Out of print but in our thoughts. Let’s Take A Breath As We Dust Off The Deep Fryer
A WorldCat search shows the closest copy is in Denver. The Chrismukkah Cookbook: The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday remains, for now, mere speculation.
A PR release dated Christmas Eve 2005 serves as our chief guide, and what it tells us is as compelling and terrifyingly explained as anything we have read before, food-wise, of course. “Filled with color photographs of cleverly conceived culinary combinations inspired by the myriad of mixes intermarriage can spawn.”
Spawn? And a Happy Chrismukkah one and all! Brace yourself.
“Each dish is spun like a Hanukkah dreidel, then christened with a cheery Chrismukkah name: Gefilte Goose, Fakakta Figgy Pudding, Bah Humburgers, Gelt Melt, Deck the Halls with Boughs of Challah, Gingerbread Mensch, Good Cheer with a Schmear, and a drink called Yule Plotz!”
Gefilte Goose? It might sound monstrous, but gefilte is just Yiddish for stuffed, or filled, so it’s not a wild idea to stuff a goose at Christmas, Hanukkah, or any time. The fact the term is so deeply connected to a much-maligned Jewish delight is a pretty bold move, but, sure.
Yule Plotz is actually a pretty terrific name, no shade there. I would have gone Yule Putz, but what can I say? I like all things, seasonal or not, blue.
The Chrismukkah Cookbook: The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday
“The cookbook might bring to mind the question: Does it taste good and is it in good taste? Miraculously, the answer is yes. Each recipe manages to be mouthwatering while keeping tongue firmly planted in cheek,” says Chrismukkah.com CEO and the cookbook’s author, Ron Gompertz.
I beg to differ on the Matzoh Bread House, Ron.
Recipes were co-created by Kathy Stark, former executive chef with the Honeybaked Ham Company and ex-proprietor of Starky Authentic, Montanas only Jewish delicatessen. Whoa, Kathy. You may have been born for this job.
Ron Gompertz, we have come to learn, “a Jewish native of New York, launched Chrismukkah.com with his wife Michelle, a Midwesterner from a Christian family. Like millions of other intermarried Americans, the newlyweds were both bemused and bewildered by the culture gap between their respective families.” And then a spiral-bound book soon followed. Spawned, if you may.
And this is the heart of the Chrismukkah problem. Is a mash-up of two cultures a legitimate response to a house that celebrates both?
“We will have a 21st-century, late-capitalist Chrismukah, or Hanumas. We will have both. We will have every Or, as a real Jew – or Christian – would say: we will have nothing”
It’s that time of year again. Starting Sunday, November 28, 2021, let’s embrace the miracles! But we need to discuss making this a hybrid holiday. Hanukkah stockings? Really?
In homes where both Christian and Jewish observances occur, the holidays can get, well, kinda weird.
Tanya Gold proclaimed in 2015 that her family of three “will have a 21st-century, late-capitalist Chrismukah [sic], or Hanumas [Huh?Who knows.]. We will have both. We will have everything. Or, as a real Jew – or Christian – would say: we will have nothing.”
Tanya summed up the scene due to the arrival of their son, “And now we two slobs – the practising Christian and the lapsed Jew – have to find a way to celebrate Christmas and Hanukah, the festival of lights, together. It is not relaxing.”
For houses with both Christians and Jews, the holidays can be complicated – known as the December Dilemma. The proximity of, arguably, the biggest holiday in Christianity with a relatively minor Jewish one, Hanukkah stokes big emotions for some interfaith couples and all Jewish families, too.
A Pew Research Center study revealed that in 2013 51% of all Americans “say they see Christmas as a religious holiday, while 32% say that, for them, personally, it is more of a cultural holiday.” Also, eight-in-ten Americans (79%) said they planed to put up a Christmas tree that year, while a pretty significant 32% of Jews say they had a Christmas tree in their house the year before. And who are those Jews trimming the tree? A poll by the Forward claimed 51% identified as non-denominational, 30% Reform, 18% Conservative and 4% identified under the general label of Orthodox.
Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut sees the December Dilemma as having had a interesting effect on Jewish households in the United States over the decades: “ironically, by elevating Hanukkah as a Jewish alternative to Christmas, American Jews had invented their own holiday tradition through a Christmas mirror.”
And what are the gains or consequences for Jews who embraced Christmas traditions? Rabbi Plaut provided intriguing insights: “Starting in the 1950s, American Jewish sociologists conducted a number of studies.
In his 1958 study of second-generation immigrant Reform Jews on Chicago’s South Side, clinical psychologist and rabbi Milton Matz revealed that in the second generation, parents often agreed that a Jewish child might need a Christmas tree to “hyphenate the contradiction between his Americanism and his Jewish ethnicism.”
However, Plaut continues, “Matz’s study also demonstrated that members of the third generation were increasingly likely to recognize the inherent contradiction in adopting the religious symbols of another group; they would eventually give up the Christmas tree and find other ways of expressing their acculturation into American society.”
By 1993, Stanford professor Arnold M. Eisen reported that “82 percent of Jewish households in which all members were Jewish, a Christmas tree had never been displayed.”
It would appear that most Jews, at some point, will need to map out how they will navigate this season. And it’s bound to be complicated. Although it wasn’t for Rabbi Kaufman Kohler, who wrote in The Menorah in 1890: “How can the Jew, without losing self-respect, partake in the joy and festive mirth of Christmas? Can he without self-surrender, without entailing insult and disgrace upon his faith and race, plant the Christmas tree in his household?” Well. You’ve been told.
Whatever you decide this year, I hope the December Dilemma is fleeting, and you do what’s best for you and your family. If a riotous hybrid of inclusion is laid bare through seasonal cooking, well, okay then.
There may be difficult decisions ahead, but I hope we can all agree that Hanukkah stockings are never the answer.
If you can find this cookbook, mazel tov! Check the places you enjoy getting your books.
Gompertz, Ron, and Kathy Stark. Chrismukkah Cookbook: The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday. Bozeman, MT: Chrismukkah.com, 2005
PR releases keep the world turning. Sometimes, they are all we have left. Read about The Chrismukkah Cookbook here.
Read Tanya Gold’s piece for the Guardian UK here: Happy Chrismukah: Our Season of Festive Compromise.
Read Rabbi Plaut’s article, Jews and Christmas: What Attitudes Toward Christmas Tell Us About Modern Jewish Identity, over at My Jewish Learning.
You can practically feel the spit take from the writer of Do 4 Percent Of Orthodox Jews Really Put Up Christmas Trees? in The Forward.
And for those missing pie charts? Check out Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now.