The Fresser

How to cope with this year's smaller Rosh Hashanah celebrations

If the prospect of a table for six makes your heart sink, here's how to reframe it

September 10, 2020 15:49
I'm sad.
With guest lists locked down to six, some of the buzz has gone out of this year's High Holy Day season. For the Fresser family (like most) Rosh Hashanah will be a quiet one.
We've never gone in for those huge tables you see plastered over Facebook; but there are generally at least 12 smiling faces around our kitchen table. 
As well as my husband and I plus two mini-fressers, the line-up would have included our lovely parents — his and mine —  and my sister-in-law (SIL) with her three teens. As her eldest has hopped over to Israel to do her National Service, we would have been down one, but Boris has halved the headcount. And so we'll be sitting at two tables in opposite ends of Hertfordshire.   
I hope my parents will join us. They’re understandably nervous, as my children have returned to school (hooray) so our group may shrink to a cosy table of  four. 
Other than missing them all and it not feeling terribly festive, the diminished numbers will mean that instead of sharing the work, as we do normally, it’ll all be down to me. SIL, a talented artistic type who once designed window displays for West End stores – usually deals with the decorations and helps out with the cooking. She lived in Israel for many years, and is all over those Ottolenghi-style salads; MIL is our honey cake maven and my darling Mum (a Cordon Bleu-trained, amazing cook) makes delicious desserts. 
I confess to having considered a really low key celebration. With no need to dress for Shul, perhaps we could spend the day in our PJ’s? Eat comfort food — honey sandwiches and stewed apple. (Yum.)  Total chillax time. But that wouldn’t feel right. It’s New Year and we need to welcome it with at least a modicum of style. 
So I’ll make the effort. My festive menu — will kick off with my Pumpkin spice, apple and raisin challah and dips, then either my super quick, and full-of-flavour, green harissa roasted salmon (which I created this year for M&S, using their punchy Cook with M&S Green Harissa Paste) or perhaps the JC's Rosh Hashanah chicken which feels festive and is also no-fuss. On the side - a mountain of roasties, my honey harissa roasted carrots (another recipe created from Cook With M&S specialityi ingredients) and a few crunchy salads. I love the contrasts in texture and temperature. And to finish? Most likely a fig tart or apple crumble with ice cream - parev if I've gone meaty. Simples. 
And there’s a huge up-side to focus on: half the mouths to feed, which equals a shorter time spent preparing the feast; fewer potatoes to peel; less plates to wash and a single challah should feed us all. 
Another up side is that with less cooking, I can spend more time and money on prettying up the table. I'll be trawling through some of my old JC articles for ideas. I was really impressed by what Hannah Geller did for a Rosh Hashanah-themed supper club a couple of years ago. These honey pots were super cute.
Or perhaps some glass vases filled with apples, fresh figs and pomegranates — the dark green, reds and purples of the season. 
And even when all of that is done, I should still have a little more time to just be with my children and husband. If we’ve learned anything during lockdown, it’s that family time is pretty special. All those family meals and long walks during Spring and early Summer showed us just what we’d been missing by rushing around all the time. We’re about to get a bit more time together. And it’s a good thing. 
So look on the bright side and make this Rosh Hashanah memorable, not for the absences at our table, but for the extra effort we made to make it special. And be safe. 
September 10, 2020 15:49

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