Nisan is the first month of the Jewish calendar, a celebration of the beginning of Spring (Chodesh Ha-aviv) and Pesach. Unlike Rosh Hashana, which is a new year for the creation of the world, Nisan established the nation of Israelites. G-d instructed Moses, “This month shall be for you the head of months, the first of the months of the year.” (Exodus 12-2).
One is instructed to say a blessing during Nisan for blossoming fruit trees. With the celebration of Spring in Nisan, one can visit a park or other natural setting to let one’s senses enjoy the colors, scents, sounds and beauty of this time of year. On my little balcony, I’m immersed in an array of flowers, pots overflowing with herbs and a cacophony of birds chirping (of course there is also the regular sounds of drivers honking their car horns). My neighborhood is alight with bougainvellia in vivid oranges and pinks, cascading over tree tops, walls and bushes.
As we admire the bits of nature in our neighborhoods, it’s also an opportunity to think more broadly about our responsibilities to the large eco-systems that we are part of. How do our practices at home impact the food we eat? What we can we do to ensure that our food is grown more in harmony with nature? I am not exaggerating when I write that we are at a critical junction as to whether we continue to be part of an industrial food system that threatens our future food.
Our food supplies are wholly dependent upon our ensuring healthy and clean (and non-renewable) soil and water, which have been severely degraded due to industrial agricultural practices (e.g. toxins, pesticides, mono-cropping and erosion). As the Land Institute explains, agriculture “is the single human activity most responsible for dismantling the biodiversity that makes life as we know it possible.” We can “liberate” ourselves from industrial food, starting this Pesach by choosing seder ingredients that are raised, grown, outside of our industrial food systems.
The dish that I prepared is reflective of the Israelites passage from their constricted life as slaves in Egypt to the Exodus. I used an array of fruits to represent the flourishing Spring season. The entire dish is drizzled in pomegranate molasses, which is a bit tart, to represent the pains and bitterness of enslavement that we experienced and the aspects of enslavement that we still carry with us.
Nisan: Quinoa with Fruits and Yams
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
2 Garnet yams
1 Pink Lady apple
2-3 Medjool dates, chopped
2 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare quinoa
3. Wash apples and yams. Peel yams. Chop into small pieces and arrange on paper lined tray. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake until soft and slight browned, about 40 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool slightly.
4. In a bowl, mix dates, raisins, apple and yams. Add more salt, if needed.
5. On a platter, arrange quinoa in a long, narrow pile. Place fruit mixture at the end in a slightly encompassing circle. Drizzle quinoa and fruits with pomegranate molasses.
Rosh Chodesh sameach v’btayavon!