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Tsures in the budget?

Tzimmes, a rich dish in the economic sense

*Tzures in Jiddish, but in Hebrew TzaRot (צרות) – means trouble, sorrow, problems, misfortune

All week, Ukraine was waiting for the country’s main budget to be passed. Jews were also actively following events in the Supreme Rada, for one of the most important earthly questions was being decided: how are we going to live, and what are we going to live on? The deputies did their best to divide up and cover the “budget deficit”. But in any financial calculations, tzures is still tzures! You don’t need to go to a rabbi, it’s all quite clear already! A deficit is a deficit.

But even in Galut cuisine, you can cook tasty dishes. And this isn’t about politics, but how to lay a generous Shabbat table properly in the present economic situation.

Economy should be economical

This is not quite a Jewish approach, for economy is not a synonym of miserliness. It is rather about rationalism. As proof, take an average Jewish grandmother. She will make you at least 10 dishes from one kitchen. And she will also sell the entrails, so she can afford to buy good wine for Kiddush. Economically calculating the family’s ration is in our blood, or rather, it is handed down from generation to generation, from meal to meal, from family to family… This determines national cuisine and the individual traditional dishes that the Jews devised out of necessity.

For many centuries, the Jews were in Galut. Despite the widespread opinion that “there are no poor Jews, and if there are, then they’re not Jews”, the history of their cuisine proves the opposite: for centuries, Jewish families were not well-off, but g-d-fearingly observed traditions. For example, in the 18th centuries, Jews could hardly afford fish. Most of our ancestors only bought herring “from the bottom” of the barrel. For brown fish with a strong smell that cost a few kopecks was all that many Jews could afford at that time. To fulfill the obligations that Jerusalem [the Jewish people] took on before the Almighty by Mount Sinai, we learned to live on a minimum, but to serve meals at a maximum. The meal on Shabbat is an opportunity to increase our joy in what is sacred, and it is an indisputable law that is thousands of years ago, which was observed even in the poorest and largest Jewish families. Thus Tzimmes appeared on the Shabbat table.

The naches of tzimmes

Tzimmes literally means “pleasure”, “the best”. This meaning is well-known today in the dictionaries of many countries, including Ukraine. For initially the dish was invented as a desert which we traditionally serve on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).

The main ingredient of the Ukrainian Tzimmes is stewed carrot with the addition of other vegetables or fruit, and honey. From the point of view of the history of Jewish cuisine, this dish is relatively new. It only appeared in the 18th century, when carrots became popular in Europe. This product was cheap, and Jews liked it for its sweet taste. Again, purely Jewish economic rationalism! In a few centuries, Tzimmes became an integral part of national cuisine, and the traditional national dish of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.

There is no single recipe for making Tzimmes. In different parts of the world, it is made differently. In Ukraine it was not only prepared for the most important holiday of the year, but also as a daily ration, not only as a desert, but also as a garnish. Etymologists explain the reason: the Yiddish word “tzimmes” has German roots and means “for eating” (German “zum”, “for”, “essen” “eating”).

We don’t eat candy, we serve sweet Tzimmes

Like many other Jewish dishes, Tzimmes not only became popular within the Pale, but also created a whole series of sayings and definitions connected with its incomparable flavor. In the dialect dictionary of Odessa, the local meaning of the concept of Tzimmes is defined as the quintessence…. In Odessan business circles you may hear: “That’s the whole tzimmes!”, and when praising something, “That’s a tzimmes!”, and speaking of a “sweet” baby, “Tzimmes mit kompot”!

This folklore shows the heightened feelings for Tzimmes at the national level. It is absolutely justified by the laws of Kashrut, as it is easy to make and the flavors of the ingredients are preserved.

Several arguments:

• In the 19th century refrigerators did not exist, but this dish could be kept throughout Shabbat;

• On Shabbat, ovens and fires were not lit because of the ban on cooking, but you could heat up Tzimmes without breaking the Shabbat (it is not liquid and does not burn);

• It is equally delicious hot or cold;

• it is cheap, delicious and nutritious.


Classic Tzimmes recipe:

Carrots – 5
Prunes – 300 gr.
Raisins – 100 gr.
Honey – 120 gr.
Vegetable oil – 30 gr.
Nuts to taste

Cut the carrots into half-rings, add a little sunflower oil and put on a low heat to stew. Ten minutes later, add a pinch of salt and the honey, and stew for another five minutes. Wash the prunes and raisins (soak them beforehand), cut into pieces and add vegetable oil. Stir well for 10 minutes. Sprinkle nuts on top and serve.

And Shabbat Shalom!

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