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It’s the new year!

Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year! It’s 5769! Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Even if you’re not Jewish, it still feels new because new school years start in fall.

5768 was a great year for me. I visited a lot of new places including the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Seattle, and Vancouver; I met Jake and with him came a lot of new friends;  I saw a lot of my favorite bands perform live, including Wilco and St. Vincent; and I started this blog.

Yesterday, I spent my Rosh Hashanah as a lot of Jewish Americans do, by going to synagogue services for the first and only time that year. I know it sounds strange and not exactly religious, but trust me, it’s not uncommon. Part of what I like most about being Jewish is the sense of Jewishness I feel just because I’m Jewish. It’s not exactly a religion, not exactly an ethnicity, but a culture.

This year, I decided to bring Jake with me to services. I felt especially entitled after witnessing his portrayal of Jesus in his church’s Easter program this past April. I really liked having him there, and I’m pretty sure he liked coming with me. Rosh Hashanah services, which are definitely lighter than Yom Kippur services, are about reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new one. Our temple has a “creative” service aimed at young families and led by the high school youth group. There are songs, poems, traditional readings, and a certain sense of innocence to the whole experience.

Erev Rosh Hashanah, the equivalent to New Year’s Eve, was spent rather nontraditionally. A group of us went to see Mates of State at the Fine Line. The show was amazing; I’ve been waiting to see this band since first hearing them two years ago (thanks to Brooke!) You can get a glimpse at what they’re about by listening to this interview/in-studio performance at the Current with Mark Wheat. Or check out their blog (link in the right column).

In case you came here looking for food, I do have a great recipe to share with you. It makes a great snack, dessert, or gift. Plus it’s darn cheap (you probably have the ingredients sitting around the house). I’ll share it under one condition: if you ever get this from me as a gift, please disregard this post. Forget about me writing about how cheap and easy it was to make. Focus on the thought and consideration put in to my making it just for you.

David Lebovitz’s Candied Peanuts
2 cups raw peanuts*
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
a sprinkle of coarse sea salt (or smoked salt)
optional: ground cinnamon or chili powder

* I used almonds, and David recommends a smooth nut, so no pecans. Plus it’s key to get raw, unsalted nuts since you’ll be cooking and seasoning them yourself. Preroasted nuts will burn. You can find lots of cheap, raw nuts at Trader Joe’s or in the bulk section of most markets.

In a wide, heavy-duty skillet (I used a normal nonstick frying pan), mix the nuts with the sugar and water. Cook the ingredients over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid seizes up. It will take a few minutes. It will bubble up, evaporate, and look a bit like this:

The nuts will become dry and sandy, which is perfectly normal. Don’t worry; you didn’t mess up, says David. Lower the heat slightly and scrape up any syrup collecting in the bottom of the pan and stir the nuts in it, coating them as much as possible.

The sugar will start to magically caramelize. Keep stirring as to evenly coat, and not burn, the nuts. If the mixture starts to smoke, remove it from the heat and stir.

Right before they’re done, sprinkle the nuts with a sizable pinch of flaky salt (and pinch of cinnamon or chili powder, if you want), stir them a couple of times, then spread the nuts out onto a baking sheet. Break up any clusters and let them cool completely. They’ll keep in an airtight container for a few days. But they’re so tasty, sweet, and crunchy, you won’t even need a few days.

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1,784 Responses to “It’s the new year!”

  1. October 2nd, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Jake says:

    I did like the service. I was warned that it was long, but not too bad. I think I could get the hang of reading that Hebrew written in phonetically with some practice. I definitely expected it to feel a little weirder then it did.

    I’m also a big fan of placing you’re new year at this time of the year. I feel like a lot of things are starting a new for me right now.

    I don’t really get why the secular New Year is in the middle of winter right after Christmas. The Christian’s sort of celebrate a new start on Christmas and Easter.

    It’s probably good that we have as many reminders as we can that “this is the first day of the rest of your life”.