Life on the Other Side: Honey Cake Confessions

It’s holiday time – which means big meals, gatherings with friends and family, shofar blowing, Rosh Hashanah foods. And honey cake. Oy.

How many of you really like honey cake? Fess up – be honest. Do you really like the taste of honey cake or do you eat it because its part of the Rosh Hashanah tradition? I, for one, HATE IT!

There, I’ve said it, and I’m so glad that’s off my chest. I’ve never liked the taste of honey cake and I never will. I know it’s oh so politically incorrect to admit this, from a culinary and Jewish point of view, but I don’t care. And if you want to come out of the closet and admit that you also don’t like the taste of honey cake, that’s just fine with me. Join the club!

My first recollection of honey cake dates back to the Shabbat morning kiddush at the Laurelton Jewish Center, where I grew up in Queens, NY. After services we would walk down the grand staircase towards the ballroom where tables covered with white tablecloths were spread out with goodies. We trembled with anticipation – would there be the usual honey cake, sponge cake and toothpick-spiked herring or would we be in for a treat? Maybe walnut-studded brownies? Perhaps marble cake? Even the sugary, wafery bow ties were better than honey cake.

The smell of honey cake reminds me of honey, and the smell of honey reminds me of tea – and my dad making me drink tons of it when I was sick. I didn’t much like tea either. Should I be seeing a culinary therapist to work this all out?

Isn’t there something medicinal-smelling about honey cake? Actually, it doesn’t seem to me to be a cake at all. Cake is supposed to make you happy and crave more. Honey cake doesn’t. Did you ever hear of someone becoming a honey cake addict? Having honey cake cravings? Yearn for a piece of honey cake after a satisfying meal? “Ooh, that meal was a gastronome’s delight; all I need to finish it off is a strong cup of espresso and a slice of honey cake.” Yeah, right.

I realize that being a cookbook author means I should tolerate all kinds of food. I should be able to discern subtle differences in flavors and proffer my expert opinion on all manner of whining (sic) and dining. I should never admit to disliking something simply because I don’t. It goes against all rules of culinary courtesy for a so-called specialist to admit to an aversion to a particular food. It probably ranks right up there with slurping the soup, licking the plate and picking up the crumbs with your tongue-moistened finger.

But, since this is the time of year for reflection, for admitting one’s sins and asking for forgiveness, I’m in a very truthful mood. I don’t want to lie to you. I must be honest.

I say we must all be true to ourselves and feel good about it. If you don’t like something, that’s fine. You’re OK, I’m OK. Let your inner child speak. Let your soul resound with the sounds of acceptance and love. Don’t force yourself to eat what you don’t care for or do what you don’t want to do. Be brave and be strong.

Say no to those who force honey cake upon you. When the beautifully wrapped presents start to arrive and there are honey cakes among them, toss them right into the garbage. Unless they have gobs of fruit (but not the dried cherry variety), or macadamia nuts or some other great food inside that will disguise the taste and alter the appearance.

While you’re deciding whether or not to deal with the honey cake issue, have a very happy, healthy and sweet New Year. Shanah Tovah u’Metukah!

Anne Kleinberg, author of Menopause in Manhattan and several cookbooks, left a cushy life in Manhattan to begin a new one in Israel. Now she’s opened a boutique bed and breakfast in her home on the golf course in Caesarea. For details, visit www.annekleinberg.com and www.casacaesarea.com.

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