October 9, 2014
I swear I have been writing, y’all, just not around here.
Here are two new pieces, if you’re interested in checking them out:
My Non-Christian Best Friend [Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics Page]
I have also been thinking about atonement: ‘tis the season. Because both Hinduism and Judaism use a modified lunar calendar, our holidays tend to align, which is how I found myself at school last week, fasting for my holiday (Navratri) on the same day that our school community prepared for the observance of Yom Kippur, also a fasting holiday.
If you didn’t grow up inside of a tradition that includes fasting, the practice may well seem strange, absurd, and out-dated. And I get that; it’s an odd thing, in this very comfortable, twenty-first century life full of glossy magazines and hyper-documented eating, to tell someone that you’re not eating, on purpose, for no other reason than that your ancient religious tradition tells you to.
Of course, that’s not actually the only reason. All of us, even the most devout among us, pick and choose our practice to some extent; I mean, I eat beef but I still call myself a Hindu. Why fast, then, when it is so inconvenient, so disruptive, so uncomfortable?
Because that’s exactly what I need: interruption, inconvenience, to spend a little time feeling uncomfortable. Not only is it a reminder of what a terrible luxury it is to be able to abstain from food out of choice (and not due to, say, lack of access or money), but also it is a reminder of my very human, human nature. I am greedy, vain, and proud; I spend most days walking around the world as a bundle of wants, fulfilling one desire after the next. All too often, I let my body lead, making choices that satisfy in the moment, but not long term. I forget to care for my other components: body, mind, heart. More importantly, and more damagingly, I fail to minister to those components in others.
That is why I fast—as a reminder. Of my own frailty, my own failings, not to wallow in guilt and regret but to renew my desire to do better, to stay focused, to live with intention. And, as always, to never take for granted the astounding grace that allows me to live this life, for whatever time I may have.
Last week, as I stood around inside a period of reflection and abstention, and my Jewish students and colleagues prepared to enter the same space, we joined together in the Avinu Malkeinu, the traditional Hebrew prayer of repentance. But instead of reciting the words, our Head of School invited us to stand, close our eyes, and sing out just the melody, a capella, as a congregation.
It was one of those moments that the description of which will never do justice—an accumulation of meaning and feeling , a palpable presence of the sacred—it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
That same day, before I broke my fast with my family, we sang our traditional hymns in Sanskrit, words that Shiv is beginning to try and mimic, the ones that I hope will help build his sense of the sacred. And when he is old enough—eleven or twelve, say—I hope that he will choose to fast along with me, to make time for the inconvenient and the uncomfortable, and the gifts that they bring.
I was ready for apples. After my annual voluptuous romp with summertime fruit, I find myself wanting a bit more restraint, a bit of regularity, some dependable but not overwhelming sweetness. Enter: apple season. Apples are delicious, relatively cheap, and travel well in the bottom of my purse, the latter of which is basically my #1 criteria for snackability. If among fall taste preferences, there’s an apple camp and a pumpkin camp, I am firmly in the apple camp. APPLES FOREVER.
Also turns out that I love making things with apples, too. Behold this whole host of recipes from the archives:
Plus, these bonus recipes from around the internet that I made & enjoyed but failed to photograph:
Teddie’s apple cake, as adapted by my friend Jess* [Sweet Amandine]
*I have made this several times, most recently for Rosh Hashanah a few weeks ago, and it takes well to a little futzing. This last time, I swapped the cinnamon for ground cardamom, stirred in some rum along with the vanilla, and played with the flours—a little buckwheat did something really nice to the already nutty flavor. The cake was equally good as dessert, with some whipped cream, as it was for breakfast, with a smear of cream cheese or apple butter.
Do you have a favorite, go-to apple recipe? Please share it! I plan to be baking apple things for many more months to come.