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September 23, 1994 - Image 102

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-09-23

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Stuffed Cabbage
For Sukkot


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ukkot, the Festival of
Booths, merges two impor-
tant events on the Jewish
calendar. The first com-
memorates the Israelites' wan-
dering in the desert for 40 years
after they left Egypt. Because
they were constantly on the go,
they lived in temporary homes,
sukkot. The second is the autumn
harvest. Modern Jews celebrate
by building their
own temporary
homes and dec-
orating them
with autumn
harvest fruits
and vegetables.
Tradition ad-
vises that the
appropriate ob-
servance of this
fun-filled festi-
val includes eat-
ing as many
meals as possi-
ble in the
sukkah. Since carrying meals
outside is inconvenient, Jewish
homemakers somewhere along
the way decided to serve one-pot
meals and casseroles in the
sukkah. Stuffed cabbage is a long
standing favorite one-pot meal.
As most Jews in the United
States came from East Europe,
Eastern European style sweet
and sour stuffed cabbage has be-
come identified with Sukkot. Yet
Jews have lived in almost every-
where on earth, so there is no rea-
son to confine stuffed cabbage
recipes to only one small area.
Wherever Jews have lived, they
have adapted their cooking style
to local conditions and ingredi-
ents. This makes Middle Easter,
Italian and even Chinese recipes
just as appropriate.
Classic East European stuffed
cabbage is so delicious due to its
sauce. Generally some mixture
of sweet and sour carried in toma-
to sauce, the dish has made
mouths water for centuries. The
recipe that follows comes from
the mother of a friend of my
mother. Mrs. Naimark, the
friend, was worried that the Jew-
ish recipes she grew up with
would be lost. So she spent sev-
eral weeks in the kitchen with
her mother, measuring out every
handful, every half wine glass,
every quarter of a juice glass,
every half egg shell, until she had
recorded all her mother's recipes.
Then she gave a series of cooking
classes for her friends and dis-
tributed those recipes. My moth-
er shared them with me when I
was a new bride. Whenever I
serve Mrs. Naimark's mother's

stuffed cabbage, my guests wax
nostalgic, remember their own
grandmothers' versions, and eat
up the whole pot. I always serve
it with crusty seeded rye bread to
wipe out the last bits of the deli-
cious sauce in the bowl.
Middle Eastern Jews are
unique. Many, such as Persians,
never left the Middle East dur-
ing biblical times. They were not
part of the Jew-
ish diaspora af-
ter the fall of the
Second Temple.
Moroccan Jews,
another promi-
nent Middle
Eastern group,
came originally
from Spain in
1492. Morocco
was one of the
•-• first destina-
tions since it
was so close to
Spain. They
quickly picked up the cooking
techniques of their new home.
Generally, Middle Eastern cook-
ing style, whether Persian, Mo-
roccan, Egyptian, or Syrian, uses
sweet spices, such as cinnamon,
to flavor meat. So the meat stuff-
ing in Middle Eastern cabbage
rolls contains cinnamon. Toma-
to sauce is in the filling, not the
sauce. The sweet filling is bal-
anced by the sauce, an aromatic
combination of lemon juice, wa-
ter and saffron. So up the juice
with pita bread.
Jews came to Italy after the
fall of the Second Temple. They
first settled in the south and
gradually moved north. Many
were prominent in the courts of
Cosimo and Lorenzo de Medici.
By the time of the Inquisition,
they sought the protection of the
powerful and independent north-
ern duchies. Their numbers were
augmented by those expelled
from Spain. The newcomers set-
tled in port cities, especially
Venice and Livorno. In many in-
stance, they lived with their
neighbors without incident, es-
pecially after the ghettoes were
abolished in the eighteen centu-
ry. Non-Jewish peasants fre-
quently joined in the celebration
of the last day of Sukkot, when
the Jews prayed for rain for a suc-
cessful next harvest. Today, even
though most Italian Jews have
immigrated to the United States,
there are still a few living syna-
gogues, like the one in Florence.
Italian cabbage rolls are a wel-
come addition to the stuffed cab-
bage repertoire. Garlic is the


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