Unlike Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah or Passover, the holiday of Sukkot is not associated with any specific dishes. There is no steaming brisket or crispy latke, but in many ways it is the ultimate Jewish food holiday. It is the celebration of all things agrarian and is a time to give thanks for bountiful yields, the land’s fertility and the work of those who cultivate it.
Sukkot began yesterday, September 27, and lasts for seven days and nights. During this time, observers will take their meals in a temporary hut constructed of branches known as a sukkah. The tradition stems from the temporary shelters that Jews dwelled in while they wandered the Sinai desert for 40 years after escaping slavery in Egypt. Sukkahs also represent the huts that farmers would sleep in during the final period of the harvest. At night, the farmers could look up and see the stars in the gaps of the branched roofs.
Although not all sukkahs (at least in New York City) are built on soil, the structure symbolizes a respite from the elements that still provide a physical connection with the land. The idea is that if we eat our meals closer to the ground, we can make a better connection with our food source.
If you don’t have access to a sukkah, visiting a farm or a farmers market to create a meal with seasonal produce is another straightforward and delicious way to observe the holiday. You can also take a more social route by checking out these local celebrations: