Politics, Religion

Happy Shavuot! My love affair with fruit, cheese and coffee

At sundown tonight will begin the holiday of Shavuot, “weeks.” We’ve counted the seven weeks since Pesach began, culimating in the ultimate experience that the Israelites had after escaping from Egypt, that of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Shavuot is also, according to ledgend, three months after Moses was born, thus commemorating the day that he was too big to hide, and thus was sent down the river on the journey that lasted his entire life.
Just like many Jewish holidays, Shavuot has origins that predate the stories we assign to it. In temple/pre-rabbinic times, Shavuot was about one thing: FRUIT. You can read all about it in Mishna Bikkurim: Hebrew / English. Basically, Shavuot was a huge festival in which everyone brought the firstripe fruit of their trees to the Temple in Jerusalem. Fruit party!!
Do you like fruit? Do you eat fruit every day? We all know it’s good for us, but this Shavuot – I have a shamir-challege for you: do your body a favor: increase your fruit intake to at least five servings a day. Try a new fruit. Prepare some fruit in a different way. Give some nice fruit for a gift. “Take a peach after dinner” as my grandma likes to say. Instead of cake or ice cream (or perhaps as a topping), fruit it up! And to eat fruit in a way that is healthier and better for the planet, check out a local farm, or if you can, join a community supported agriculture project such as Hazon‘s Tuv Ha’aretz.
Next comes cheese. There are two commonly referred to origins regarding the eating of dairy on Shavuot: 1. as we awaited to receive the Torah, we didn’t know what the laws were going to be regarding eating meat, so we were vegetarians just in case. 2. to recall the verse in Ex. 33:3 that refers to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” My favorite kosher cheese is Tillamook, but it’s not organice and made far away from where I live. Luckily I live in NYC and can get cheese at local farmer’s markets and specialty grocery stores. What’s your favorite cheese?
Finally, there’s coffee. Esther pointed out some tips for staying up on Shavuot night. Someone once told me that the idea of Tikkun Leil Shavuot started around the same time coffee became more widespread in Eastern Europe.
There are few things I love more than a sweet & creamy iced coffee on a summer’s day or a steaming cup in my hand on a winter’s morning. I have to admit, however, that every time I go for a cup I second guess myself every step of the way:

  • First, if I am not making it at home – did I bring my own cup or will this cup of coffee create excess garbage?
  • Second, is this coffee organic and fair trade? In other words, how many harmful chemicals were dumped on these coffee plants? How much water was used or wasted on this coffee? How were the people harvesting the coffee paid and treated?
  • Third, with what shall I make my coffee creamy? When I’m at home, I prefer Silk soy in hazelnut or vanilla. It’s creamier tasting than milk and much less fat than cream. But when I’m on the go, a shamir can’t always find soy creamer. As you could have guessed by my love of cheese, I do eat dairy, but I try to get organic when I can, so even non-organic milk is not my preference.
  • Fourth, sweetener! So if you don’t already think I’m a huge nut, at home I prefer to use agave nectar sweetener, since it is organic and much better than bleached, processed sugar. But when this shamir is on the go, sweetening can be a huge challenge. Though I enjoy sugar in the raw which is now widely available, it takes forever to dissovle (especially in iced coffee), which brings me to the issue of coffee stirrers which are required when drinking hot coffee. (And this shamir likes to avoid as much as possible the use of anything that is used once and then thrown out). So what I end up doing with hot coffee in order to avoid the coffee stirrer is using Equal artificial sweetener, which is at this point just silly considering how much thought goes into the rest of my coffee and coffee container. I don’t even know what it’s made from; I just know that it tastes sweet and it dissolves quickly without a stirrer.

Wishing everyone a meaningful, sleep deprived, fruit, cheese and coffee filled Shavuot. See you at Sinai!!!
The Wiggly, Squiggly Shamir (who, according to ledgend, is the magical worm with diamond teeth, which Moses needed in order to inscribe the letters on the tablets of stone)

9 thoughts on “Happy Shavuot! My love affair with fruit, cheese and coffee

  1. lovely relevant post on my issue d’always….just curious…why do you choose equal over plain packeted-refined-white sugar?

  2. Where ever you are…make Shavuot a real spring time harvest festival, as Sukot is. Plant something…no yard, plant something in pots…at this Shavuot, I am blessed with abundant pest free heirloom tomatoes…cucumbers, peppers…At Pesach, all my Karpas is grown in my yard.Make your garden a living expression of your Judaism and Hashem’s blessings. Please see my blessings in my garden below. Yom tov to you.

  3. the “bikkurim” in “chag habikkurim” is actually “bikurei chitim”. (first wheat) — shavuot is the wheat harvest holiday. fruit baskets come later in the season, close to sukkot time.

  4. delicious post!
    might i recommend that you (and many nyc cafes) prepare for ice coffee season by making a batch of simple sugar? just dissove 2 or 3 or more cups of your sugar of choice (raw works great!) in 1 cup of boiling water and store in a lovely little bottle (or better yet, resuse a lovely little bottle you already have on hand!) this will dissolve easily into your iced coffee and also comes in handy for summer drinks like mojitos, etc.

  5. Sarah…this is how us Southerners make sweet ice tea..it is the best made with the simple syrup.!

  6. I now feel compelled to mention that Quebec maple syrup is the shit.
    I also want to say how much I would love to kick it and catch up with Sarah (Shamir), and also with Sarah (Jewish Fashion Conspircacy). Keep up the wonderfulness of it all.

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