I am interested in the spiritual value of rituals.
When my grandson was born, I said, “We need a ritual!” Sunday breakfast became that ritual. Over the years, details have changed, but the basic activity remains.
Sunday breakfast has layers of meaning, different for each of us. Some meaning can be expressed in words…some not. Therein lies the value of ritual as non- or pre-verbal meaning.
So it is with Cholent (Yiddish) or Hamin (Hebrew), meaning “hot.” Cholent is a stew prepared and put on to cook before the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday and enjoyed as the midday meal on Saturday. It is a way to enjoy warm food without violating the prohibition against cooking on the Sabbath.
Cholent has a very special meaning for me. I am not a multi-tasker, yet I am usually doing at least three things at once. I am distracted and hardly feeling nurtured.
When I sit down to eat my cholent with friends and family, though, I am in a different space. Something miraculous happens while the cholent is left untended — then this gift arrives effortlessly on my table. I am nurtured by it. Enjoying cholent is a ritual that has layers of meaning beyond its taste and the fact that I eat it on the same day at the same time each week.
Making cholent has itself become a meaningful ritual activity. I gather ingredients and put them together. I anticipate the miracle that will happen overnight in that pot and the pleasure I will experience when I am able to share the miracle with others the next day.
This year my son gave me the gift of time by helping with some of the cooking in my Cafe. In return, I gave him the gift of preparing cholent each week. As I eat it, I can taste the layers of meaning it is taking on for him. This is “cooking with love,” feeding the soul while feeding the body. Soul food.
There are many ways to make cholent. Here is my way:
(Makes 2 Gal. – halve the recipe unless you have a really big crockpot!)
- 1 TB Garlic
- 3 TB Ginger
- 2 TB Cumin
- 1 TB + 2 TSP Salt
- 2 Tsp Hot Paprika
- 1 Lg Spanish Onion cut in 1 in. chunks
- 2 Lg or 3 Sm Potatoes (Idaho), peeled & cut in 1 in. chunks
- 2 Lg or 3 Sm Sweet Potatoes
- 1 LB Dried Beans (Kidney, Pinto, White Pea)
- 1/2 LB Dried Chickpeas
- 1 Bunch Cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 Cup Barley
- 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Berries
- 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 12 Eggs in the shell
- Mix all ingredients except eggs in a crockpot bowl.
- Add water to an inch above mixture.
- Tuck whole uncooked eggs in the shell into the top of the mixture, making certain they are fully submerged.
- Wrap foil tightly over top. Put lid over foil.
- Turn pot on medium. Cook 10-12 hours or more.
- Remove eggs, rinse and shell.
- Arrange peeled eggs on top of cholent.
Here’s to joy-filled, soulful eating!