So, this was our second year celebrating Hanukkah at home! You can read my post on our first home-celebration clicking here. Mind you, we had celebrated Hanukkah twice before, in Toronto, at a café we loved for its Sunday Jewish brunch, both in 2012 and 2013. But it wasn't until I finally decided to consciously and outwardly to acknowledge my roots in 2014 that we started having celebrations home.
Anyhow, I feel I can say this year we outdid ourselves! First, we organized not one but two dinners! One for my work colleagues, one for friends and family. Second, I bought bigger candles, so they were still burning when guests arrived for dinner on the 6th night. And third, we went from offering latkes, mulled wine (both made by us) and ponchkes (bought) to offering mulled wine, borscht, latkes, and cheesecake, all made by us! and everything vegan! Yay!
Last year I used a québécoise recipe for mulled wine. This year, honouring the Ukrainian part of my ancestry, I decided to use a recipe that included black tea. A very different effect, but still wonderfully warming and aromatic.
Then, for the borscht, we also kept with the Ukrainian theme, thanks to a recipe from a bud from Canada. His grandmother was born to an immigrant family of Ukrainian origin, in Manitoba. It was nice to use the recipe of hard-working pioneers that shared roots with my family! Oh, and with a dollop of vegan sour cream (also made by yours truly). Ah, yes, and served with rye bread (no, we did not bake that one, we're not at that level just yet!). Such a simple, but awesome combination of flavours.
Then, the latkes! The habibi is getting way better at these. Though last years' were delicious, this years' were also wonderful in shape and texture, as he grated the potato and onions coarser. Accompanied with apple sauces and sour cream. Very traditional. Very nom nom.
Finally, vegan cheesecake! With a date and pecan crust, and a cashew, coconut and lemon filling, and some blueberries on top. First time ever we prepared those (I tasted them at a friend's place in Toronto, the same guy that gave me the borscht recipe), and I was elated to see people actually eating and enjoying them! Whew! and yay!
We also went further this year by waiting for everybody to arrive first on the 7th night before lighting the hanukkiyah (the Hanukkah menorah). My sister was coming and, since I can't do this without thinking about my mom, I wanted to share this with her (my sister) too. And with close friends. I guess this is part of my Canadian influence - the Jewish community there was so open, and inviting, and always ready to organize culturally Jewish events where anybody from any ethnic or religious origin could join. So, for me, it feels weird to have a celebration like this and not invite people over, regardless of background.
Also, despite this being a minor holiday, and despite some 21st century readings of it as commemorating not cultural preservation but fundamentalism, I prefer to view it as a reminder of people deciding for an identity and mobilizing to keep it. And in a case like mine, where so many identities flow from the past and could easily be obliterated or forgotten through inaction, this holiday takes special significance.
Hopefully next time around I'll have perfected the art of preparing kybyn, pastries my great-grandmother from Odessa used to cook just for this time of year. Gotta start practising, though!
Hope you had a happy Hanukkah. 'Cause I sure did.