My wedding day was September 7, 1970. Rosh Hashanah was September 25th that year. I was truly a new bride (think honeymoon). We were married in New York City. Most people didn’t live together in those days before marriage. We moved to Washington, D.C. where my husband was in law school. Our friends, other law students, helped us move, laughing at the fact that my mother labeled my boxes, Ada’s garbage #1, Ada’s garbage #2, etc.
We were the only married couple among our friends so I invited them all for the holiday dinner and also to say thank you.
I became a famous hostess for our great gatherings. I often use my mother’s quote: “Experience keeps a dear school.” That meal was my first lesson. Let me take you through that infamous night.
I didn’t realize that it can take up to a day, if not more, for a turkey to defrost. We ended up eating at 9:00, late in those days, but we did have appetizers. Eating late would not have been a problem except I didn’t get to unpack all those “garbage boxes.”
Among the unpacked were the many boxes of wedding gifts, including the one with a corkscrew bottle opener. Most bottles, in those days came with, not the plastic tops used today, but the old fashioned kind, really old fashioned, like centuries or millennium old, corks. Needless to say, we couldn’t open the wine, brought by our friends to the festive meal.
To add to the calamity, sometime during the evening a fire erupted in the kitchen. It was quickly extinguished and no one was hurt, thankfully.
A typical greeting for the fall holidays, which starts with the Jewish New Year, is “Shanah tovah u’metuka,” a wish for a good and sweet year. Thus, many of the dishes served include honey. Sugar is a relatively new sweetener, whereas honey, consumed by humans, has been recorded as far back as 5,500 BC.
One of the iconic desserts for Rosh Hashana is taigelach. Doughy nuggets made with flour, eggs and spices, plus other ingredients, are cooked, mounded and stuck together by honey syrup and decorated with candied cherries. The way you eat taigelach is by pulling apart the balls or other ingredients.
Because I thought that people might be uncomfortable with this practice (50 years before Covid) I decided to make them in individual cupcake papers. Unfortunately I didn’t take into account that smaller sizes would not take as long to make. The result was small mounds, not golden, but dark brown. They looked like dog poo — from uncomfortable to squeamish.
We actually had a fun evening with a delicious meal. I know because I got a funny thank you note, jokingly enumerating the many mishaps (perhaps there were more I don’t remember) of the night. In addition, I was grateful to receive an unusual wedding gift — a fire extinguisher, which fortunately, I never had to use. Another gift was some very entertaining entertaining tips.
Read more by Ada Mark Strausberg.