted apple cider vinegar for the white vinegar called for in the recipe, and also put in some whole peppercorns. I already had fresh garlic in the house and I bought fresh dill for this purpose.
If I get more cucumbers next week, I think I'll try making bread and butter pickles. Those won't have the probiotics of lacto-fermented pickles, but I can make them with 100% compliant ingredients for a B and I know he'll enjoy them. I'm not sure just how many dill pickles Jack will want to eat. After that, Jack will be home and I may just serve cucumbers fresh- unless he asks me to make more pickles.
Leah came home from camp yesterday, and Jack left for camp this morning. I’d grown used to cooking for only 3 of us, and as of today there will be 3 of us again, but last night I made dinner for four.
Jack decided he wanted spaghetti- so I bought a package of brown rice spaghetti. We decided to only buy one package of pasta because we really don’t need to have pasta for again any time soon- with 3 Os in the house, all of whom need to lose weight, cutting back on carbs is wise.
I peeled and chopped a whole pound of carrots and boiled them, adding some frozen broccoli to the pot about 10 minutes before serving time. I knew that sautéed or roasted mushrooms and onions would have been a delicious addition to the meal, but I didn’t want to heat up the whole oven for one dish, and we didn’t have enough space on the stove. Leah made a cream sauce using butter, whole milk, rice flour, and spices. The girls aren’t really supposed to have milk, but they don’t react badly to it and they’re both healthy enough to be less compliant. I didn’t have any of the sauce.
We served the pasta, veggies, and sauce with grated parmesan cheese. I mixed in some canned tuna and butter in my portion instead of the cream sauce. I did enjoy the parmesan cheese since it’s a black dot; I can have it once in a while.
I felt satisfied after two portions, but Hannah wasn’t full by the time the food was finished. I couldn’t make more pasta because I hadn’t purchased any, and there wasn’t time to start cooking rice. I’m just not used to cooking for 4 people anymore! If I make this meal for 4 again, I’ll turn on the oven for a dish of rice and a dish (or two) of more vegetables cooked in oil, rather than just the boiled ones on the stovetop.
I made some pizza toast for Hannah after the main meal was over. Made with spelt bread, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese, it’s perfectly compliant for an O secretor. We were all well fed in the end, but it wasn’t fun for her to be hungry after dinner or for me to cook after preparing what I thought was a whole meal.
Right now we’re in the middle of “The 9 Days”- the saddest time in Jewish history. From the first of the Jewish month of Av until the 9th is a period of semi-mourning where, among other things, eating meat is not permitted except for Shabbos. The 9th of Av is the date that the Great Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed- both times, it happened on the same Jewish date. A few other sad things in Jewish history happened on this date as well. The 9th itself is a fast day; no eating or drinking anything from sundown the night before until nightfall of that day.
My kids don’t seem to mind the lack of meat for dinner. Jack (type B ) is always perfectly happy to subsist on grains and dairy- the challenge is to get him to eat fruits and veggies. Hannah usually feels better with meat for dinner, but has been doing perfectly fine with eggs, fish, and dairy. She just needs to make sure she gets enough vegetables and protein, and she doesn’t have any noticeable reactions to “avoid” dairy products.
As an O nonnie, I need a lot of animal protein to maintain normal function. While I do well on fish and eggs, I also need red meat to feel my best. Needless to say, I haven’t been feeling my best this week. I made sure to eat meat every day the prior week, and less fish than usual, to help prepare me for a week without red meat or poultry. But I still couldn’t feel satisfied on the first “meatless day” until I ate some cheese, which I’m not supposed to be eating. Too much cheese makes me stuffed up and it can also make me irritable.
After the first day sent me reaching for “avoid” cheeses such as mozzarella and Muenster, I began eating chevre BEFORE the cravings got the better of me. Chevre isn’t listed on my SWAMI at all. I could say “It’s an avoid for O nonnies, and I’m an O nonnie, so it’s an avoid for me.” Indeed, that’s the stance I take most of the year. But goat dairy has always been easier on my system than cow dairy, so I figured it’s my best bet right now. I then decided to look up how chevre is made, and compare that to the cheeses on my neutral and beneficial lists. It’s cultured and then strained, not cooked, making it closer to quark cheese than any other cheese on my dairy list. Quark is a “beneficial” food for me. If the cheese is cultured, strained, then cooked in any way, it would make the chevre more like cottage cheese, which is neutral.
I’m still not sure how I feel about consuming chevre on a regular basis, but for this week, I think it’s my best choice. Remaining unsatisfied isn’t a realistic option either. I’m feeling stuffed up right now, but I don’t know if that’s from the chevre or a continued reaction from the cow’s milk cheeses I ate a few days ago.
For Shabbos, when meat consumption is permitted, I plan to eat meat for most, if not all, of my meals. Normally we make fish and salad for Saturday’s lunch, but this week we’re serving cold cuts with the salads instead. I’m not doing this to be hedonistic or to have a “meat fest” which would be inappropriate at this time of year; I’m simply making enjoyable Shabbos food while also ensuring that I nourish my body with what it needs to make it through the rest of the week, including the upcoming fast.
June was a busy month for us. Leah graduated from high school, as did many of her friends. There were also numerous weddings this month as well- mostly young women a few years older than my daughters whom they know from camp or their youth group- most of these girls were their counselors and mentors, not their peers. Only the girls were invited to the weddings of acquaintances; not the whole family. But one of Leah’s closest friends also got married this month- a girl I knew from the time she was about 13. All 5 of us were invited to this wedding. I can’t believe I’m old enough for my daughters’ friends to be getting married!
The wedding was scheduled for the exact day and time of Leah’s graduation ceremony. After much soul-searching, Leah chose to go to the wedding rather than graduation, so we celebrated her graduation with extended family the Sunday before. Her aunts paid for us to go to a kosher restaurant, and we selected a restaurant that served Middle Eastern food. There were a few salads, several kinds of flavored rice, and we selected kebob trays, family style. Nobody really wanted chicken, which isn’t a good choice for the Bs at the table anyway. So we got lamb, salmon, and two kinds of beef. I tasted everything but the pita bread, and everything was delicious. I’m sure it wasn’t 100% compliant, but it was a very enjoyable afternoon out, and I can afford to eat imperfectly once or twice a year. I’m not likely to eat in another restaurant until we do this again next year for Hannah’s graduation.
Three days later was the wedding. Most of the day was spent getting ready. Hannah had to finish crocheting her gift (bride and groom penguins.) Jack still had school most of the day, and then he had to see if any of the hand-me-down suits actually fit. Leah spent the day preparing little surprises/gag gifts for the bride, to be presented during the dancing. Some of the bride’s other friends presented some silly things to the bride as well. I had to do pick up the veggies from the CSA and then their father from the train station. Things ended up quite stressful the last hour or so before we left. I had to rush my clothing and makeup, and ended up wrapping my own gift to the bride on the car ride there!
All that stress was forgotten once we were there. I ate before heading out to the wedding and packed almonds in my purse, but I managed to find enough safe food to eat that I didn’t touch the almonds at all. Jack had about 7 cups of soda during the evening, but I drank only seltzer and water. I could have had red wine, but found I really didn’t want any. I was too busy dancing to care about much of anything else. We all had a wonderful time- probably a lot more fun than we would have had at the graduation ceremony! It took us all of the next day to recover, and I let Jack miss school the following day. But it was well worth it!