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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.
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