Tu BiShvat, called the "New Year of the Trees," falls at a seemingly incongruous time of year.
Tu BiShvat is a minor festival whose provenance dates only to the time of the Second Temple. However, the kabbalists who clustered around the great fifteenth-century mystic Isaac Luria of Safed placed great weight on the holiday, creating new festivities, gatherings at which hymns were sung, fruit (particularly carob) was eaten, and four cups of wine were taken (as in the Passover seder).
Derived from central Europe, the popular kichlach (Yiddish for "cookies") are to be found in many of the packages prepared by parents for their children serving in the Israeli military.
This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion's recipe for Bakery Date Squares.
The use of sherry vinegar, cumin, and oranges speaks volumes about the Iberian influence on the cooking of South America.
We see everything around us through a coronavirus-colored lens these days, searching the past for clues about what is to come. This month, I'm using the rhyme about April showers and May flowers as an occasion for hope, seeing every holiday in May as part of this unfolding pandemic.