I’m in San Diego giving a book talk. The Jewish Community Center of La Jolla has invited me to speak at their Succoth festivities, and at this time of year it seems like the perfect spot to celebrate nature’s mother lode of nuts and seeds. The Jewish holiday of Succoth is time to acknowledge a bountiful harvest. An open lattice of boughs and fruits top a temporary wooden structure that observant Jews erect in their backyards, balconies, or even on their fire escapes as my father did when a child in 1920’s New York. The open nature of the “roof” allows all those who eat in the Succah, as is customary, to look up at the stars, and contemplate the passing of another year on the Jewish calendar. It is a symbolic, ethereal structure that underscores the nomadic history of the Jewish people. And as nomads, the ancient Jews of the Middle East would surely have scooped up the fallen bounty of almonds, sesame seeds and whatever other morsels they found as they wandered through the desert. Before cultivation and the rise of settled agriculture, Jews gathered what was plentiful, and as their culture and cuisine evolved, integrated these resources into their daily sustenance.
I’m delighted to celebrate in a San Diego Succah. I’ll be demonstrating our chocolate hazelnut spread from the book,made with almonds instead of hazelnuts. The group chose to use almonds because they are a local and plentiful California resource, a sentiment that resounds with the spirit of the holiday. We will spread it on the fruits of the season and enjoy. I will look up at the sky, and be grateful for another bountiful year.