Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is almost upon us. This holiday is celebrated with special prayers and the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn) in the synagogue. Equally important are the observances that take place at home, around the dinner table. Blessings are made over wine and bread, like we do on Shabbos. But we also eat a number of symbolic foods.
Apples are dipped into honey to represent our wish for a sweet new year. Pomegranate, with its many small seeds, symbolizes the numerous blessings we hope to receive in the coming year, along with the good deeds we hope to perform. Carrots are cut into circles to represent coins, to show our hope for prosperity in the coming year. Many other symbolic foods are used, many of them puns in Hebrew or Yiddish. The foods used vary, as some add in new symbols that are puns in English, while others use puns from other languages. A new one we started a few years ago is to eat raisins with celery for “a raise in salary.”
We’re supposed to eat lots of sweet foods and no bitter ones. Many traditional Rosh Hashana recipes use lots of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Over the past few years, I’ve developed healthier, more compliant versions of these foods. I make a honey cake that uses only honey for sweetness, not a mixture of honey and white sugar, and it uses rice flour instead of wheat. My daughters may or may not also make one with spelt flour.
As an O nonnie, many of my “sweet” food choices are limited. I’m fine with the sweeter vegetables, but I’m not supposed to have apples or honey. I’m sure I could make a “honey cake” using just molasses and agave, and dip pears in agave to symbolize a sweet new year, but I don’t plan to do either one. I’ll have one or two apple slices each night of Rosh Hashana, and eat the honey cake made with real honey. I will serve pomegranates to my type B son, even though they’re an avoid for him. The holiday symbols are important to me, and we only have a few bites of each one.
Over the summer, I didn’t worry too much about my 10 year old son’s diet. I let him go to sleep away camp and eat whatever they served at camp, even though I know it means non-compliant foods and way too much sugar. I also didn’t send him with elderberry or cod liver oil, two supplements that have helped him stay healthy, and because I thought it would be too much of an inconvenience for him. I regret that now, and plan to send him to camp with elderberry and cod liver oil capsules next year.
He got pneumonia while at camp, and ended up on antibiotics. Had he started getting sick at home, I would have increased his supplements, made sure he was compliant and completely sugar-free, and emphasized fruits and vegetables in his diet. This is only the third time in his life he’s ever been on antibiotics- normally I’m able to treat him naturally before it reaches this point.
When he came home, I vowed to make him eat healthy and get his little body back on track. That proved to be much more challenging than I’d anticipated, in part because our refrigerator broke, and in part because I was out of practice. All summer I’d had only one or two of the kids home, and I even had some days completely to myself. Getting back into the routine of cooking for all 3 of them was much harder than I’d expected.
So now he’s been home from camp for 3 weeks, and back to school for half a week. I’m not doing so well on getting him to eat fruits, veggies, and meats; he’d be quite happy to live on grains (preferably refined) and dairy products. He still has that cough and his endurance is much lower than it should be. He’s still carrying around extra fat on his body, as confirmed by the pediatrician. He gained much more weight this past year than he should have; based on how many inches he grew. It’s hard to get him to exercise when he’s not feeling well, and I’m afraid to push him too far. He got out of the habit of being active when he broke his arm in June, and I’m not sure how to get him back on track.
I’d like to be able to say that I put my kids on the BTD and they’re glowing examples of health. The reality is much more complex than that. I know what I’m supposed to do: offer lots of fruits, veggies, and compliant protein sources, and let him fill up on grains only after he’s eaten reasonable amounts of other foods, and encourage physical activity. But actually implementing this plan hasn’t been so easy.
Yesterday we went to visit some relatives. An aunt from Baltimore came to visit another aunt in NYC. Her decision to come up was made at the last minute, leaving us very little time to work out the details before the visit itself. It’s a 50 minute drive to the NYC aunt’s home, and it’s been a hectic week already with school coming up.
Sunday morning, we had breakfast then got on the road. When we arrived, we started to discuss lunch plans. There are several kosher restaurants in the area, but it’s hard to find safe foods for me in restaurants. My kids are healthy enough to have the occasional “cheat meal” but I can get very sick from even trace amounts of wheat, corn, or potato. I didn’t relish the thought of being run down and out of sorts for the next several weeks from one meal out.
We finally decided to go to her co-op and do some grocery shopping instead. Going shopping with 7 people was rather chaotic, but we put together a nice meal. We bought two HUGE heads of lettuce, scallions, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, avocado, baby carrots, hummus, avocado, canned tuna, lemons, cottage cheese, and rice cakes. We came home and started making a salad, with hummus and baby carrots put out for an appetizer. Salad dressing was made with fresh lemon juice plus olive oil and salt that she already had in the house. We made a tuna salad with the canned tuna plus lemon juice and mayonnaise she already had. She sliced the avocado and put it out on its own plate.
Unlike many other social meals I’ve experienced in the past few years, I walked away from the table completely satisfied. I didn’t get sick from the meal because there wasn’t anything in the meal that was bad for me, except for the cherry tomatoes that I easily avoided. All in all, it was a very pleasant family get-together. Not only did I enjoy time with my relatives, but I didn’t even have to worry about getting sick from the food I ate or getting sick from not eating enough.
Before leaving, I told my hostess that we need to do this more often, and that next time, we should prepare the exact same meal- only she should do the food shopping before we get there!
My 40th birthday was this weekend, and my teenaged daughters made me a special birthday surprise. I was expecting a cake, as that’s the traditional thing to bake people for their birthdays. I’ve been having birthday cakes since my first birthday- my Mom has a photo somewhere of 12 month old me, in the high chair, covered in chocolate frosting.
