Paean to Cholent
The Shabbos meal has developed and changed over the past ten years, and a lot is new. But one thing is not; cholent doesn’t need an upgrade.
Gefilte fish slowly morphed to salmon, which rapidly became lightly seared tuna steak, only to settle finally on fish that’s not cooked at all — just tossed, raw, in seasoning, and called ceviche or crudo or tartare. Fish courses grew to include sushi salad and dips — so, so many dips. But cholent doesn’t need an upgrade.
From spaghetti-and-deli salad to Ashkenazim buying and then cooking lahme b’agine, to taco bowl appetizers and other fleishig finger foods instead of fish courses, now it’s London broil cooked medium rare by sous vide or otherwise that’s served on Shabbos day. But always served alongside cholent, which doesn’t need an upgrade.
Tables covered by vinyl animal skin print, and mahogany and silver challah trays eclipsed by marble or rustic wood, gold accents on everything from cutlery to serving trays, and bouquets made only from the filler baby’s breath and eucalyptus we used to throw right out. But no filler has replaced cholent, because it doesn’t need an upgrade.
Hot pastrami cooked in shrink wrapped plastic, and beef that’s been pulled and stuffed into tacos and eggrolls and laid artfully on meat pizza, sausage that’s been hasslebacked and arranged on boards with charcuterie that used to be called cold cuts. But always served with cholent, good old cholent, which doesn’t need an upgrade.
Miniature desserts in personal-sized disposable trifle cups and cupcakes and store-bought vanilla ice cream from Trader Joe’s and Lotus cookies and Lotus butter in way too many things. But not in cholent, which doesn’t need an upgrade.
Social media has influenced, and set tables have become tablescapes. Standards have been raised regardless of whether we asked them to or not. But cholent, always dependable, will never need an upgrade.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 790)
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