Shanah Tovah – the power of food and community.

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Rosh Hashanah arrived especially early this year, the end of summer and back to school rush seemed to leave little time for holiday preparations. The week leading into the New Year I received news that one of my oldest childhood friends tragically passed away. While we had grown apart over the years, I felt a strong connection to her family and our tight knit community of friends growing up in a small town outside Chicago.  I flew home for her funeral this past week and was overwhelmed with sadness for her family and close friends who lost an incredible young woman way too soon. My dear friend, Kasey Passen was passionate about everything she did, she was full of zest and wanted the most from life. From as early on as I can remember she had a love for food and the power it has to bring people together, stir up emotions and to heal. The pain she felt both physically and emotionally from Chronic Lymes Disease was more than anyone, even those closest to her realized and thus she left everyone in shock when she took her own life last week. Hearing the beautiful tributes to Kasey at her memorial service and in the days following her funeral on social media, I am struck by how many lives Kasey deeply touched. She found a way to use her passion for food to bring people together, to empower them and make them feel part of a community. Kasey will certainly live on through all of those she touched and the food she cooked and taught others to love will serve as a constant reminder of her life.

Returning home to host Rosh Hashanah dinner, I too found comfort in preparing the recipes (see below for links) cooked traditionally by those I have lost in recent years including my grandmothers and my mother. I found such joy in sharing the fruits of my labor with those I love, my own family and closest friends who were brought together over a shared meal to celebrate the New Year. My wish for this New Year is that in times when life seems to move at rapid speed, when we spend more time connecting and checking in with people online than in real life, I hope that we can make the time (and not just around the holidays) to come together around a shared meal, because nothing can replace the warmth and comfort of good food and community. Wishing those and everyone you love a very happy and healthy New Year.

On my holiday menu this year:

Smitten Kitchen Tangy Brisket (in the slow cooker)

Bon Appetit Persian Rice Salad (I used farro instead of rice)

Food and Wine Mustard Greens with Apple Cider-Dijon Dressing

Thank you to our dear friends who filled our table with delicious appetizers (Shelsky’s gefilte fish), side dishes and desserts to complete our festive meal!

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