A few years ago I decided to convert to Judaism. Of course you might be curious about the why, but that is a much longer story that will take a long time to tell. For now, I will say that I’ve been learning a lot about the Jewish community through food. And as someone who took this journey without a partner (I didn’t choose Judaism for an impending marriage) I was quick to realize that becoming part of a community was quite a challenge.
That was where the food came in. I like to think of myself as an amateur chef with credentials like having once lived in France and currently belonging to a CSA, but truth be told is that I really like to cook – an apparently good trait to have within the Jewish community. And since I don’t have the immediate familial connection for the big Jewish foodie holidays like Pesach and Shabbat, I found myself assembling my own Jewish family around a table to share in good food and Jewish learning.
With Joan Nathan as my guide, the first seder I ever cooked was a “practice seder” the night before Pesach began – since many of my friends spent the holiday with their families. This gave me the opportunity to learn some of the traditions in a truly hands-on way as well as prepare many familiar Pesach dishes for my friends.
Since then there have been many meals, conversations and even a few new cookbooks (my current favorite is Jennifer Felicia Abadi’s A Fistful of Lentils) that have helped me along my path towards Judaism. The other night I was reminded of just how far I’ve come on this journey when a quickly dashed off email late last week produced a dozen guests at my home to share in a meal before the start of Tish B’Av. It was my first time to fast for this holiday and I was grateful that I was not doing it alone. I’ve found that you can’t really be Jewish without a community, so I feel blessed as I continue to find, and feed mine.
In Praise of Dinner Parties
Just Host It