I don’t do so well on sweets these days. While I’ve continued to bake cakes for my children’s birthdays, I haven’t been indulging myself. I don’t even feel well if I eat too much fruit; it messes with my blood sugar. There are a few sweeteners that are compliant for me, and we do have them stocked in the house. But I can only have about a teaspoonful a day without ill effects, and you need way more than that per serving in a cake, A gluten-free, agave-sweetened birthday cake would be compliant, but I wouldn’t be able to have more than half a slice without feeling sick, and the taste and texture would have been “off” compared to the sugar and spelt cakes we normally bake for everybody else. So nobody would have much enjoyed the cake, and I would have eaten at least a whole slice and then not felt so good afterwards. I haven’t eaten dessert in months and I don’t miss it.
Fortunately, I have a couple of amazing daughters who know how to “think outside the box.” Instead of a cake, or even a dessert, they made a birthday side dish. They started out with some zucchini and yellow squash, cut into rings and hollowed out into “cups.” Then they made a sweet potato filling, and used a plastic bag with the end cut off to fill the zucchini cups in a decorative fashion.
I tried to stay out of the kitchen while they were preparing my birthday surprise, but I wasn’t completely successful. I saw them doing something with boiled sweet potatoes and guessed they were baking a pie. Then, during the mad dash to get everything ready before Shabbos, I was the one who put the sweet potato dish into the oven to warm up. But they still managed to surprise me.
The reason nobody was in the kitchen right before Shabbos is because they were busy working on other parts of the birthday celebration. They put up a hand-made birthday banner in the kitchen, minutes before Shabbos began. When it was time to serve the food, Leah put “candles” into the dish of sweet potato/zucchini cups. Since we can neither light nor blow out candles on Shabbos, she used toothpicks with little “flags” of paper taped to them. One said “40!” with the dot from the exclamation point becoming one eye of a smiley face. That one was in back. In the middle, in a row, were three toothpick flags reading “Happy” “Old-“ “ness!”
This was just as much fun as a real birthday cake; the kids enjoyed the preparation and decorating, and it was just as wonderful in the presentation at the table.
Who needs cake?
Yesterday was visiting day at my daughters’ camp. It’s about a 3 hour drive away, and the camp visiting hours are 10 AM until 5 PM, so it was a very long day. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, so I know to pack enough food to eat during the drives there and back, plus snacks for the day itself. We always eat the lunch the camp provides, but breakfast and dinner are eaten in the car. My ex husband comes over the night before and he does the driving.
I packed about a dozen hard boiled eggs, 2 bags of baby carrots, and a large package of sliced muenster cheese (for the Bs) in a cooler bag with 2 large ice packs. In a separate bag, I packed a canister of raisins, a bag of almonds, and 2 packages of rice cakes. I also packed a box of Clif bars for the boys to eat for breakfast, plus a few things the girls asked us to bring up to camp for them.
Most of the stuff was packed up on Saturday night, but we had to actually put together the cooler pack on Sunday morning and load the car. We also had to make sure the dog was settled with my Mom. She can’t handle the walking around camp, so she doesn’t join us in visiting the kids at camp. She volunteered to watch Robbie for the day so I didn’t have to take him with us on the long drive.
The drive there took us 2 and a half hours, as expected. I slept most of the way, and wasn’t very hungry for breakfast. I had a hard boiled egg and some iced tea in the car, then some almonds and raisins before lunch. Camp lunches are always a compromise, nutritionally. I let my son eat whatever he wanted, including things with tomato sauce. I also let him get a small slushie at the canteen. He’s healthy enough to handle one day of imperfect food, and I want camp to be a positive experience for him.
I made the best choices I could, which is still less wholesome than I would have eaten at home. I had some tuna and egg salad, not worrying about additives in the tuna or what kind of oil is in the mayo. I had a large plate of iceberg lettuce, but skipped the salad dressing because I wasn’t sure WHAT was in those. I also had some canned beets, not worrying about sugar or corn syrup that might have been in them. Beets are a “beneficial” food for me, and I knew I needed some carbs with the meal or I wouldn’t feel satisfied. I also had some chickpeas, which are a “black dot” for me. This means that I can eat them once in a while, but aren’t the healthiest choice for me. I’ve found lately that I do well eating beans at lunchtime, and I decided that the negatives of eating a “black dot” were outweighed by the necessity of having enough food for the meal. The meal was satisfying and, unlike last year, I didn’t need to eat a few rice cakes after lunch to feel full.
I did some snacking in the mid-afternoon, and didn’t make the best choices then. Even though I had plenty of hard-boiled eggs in the cooler, I still reached for the Muenster cheese. It’s so yummy on rice cakes! I did the same in the car ride home for dinner. I ate a couple of eggs, and plenty of carrots, but I still had several more slices of cheese with rice cakes.
When we finally arrived home, after 4 hours of driving in heavy rain and traffic, I wasn’t feeling satisfied. I had some leftover peas, rice, and turkey breast, and a glass of wine before going to bed. I also had to settle down a very unhappy doggie that’d missed us all day. None of us slept particularly well last night since Robbie kept waking up barking and we had to take care of him. At 5:00 AM, I took him out of his bed, let the boys hang out on the sofa in front of the TV, and went back to bed for a few hours. I think Robbie just needed some extra re-assurance that we still love him after we “abandoned him” all day yesterday.
I’m not feeling too well today, and neither is Jack. I’m sure part of it is due to the amount of time we spent in the car yesterday, part is due to messed up sleep, and part is due to poor dietary choices yesterday. I’m trying to eat extra-well today, along with taking it easy.