1. Boil eggs
  2. Peel eggs
  3. Place eggs in vessel
  4. Add mayo and Dijon mustard until right
  5. Salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste
  6. Paprika on top for color

For years, this simple recipe dominated our pre-Yom Kippur preparation. Since I left the URJ a few years ago to move into the private sector, my wife Abby and I have hosted break-the-fast for our Jewish friends who were stuck far away from family on the holiday. It started small, with about 10 people (a dozen eggs) we collected at services who had no where to go, and it ballooned to about 35 people (four and half dozen eggs) in our 550 square foot apartment in New York, with the smoked fish sponsored by the parental units.

It was a big deal. We had kugel and bagels. We had fish for about 300 people and fruit and cookies and challah, juice, coffee, soda, and every once in a while, a few shots of booze. But for our friend Anna, the egg salad was reason enough to move heaven and earth. Her break-the-fast was not complete without the consumption of copious amounts of the above listed egg salad.

This year, we did not make it, nor did Anna eat it. And that was strange.

Holidays are all about tradition. Ask anyone what they did during Rosh HaShanah 10 years ago, and they will tell you they went to synagogue and prayed. But ask them what they ate this year on Rosh HaShanah, and odds are they ate the exact same thing as 10 years ago – and they will be able to provide great detail about the Great Brisket Debacle of 5763.

Jews aren’t alone in this one. We have friends in New York who can’t make it home for Thanksgiving and roast a turkey that could easily feed an entire family of six just for the two of them, so they can feel at home. (There are many weeks of turkey sandwiches in November and December at their house.) I can point to the ubiquitous fruit cakes of Christmas, and I am sure there are curries, soups, roasts, and breads from every culture that provide a touchpoint to the past and meaning to the present.

For us, it is egg salad.

Yesterday, as we were getting up and ready for services, the wife and I were talking about how it was more difficult to be in San Francisco during the Jewish holidays. New York is the most Jewish city outside of Israel. People understand and speak Judaism there. It has deep Jewish history and longstanding community. There are fewer people in the subways on Jewish holidays, but the line for every bagel place is out the door.

It wasn’t the same in San Francisco. This isn’t to say we didn’t have a meaningful Yom Kippur; we enjoyed our services at Congregation Emanu-El, and most of the sermons were interesting. We were invited to a lovely extended family break-the-fast at my extremely gracious second cousin’s home on the Peninsula, where we ate tons of the important break-the-fast musts: smoked fish, bagels, cream cheese, herring in cream sauce, rye bread, soup, other sandwich materials, and of course cookies and cake.

But there was no egg salad. And in some ways, I am glad it wasn’t there.

Abby and I are still getting settled here, and the ongoing changes that are inevitable in life make it extremely difficult to get comfortable in our new home. But we will keep at it. In fact, because we don’t go anywhere empty handed (thanks to strong parenting on both sides of our little family), Abby made some cherry jam cookies to bring to my cousin’s house. This recipe needed two eggs.

So we have egg salad just for us. It only has 10 eggs in it. But my guess is that next year, we will have a few more eggs to put in a vessel along with new traditions for our this newer chapter in our lives.

Happy New Year, Jews.

Originally posted at The DCC