>> Monday, October 13, 2008
My friend David likes to make fun of the apples on the back of my challah cover. Admittedly, it's a rather fall-themed fabric, but I rather like fall (as do others). The front of the challah cover (which I use year-round) is perhaps autumnal, but not necessarily:
There may or may not be maple leaves on the black fabric, but I don't think David ever noticed that element.
But back to the apples. I know there are many apple varieties, and some would say Honeycrisps or Galas or Fujis are the way to go. I would beg to differ. There are few fruit experiences better than a small, hard, very green with white spots, very tart Granny Smith apple. In my experience, the matte bright green white spots is a fairly accurate predictor of delightful tartness. And the annual experience of excellent apples often signifies Sukkot's presence or imminence.
The reasons why I like Sukkot overlap with many of the reasons I like autumn. For example, leaves changing color:
Sukkot is the festival of the tabernacles, hence those funky temporary little huts Jews build in their backyards and on their porches -- who doesn't like getting out their drill to piece their hut together in a modern fashion? Thus the holiday actually commands the people of the book to take their books outside, to eat outside, to sleep outside...in other words, to be outside, to live outside, to appreciate the (ideally) glorious autumn. Clearly this works better for American Jews in New England than in, say, Texas or Florida, but location aside, encouraging people to get outside serves as one of Sukkot's many virtues.
I wanted to build a Sukkah this year, but alas it will have to wait for next year. If I did have a Sukkah, it would be under this tree,
One might not see the tree through the skach -- that which covers the top of the sukkah, usually branches of some sort, so long as one can still see the stars through it. (Growing up, the extensive backyard bamboo covered our sukkah and most of the neighborhood sukkot.) But the fallen leaves would offer a nice crunchy accompaniment to meals, parties, and the like.
That's right, parties. The sukkah party circuit is rather enjoyable, and hopefully includes apple cider,
locally pressed, or not. Sukkot is, after all, a harvest festival and should be celebrated as such. So bring out the gourds, the cider, the squash, the pumpkin bread, and enjoy with guests. Indeed, the tradition of inviting guests to join one in the sukkah is another element of the holiday I respect for it emphasizes the value of community.
The full harvest moon (tomorrow night), the (perhaps in a couple days) crisp air, the foliage, the cooler nights (that make a down comforter so lovely) and cooler days (fleece comes out of the closet), delicious soups (I recommend Cream of Pumpkin of Roasted Vegetable Black Bean -- recipes forthcoming), meals in the Sukkah with friends, and, of course, the easy availability of Granny Smith apples all make Sukkot one of the best holidays on the Jewish calendar.