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Food

No company this Sukkot, but at least there is pumpkin chocolate chip cake

Sukkot is my favorite holiday. I love the festive meals outside on a crisp autumn day. I love the building and decorating of the Sukkah. I love having a house overflowing with company, Sukkah building parties, brunches, cocktail parties, even weeknight dinners are celebrations. The holiday is long enough to luxuriate in, with days and days of holiday fun to enjoy. Sukkot planning and cooking is serious business in my house, and normally by now, I’d have a full roster of menus and special celebrations planned.

This year, instead of looking forward to Sukkot, I’ve been dreading it.

At first glance, it appears that Sukkot may be the perfect holiday for the COVID-19 era since it’s largely outdoors. I’ll admit to spending a few days in denial, hoping that we could have some semblance of our normal celebrations, if smaller than usual.

Image by http://www.sukkahcity.com/

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

While Sukkot is very much an outdoor Holiday, Sukkahs themselves are at least partially enclosed and close quarters. It isn’t enough to simply be outside, you must remain six feet apart at all times.

Sukkahs are usually designed with a dinner table in mind and are often cozy spaces. My own Sukkah is a perfect example, a lovely 8’x8’ sukkah with just enough room for a table and chairs on our patio, a nice size for an urban outdoor space. We are very lucky to still be able to build a Sukkah, but not one large enough to keep company at a safe distance, especially not small children who won’t stay at a table for more than a few minutes.

Realistically, we would be closer to two feet apart in an enclosed space. When people are removing their masks to sing blessings and eat, the situation quickly becomes dangerous, especially given that COVID-19 cases are again on the rise across America. My friend and colleague Avital Chizik – Goldschmidt has written about the dangers and the halachic waivers in place.

This whole holiday season is a challenge. The days we look forward to become the days we dread, where the isolation, sadness, and distance feel sharper and more painful. Another celebration just the three of us feels exhausting like I am perpetually pushing a mental and emotional rock up a mountain to try to create a holy joyful space for chaggim. Never before have I looked forward to the Jewish holiday season being over. I even considered simply pretending Sukkot wasn’t happening, shutting myself off to all of the pain and isolation and my deep desire for community, but then I’d be shutting myself off to all of the joy, all of the love, all of the light Sukkot brings, even in dark times.

I am working to find happiness in the quiet moments. My daughter’s look of surprise and joy when she sees our beautiful new sukkah, all covered in twinkling lights. Coloring pictures to hang with her. Having pajama parties on the weekend with pancakes. Curling up my husband and enjoying a cocktail under the stars. Filling my house with the joyful smells of Sukkot, matzo ball soup, brisket, stuffed cabbage, and of course, my Mom’s Pumpkin Chocolate cake. I can smell it now. Almost taste it.

Now, I am finally looking forward to Sukkot.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

This is a family favorite. It’s perfect for fall, packed with pumpkin, cinnamon, and chocolate. It’s easy, pareve, and comes together in minutes. It’s a perfect easy treat for Sukkot and its pareve! I drizzle mine with chocolate glaze for extra fanciness, but you could definitely omit

3 cups flour
1 ½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups or 1 can of pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup good quality chocolate chips
1 cup water

Combine in a bowl and bake in a greased bundt pan or tube pan at 350 for 1 hour and ten minutes. Cool completely. Gently remove from pan. I like to flip upside down and bang on the pan and say a little prayer. Enjoy!

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