Double Life – Food Again

fubiniBy Daniela Fubini*

Our waistline barely survived the fried and then baked sweets that attack all our senses for at least two weeks every December (and this year due to the distance between Chanukka and the end of the year almost one full month). We are trying to get back into shape – any shape, at this point – and here it strikes again: Tu BiShvat.

Mountains of nuts and dried fruit take over even the most humble supermarket. The simplest apple cake gets a seasonal twist consisting in adding an impossible amount of nuts and raisins to the recipe. In Italy, past and forgotten the fluffy glory of Panettone and Pandoro, high rise cakes fashionable only until the first week of January, is now a good season for Castagnaccio, a flat chestnut cake, almost not sweet at all, and for other very flat cakes like Panpepato (chocolate and almonds based) and Panforte (dried fruit based).

So it looks like the difference between the beginning of the winter and its peak can be described as a switch between a lot of sugars and long leavening to lot of sugars with zero or close to zero leavening. I cannot imagine that the flat cakes have anything to do with the upcoming spring celebration of Pesach, it would be too much of a long shot, especially considering that again on Purim and in parallel during the long and sugar-loaded Carnival leavening makes a bold comeback.

But there is one thing I really do not understand: if Tu BiShvat is the new year of the trees, like we learnt in school, why we don’t pack our bellies with vegetables? Wouldn’t it make much more sense if we’d celebrate trees and nature in general by preparing rich quiches, salads, vegetable-based dishes? Nothing against be on high of dried fruits for a few days, but they really don’t represent trees in any way I can imagine.

*Daniela Fubini (Twitter @d_fubini) lives and writes in Israel, where she arrived in 2008 from Turin via New York.