December 2009 –

DECEMBER MEETING REPORT

We met for our December meeting only to find that for the fourth time this year the speaker could not come. Fortunately two of our members stepped into the breach – Mrs Maddy Rhodes and Miss Elizabeth Sugarman. Maddy spends some time each week at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau so she was asked if she would talk to us about her experiences there. She said she would be happy to, but on another occasion, as she needs more time to prepare. That will be something to look forward to. Instead she read us a Christmassy extract from a book called ‘Recipes from an Old Farmhouse’ by Alison Utley. Alison Utley was the author of the Little Grey Rabbit books which deserve to be as famous as anything written by Beatrice Potter.

After that it was Elizabeth Sugerman’s turn. Elizabeth is Jewish and so spoke to us about Jewish dietary laws, a fascinating subject. Most people know that Jews are forbidden to eat pork, but there are many other restrictions, all dating from the time of Moses, if not before, when there were good reasons for the prohibitions. Jews are divided into two main groups each with their own culinary traditions: the Ashkenazi who come from Eastern Europe and the Sephardic Jews who are mainly from Spain and the Arab countries. Most Jews in this country are Ashkenazi but Elizabeth belongs to the other group as her family comes from Holland. The Sephardic Jews ended up in Holland after fleeing from Spain at the time of the Inquisition. Information on the dietary laws can be found in the books Leviticus and Deuteronomy of the Old Testament and give instructions on the types of animals that can be eaten and how they should be killed: quadrupeds must have cloven hooves and chew the cud; fish must have scales and fins. No bird that scavenges may be eaten, nor any bird that cannot be killed by hand. Meat and dairy products should not be consumed together. All these restrictions might suggest a rather dull diet, but instead Jewish cuisine is deservedly famous throughout the world. As usual human beings have emerged triumphant when faced with a challenge.

Iris had visited a synagogue in London and was surprised to find that bread and wine formed part of the service, similar to the practice in a Christian church. Elizabeth explained that before sitting down to a meal the Jewish tradition is to bless the bread and wine. Of course this is what Jesus was doing at the Last Supper, having been brought up in the Jewish faith, and emphasizes the close ties that exist between our two religions.

V E Bines