The Jewish New Year is upon us again. In years past, this was a pretty big deal around the Pincus household. But, more recently, as my view of religion has waned, it has become just another day. My wife, however, still chooses to embrace the traditions in which she was raised and I fully support her wishes.
As in past years, my in-laws are hosting dinner for the first evening of the holiday. (I'm not sure how many days this one rages on for. Two, maybe three days.) Right now, as I write this, Mrs. Pincus is busy in the kitchen, baking some of her specialty treats to serve at the meal's completion. In addition to Mrs. P's homemade baked goods, she likes to have another traditional holiday.. um... dessert gracing the table — the esteemed taiglach.
Taiglach is a collection of small balls of baked dough, sometimes called called mandlen*, boiled in a sweet honey syrup, then mixed with nuts and dried fruit. The mixture is either distributed into small paper cups or piled high into a vague pyramid and pulled apart with the fingers... those fingers then brazenly licked accordingly to remove any remaining remnant of honey. And it often looks like this...
Sort of appetizing, in a quaint, old-world, peasant kind of way. I tasted it once, many years ago, around the time I had my first introductions to a lot of Jewish traditions of which I was not previously aware. It was a strange mingling of flavors, some of which I could not quite place. It was not bad. It just wasn't good and I chose not to partake of any more. My wife and her father gobbled it up as though it was manna. Perhaps, to them, with their long association with the dessert, it was. Me, however... I took a pass.
This morning, when my wife woke up, she remembered that she did not purchase a taiglach for this year's dinner. In her opinion (which I would hotly contest), it would not be Rosh Hashana without a big ol' taiglach occupying a special place on my mother-in-law's linen-covered (then clear-plastic-covered) holiday table. Quickly, she called a bakery (yes, these things are purchased in a bakery) around the corner from our house to see if they still had taiglach left, what with the rush for holiday baked goods at hand. The good folks at the bakery said they were well stocked. Mrs. P asked if I would pop over (a little bakery humor there) and pick one up. I got dressed, pulled on a pair of shoes and hoofed it over the the bakery, which is within walking distance from our home.
Situated in a compact, basement-level space behind a strip of commercial properties, the bakery is accessible by a narrow set of stairs that can only accommodate one person at a time — either entering or exiting. I allowed two gentlemen gripping bags of bagels and a woman carrying some sort of dry-looking cake to pass before I descended the steps into the bakery. The lit glass display cases were full of beige and crumbly baked goods, none which appeared the least bit appealing. A display of plastic containers, not unlike a corner deli uses to package a pint of cole slaw, were stacked high atop tall refrigerated case. The containers were identified by a cardboard sign with a single word scrawled across it — "Taiglach." I examined the display more closely. These things didn't remotely resemble any of the taiglach I had seen in the past thirty years. They, in fact, looked more like the leftovers of a big serving of sweet and sour soup from a Chinese restaurant — dark brown, thick and packed with beans and other unidentifiable ingredients. I exited the bakery and called Mrs. Pincus.
"They have some stuff that they are calling taiglach," I began when she answered the phone, "but it doesn't look like any taiglach I've ever seen."
She asked me to describe it and I related its similarity to Asian soup. She laughed and asked me to buy it anyway. I said I would, with the caveat that when I get it home, she may not say, "What the hell is this?" when she sees it.
I went back into the bakery and made my purchase. I took the bag containing the possible taiglach from the bakery lady's hand and proceed home. When I got home and pulled it from the bag, Mrs. P didn't seem as upset or confused as I had been, considering it looked like this...
... not the symmetrical, gooey sculpture we were both used to.
It doesn't really matter. I have no plans to eat it anyway.
* no, not the musical instrument, the "soup nuts."