Cooking with Love

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Shavout - The Giving of the Torah

In the Bible, Shavuot is called the Festival of Weeks Hag ha-Shavuot, Festival of Reaping Hag ha-Katsir, and Day of the First Fruits Yom ha-Bikkurim.
Besides its significance as the day on which the Torah was given by God to the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai, Shavuot is also connected to the season of the grain harvest here in Israel. In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest, just as the eighth day of Sukkot (Tabernacles) was the concluding festival of the fruit harvest. During the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, an offering of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest was made on Shavuot.
Shavuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim - their first fruits to the Temple. The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species - shivat haminim for which the Israel is blessed: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates . In the largely agrarian society of ancient Israel, Jewish farmers would tie a reed around the first ripening fruits from each of these species in their fields. At the time of harvest, the fruits identified by the reed would be cut and placed in baskets woven of gold and silver. The baskets would then be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and who were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As the farmer and his entourage passed through cities and towns, they would be accompanied by music and parades.
Even today, in modern times this holiday is a festival for farmers. The Kibbutzim and farms decorate their tractors and spend the day in song and dance.
We all wear white, which is a tradition and in addition to eating the fruits of the land - we eat cheese. Therefore this is also a holiday of high cholestoral :-)
But we cannot oppose tradition now, can we.
So our tables are filled with pizza's, quiches, abundance of cheeses, salads decorated with cheese and of course - cheesecakes and desserts.
Jewish holdays are definately all about food....

Cheese Balls:
Any soft cheese (I think a low fat philadelphia will be fine)
sharp cheeses
Feta cheese
Olives, paprika, sesame, zaatar, nigella seeds....
I don't really have quantities....just taste as you fo - add more of this and less of that to your taste. You can use butter too, I found it unnecessary. The mixture is so rich as is....
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Make golf size balls and roll in sesame / paprika/ nigella seeds and so on.
Keep refrigerated. They are really pretty on the table surrounded by crackers, which, By the way, I will post later on today - Parmesan Mustard Crackers. Yummy!! And also healthy wholesome crackers that are totally addicting!

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