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Fasting, feasting color the season of fall

By: Henna Bakshi

Imagine an evening in the midst of Jerusalem, the soft glow of lamps light up the streets and orange leaves.

As you take a deep breath, heavy with music and sweet spices, your mouth begins to water. Your stomach growls, empty from fasting, and you’re eager to consume the array of dishes set before you.

These are the experiences of Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday that originated in Jerusalem, to welcome the season of fall through celebration, and best of all, great food.

This Day of Atonement was Sept. 18 and calls for 24 hours of strict fasting. This is done to reconcile or shed one’s sins, as symbolized by the seasonal shedding of fall. Fasting begins with the celebration of Yom Kippur eve, known as Kol Nidre, a night reserved for ample feasting.

Naga Devi, a UNF physical therapy freshman, comes from a Jewish background.

“Celebrating the idea of atonement is very important to a practicing Jew,” she said. “And then you’ve got the great variety of food.”

Rabbi Jonathan Lubliner from the Jacksonville Jewish Centre said kreplaches, flour dumplings stuffed with minced meat, potatoes or crème cheese are the traditional Jewish dish served at the feast.

“We encourage easy and healthy eating before the fast to stock up on all our basic nutrients,” he said.

Lauren Braun Costello, a Jewish food stylist, chef and writer of “The Competent Cook: Essential Tools, Techniques, and Recipes for the Modern At-Home Cook,” writes, “The dough covering the meat represents our hope that God will hide our sins as we repent. Another explanation is that the meat symbolizes judgment, but the soft dough represents God’s unfailing mercy and justice.”

Many cultures around the world celebrate the season of fall by fasting for new beginnings, and of course, indulging in celebratory feasts. Kurva Chauth, for the Hindu wives, follows a day of fasting for new beginning wishes for their husbands and family. Ramadan, a Muslim holiday, carries on for a whole month. Yes, it’s a whole month of fasting from dawn to dusk, but also a whole month of massive dinner feasting.

Whether you’re Jewish or not, religious or not, fasting is a way of cleansing the body, and feasting afterwards makes the accomplishment all the better. So this Yom Kippur, consider participating in a thousand-year-old tradition by fasting then feasting on some homemade kreplach.

Here is a basic kreplach filling I tried from epicurious.com. The recipe also offers steps in making your own dough, but I found egg roll sheets to be an easy substitute.

Meat filling
2 tablespoons corn oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound chop meat
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat corn oil in a skillet; sauté onions until nicely browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add meat to the pan and sauté on high heat, stirring frequently until all meat is browned. Put the onions back in, and sauté with meat, stirring constantly for one minute. Let it cool.
2. In a bowl, thoroughly mix meat-onion mixture with all remaining ingredients.
3. Place a flatware teaspoon of filling in the center of the egg roll sheet and fold diagonally to create a triangle. Seal sides with egg mixture.
4. Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil, add one tablespoon of salt, drop in the kreplach and cook for 20 minutes. Serve in chicken soup or, for dairy fillings, with sour cream and fried onions.

Henna’s kreplach review:
Similar to Asian wontons, kreplach wasn’t overfilling and satisfied my appetite very well. They may also be fried for a crispier texture. This hot meal is sure to warm your senses, making it the perfect representation of fall.

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