Sev­er­al rows of etrogs at the mar­ket in Bnei Brak

It’s time to bring every­thing to the table. The kitchen table has always been a sacred and impor­tant space for me. It res­onates with me that in Jew­ish tra­di­tion the table in the home is asso­ci­at­ed with the mizbeach, the holy altar in the Tem­ple, the Beit Ha-Mik­dash, the House of the Holy, the heart of our sacred uni­verse. This sounds love­ly until you make peace with the rough work of wor­ship and sac­ri­fice as known at that time, but the work is real — it’s not just mel­liflu­ous words and prayers and heart­break­ing sup­pli­ca­tions but sac­ri­fices, exal­ta­tions of spir­i­tu­al ecsta­sy, clouds of incense that mix the acrid and unpleas­ant (gal­banum) with the flo­ral and intox­i­cat­ing­ly pun­gent. It was the orig­i­nal eleven herbs and spices! (Why place the odor­if­er­ous among the per­fume? One tra­di­tion teach­es that the gal­banum rep­re­sents the neg­a­tiv­i­ty and sin among the peo­ple, and the diver­si­ty of the spices is the diver­si­ty of the souls that join togeth­er — for good may over­come the bad, but with­out all the ingre­di­ents, the ketoret, the incense, like the peo­ple, is incomplete.)

The same goes for the Four Species that we wave on Sukkot. One has a sweet taste but no smell — the date palm. Anoth­er has no taste and no smell — the leaves of the wil­low. The etrog or cit­ron has a taste and a glo­ri­ous scent. The myr­tle has a fra­grance but isn’t edible.

The theme again is that the good will over­shad­ow the bad. The diver­si­ty is real and nec­es­sary, and with­out it, the Four Species like the human species is incom­plete. We aren’t allowed to for­get that despite our dif­fer­ences, we must unite for high­er pur­pos­es. The incense clouds out the gore and slaugh­ter; the Four Species bring on rain and fer­til­i­ty nec­es­sary for growth and change in an oth­er­wise arid cli­mate. Lest we get lost in the poet­ry, the word for wor­ship” in Hebrew, avo­dah, has con­no­ta­tions of work and ser­vice as well as spir­i­tu­al devo­tion; the work of repair­ing the wounds of the world, tikkun olam, is hard work.

Yid­dishe Ribbenes

This recipe is my answer to mak­ing a unique­ly Ashke­nazi bar­be­cue using spices and fla­vor­ings found in an area as diverse as the Baltics to the Balka­ns. Even the wood used to give a smoky taste — cher­ry, oak, and apple are delib­er­ate. This recipe requires FLANKEN short ribs, also known in the Jew­ish world as Mia­mi ribs,” not the stout, chunky short ribs that are wide­ly known. Long and flat-ish, their thin­ness makes them ide­al for grilling, unlike the thick-cut short ribs, which require long slow cook­ing such as brais­ing. You could also use the same mari­nade or mix­ture with beef back ribs, chick­en, lamb, goat, etc., but the cook­ing method will change accord­ing to the type or thick­ness of the meat. I hope this recipe adds to the fun or re-imag­in­ing the Afro-Atlantic art of bar­be­cue as part of Yiddishkeit.

Serves 4

2 pounds short ribs, flak­en style

1 tea­spoon black pepper

1 tea­spoon ginger

2 tea­spoons paprika

½ tea­spoon cinnamon

1 tea­spoon kosher beef or chick­en bouillon

1 small onion, fine­ly chopped

2 table­spoons gar­lic, fine­ly chopped

2 table­spoons oil

2 table­spoons white vinegar

1 – 2 table­spoons pre­pared white horseradish

1 – 2 table­spoons brown deli mustard

1 table­spoon brown sug­ar Sprigs of fresh pars­ley, mar­jo­ram, or chives, for gar­nish (option­al)

Flake salt, to taste

Wash the meat and pat it dry. Mix togeth­er the pep­per, gin­ger, papri­ka, and cin­na­mon and rub into the meat. Mix togeth­er the rest of the ingre­di­ents, pour over the meat, and mar­i­nate 4 – 6 hours.

Pre­pare your grill accord­ing to the manufacturer’s instruc­tions. If using a pel­let smoker/​grill con­sid­er using a mix­ture of oak and cher­ry or cher­ry and apple pel­lets. If using a char­coal grill or smok­er use oak and cher­ry or cher­ry and apple wood chips or pack­ets to get smoky flavor.

Grill meat over medi­um heat, 5 – 7 min­utes per side. Wrap loose­ly in foil and allow to rest for 10 min­utes; check for done­ness. If you want, gar­nish with fresh herbs, or use sprigs to mel­low with the flanken ribs as they rest in the foil. Sprin­kle with flake salt to fin­ish, but use sparingly

Excerpt­ed from KOSHER­SOUL by Michael Twit­ty. Reprint­ed with per­mis­sion of the pub­lish­er, AMIS­TAD, an imprint of Harper­Collins. Copy­right © 2022 by Michael Twitty

Michael W. Twit­ty is a not­ed culi­nary and cul­tur­al his­to­ri­an and the cre­ator of Afro­culi­nar­ia, the first blog devot­ed to African Amer­i­can his­toric food­ways and their lega­cies. Twit­ty has appeared through­out the media, includ­ing on NPRs The Splen­did Table, and has giv­en more than 250 talks in the Unit­ed States and abroad.