I think my Jewish envy started when I was eight years old and my best friend, Lauren Zaacks, would show up at school on Monday morning with a pencil case full of the latest, coolest Hello Kitty gear some relative had brought back for her from the US. Jewishness and America became indelibly linked in my mind, and when I went home to her house in the afternoon and ate buttered matzoh and listened to Grease I was almost Jewish too, and that much closer to being cool.
My Jewish friends assure me that I wouldn’t like everything about their religion, but I don’t agree. I would have made a great Jewish mother – my favourite things are feeding people and bossing them around. And there is something very beautiful about the community and family values. We miss that in our secular world. Go to a Jewish wedding or funeral and you realise how sterile and boring ours are by comparison.
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are a wonderful way of honouring the young men and women who will one day uphold the values of their community, and gathering the people you love the most around a table at the end of a long week for fellowship and nourishing food is a tradition we should all institute in our homes. Not only do these rituals give life colour and meaning, but they remind us that we belong somewhere. Sadly, being vaguely Methodist I must be content with buying challah on a Friday and cooking good chicken. I saw a pic of this dish on Facebook, and had to look hard to find the recipe. It’s actually Israeli, and I couldn’t locate a few of the spices so I had to leave them out, but it was delicious nonetheless.
2 Onions, finely chopped
1 Lemon, sliced finely
2 Cloves of Garlic
One cup of chicken stock
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of allspice
Two lugs of olive oil
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
About a quarter cup of toasted, crushed sesame seeds
Tablespoon of honey
Handful of Pine nuts
Mix all your ingredients together in a bowl. Wash and pat dry your chicken pieces, and put them into a ziplock bag. Add the ingredients barring one onion and the pine nuts. Move the bag around to make sure all the chicken is coated. Put it into the fridge for at least six hours. Heat your oven to 150 degrees, and put your chicken on the middle rack in an ovenproof dish. Don’t cover it. Fry your second onion in butter until it’s caramelised, and then fry your pine nuts till they’re gently browned (don’t burn them, they cost the earth). After the chicken’s been in for about an hour, take it out and sprinkle the onions and pine nuts over it. Put it back into the oven for half an hour on 180 degrees. When it’s ready it should be darkish and have bits of crispy skin. The cinnamon and lemon really come out, and the flavour is sublime.