Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Lots of folks have both pre-fast and break-the-fast food traditions oriented around Yom Kippur. Perhaps you need your Gam Gam’s rugelach or your Bubbe’s Southern-Style Kugel. All those mouthwatering options are amazing… but as a kid, homemade goods were not the holiday cuisine I consumed in my household. It’s not that we had an aversion to oven-baked brisket or matzah ball soup—our family simply did not have the time.
Growing up in Florida, our family helped found a new congregation in a growing community. In its nascent stages, we had to move a lot of equipment for services—prayer books, sound equipment, and chairs. Luckily for the synagogue, my parents owned a children’s furniture business. This situation meant that, instead of taking the time to make holiday meals, we were loading up all that equipment and purchasing our meals as almost an afterthought.
As I recently began thinking about how to craft traditions for my children (which sometimes, as a rabbi, can be more challenging than you’d think), I noticed how I was reflecting on the different meals we would have as a family. Comparing them to my own experiences was inevitable.
So, below are the top five meals I consumed around the holidays of my childhood.
5) The “New York Style” Deli – you’d think this one would top my list – and you might see this as blasphemy – but this was my least favorite fast food break-the-fast-option. I was not a fan of overly-salted meats, oddly tasting dill pickles, or anything else that had on hand. Ending the fast at this location felt as dissatisfying as missing the final shofar blast. Plus, they had cow’s tongue on display, and that was just disturbing.
4) Subway – the sandwich artists of my youth created subs that I loved. Whereas most people want their sandwiches fresh, I was a fan of ordering it the day before the holiday and letting it get cold in the refrigerator overnight. Trust me.
3) Boston Market – full of options, we found that eating at “the market” allowed each family member to get the exact meal they wanted. Surprisingly southern-style dishes (sweet potato casserole! Mac & cheese!) made you feel like you were at a Thanksgiving in Tuscaloosa, not break-fast in Boston. Plus, that cornbread!
2) Publix Deli – to read my full feelings on my love for Publix and, in particular, their Deli, see my previous writings.
1) Chinese Food – no, you do not need to wait until Christmas to consume this “traditional” Jewish meal. Having been at the synagogue for what felt like a week, we wanted to retreat with our closest family and be treated to some tasty treats. The hardest thing about making this happen now is convincing my wife—who has Sephardic roots—to abandon her customary flan dishes and instead gorge on Black Bean Chicken and Moo Goo Gai Pan.
While these break-the-fast options may not seem conventional to some, to me, they’re tradition. And the traditions that differ family-to-family can be as meaningful as the ones we share as a community. As you load up on carbs before Kol Nid’rei or look to have a fantastic meal after N’ilah, what foods are mandatory for your holiday experience to feel “complete?”