Cholent: a Dish for the Gods (and Rabbis, too!)

My sister knows how much I hate to cook and frequently invites me to her home for dinner, a gesture that I consider quite humanitarian! One day an invitation came with a comment that she had a surprise for me. I knew when I walked through her door what that surprise was. A wonderful aroma that I remembered from my childhood filled my nostrils. "You made Bubbie’s cholent!," I screamed. I'm sure few people would get as excited as I over food, but not only am I addicted to eating, I'm also hooked on reminiscing.

When I was young, my mother made Bubbie’s cholent often. It was an Eastern European dish prepared by traditional Jews for their Sabbath afternoon meal. My bubbie's recipe consisted of beef brisket, potatoes, carrots, and beans. Other ingredients could be added as well. The secret of its succulent taste and magnificent aroma and the reason that it was prepared for the Sabbath meal was that it was cooked in the oven at a very low temperature for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours or more. This gave traditional Jews a hot meal without having to light the oven and gave the dish an exquisite flavor.

I recall one time when our rabbi and his wife, friends of my parents, came to a dinner at which my mother served Bubbie's cholent. I, no more than 10 years old, looked at the bowl of beans in its rich gravy and proceeded to recite a poem I had just learned--a poem that extolled the merits of eating beans. When I finished, my mother asked me to join her in the kitchen where she explained that my poem was quite inappropriate, especially at the dinner table.

I have never forgotten that incident. As a matter of fact, on the night I enjoyed my sister's cholent, I told the story to my brother-in-law, and yes, I recited the poem, too.



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