THE SWEETNESS OF BITTERNESS
As the Jewish new year approaches, I can't help but reflect back on what has been one of the most rewarding periods of my life thus far. This year, I got engaged to and married a man that challenges me each day to be the most whole version of myself. I traveled to India and Italy; two places that are too different to compare, but whose contrasts have made me even more aware of how fortunate I truly am. I quit a job that provided me with security and stability and leapt into a risky world of uncertainty. I rediscovered dormant passions and sharpened untapped skills. I cultivated new friendships and deepened existing ones. I learned to trust my capabilities when so much was at stake. I became more comfortable with my identity and heritage and have found so much value in the legacy of tradition.
Last Friday night, I gathered with old friends and new around a vegetable adorned table. As I looked around, a feeling of deep gratitude washed over me. Admittedly, this insight may have been provoked by our host's Shabbat tradition of welcoming the weekend with a gulp of mezcal, but that's neither here nor there... I gazed around and understood that each guest came from a different background, each with their own unique experience and history, yet we all met here, at a table to celebrate a year of progression and learning. We came together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah- a holiday that used to fill me with deep dread (sitting in a synagogue for hours just isn't my thing - is it anyone's?!), yet now brings me so much joy. To me Rosh Hashanah is about reflection, gratitude, and anticipation for what's to come.
We ended the meal with a delicious apple bar dessert (recipe below), made by my dear friend Ariel. The dessert (and apple honey dipping) reminded me of the Jewish idiom "have a sweet new year". It got me thinking about flavors- sweet and bitter. While they have a bad reputation, I happen to love bitter foods. Maybe I developed a taste for bitterness because compounds in bitter foods are healthful. Either way it's clear to me that whether literally or metaphorically speaking, bitterness is essential to life and wellbeing. And while people who wish you a sweet new year are well meaning, I'm sure, my intention this year instead is to appreciate bitterness, and to find beauty in moments that are challenging, scary, and arduous; the bitter moments of life. I truly believe that your outlook is the single most powerful tool to make lemonade out of of lemons. As such, I wish you all instead a present, tenacious and mindful new year replete with empathy, self-love and understanding ;)
Apple Almond Bars (from At Home in a Whole Food Kitchen, adapted by Ariel Pasternack)
- 1 tbs coconut oil
- 4 apples, sliced
- 2/3 cup and 1 tbs maple syrup
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2.5 cups almond meal
- 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
- 1.5 cups of oat flour
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 2 tbs apricot jam
Preheat oven to 350. Oil or line a 9x9 pan. Warm coconut oil in a skillet and add apples. Cook until brown, then add 1 tbs maple syrup and 2 tsp vanilla. Cook for another 5 mins.
Add dry ingredients to a bowl and mix. Separately add olive oil, remaining vanilla and maple, and almond extract in a bowl and whisk. Add wet ingredient to dry, and mix well. Pack the dough in the pan, and bake for 15 mins. Arrange the cooked apples overtop, and cook for 25 more mins.
To make the glaze, heat the apricot jam over med heat until melted. Brush the bars with melted jam. Enjoy.