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National Slow Cooking Month

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January is National Slow Cooking Month. A slow cooker, also known as a Crock Pot (the way that tissues are known as Kleenex), is an electric machine which slowly cooks food at a constant low temperature. The original machine was very simple. There was no insert or choice of temperature level. But the premise was the same as today’s machines. It was actually invented to cook beans. To be precise, the inventor, created the machine to help his mother recreate a bean dish that she used to help her mother make. Each Friday it was her job to take a pot with a bean dish, that her mother prepared, to the baker. The baker’s oven was not on from Friday afternoon until Saturday night, but it was still hot enough to cook the bean dish which was collected on Saturday to provide a hot meal.
 
 
That bean dish is known as tchulent (otherwise written as cholent or chulent) or hamin to Jews around the world. Tchulent is a bean, potato and barley dish which often, but not always includes a bit of meat. However, due to the slow cooking method cheap cuts of meat come out soft and tasty. The inventor, Irving Naxon (nee Nachumohn) designed the machine to recreate his mother’s memories from Vilna without the hard work. In 1936, Irving applied for his first patent for a slow cooker. The patent was granted in 1940.
 
 
The machine was originally known as The Boston Beanery. You could buy this relatively inexpensive machine in two colors: gold or red. In case you didn’t catch it, the two colors, although this was not specified, was so to differentiate between a milk pot and a meat pot. As time went on the machine changed names and became a little more sophisticated. It came in more colors, would often have more settings and an insert pot was added to make it easier to clean. Crock Pots are still big sellers and as an extra feature they can be bought with the symbol of your favorite sports team or even a personalized picture on the outside of your machine.
 
 
During the 1970’s many machines were left on shelves because they used too much energy. However, since the Crock Pot uses little electricity, claiming to use the same as an incandescent light bulb, it was relied upon even during the energy crisis. They were also known to be able cook a variety of foods for breakfasts, lunch, dinner as well as desserts.  All this and they provided healthy home cooked meals safely even if no one was at home!
 
 
Okay, so you have guessed that the inventor was Jewish and that he created the machine to meet a need of not cooking on Shabbat and yet providing a hot meal. But there is more to National Slow Cooking Month that I think relates to Judaism.
 
 
So, let’s look at the idea of slow cooking itself. Slow cooking uses low heat to cook food for a long time. The evaporation of liquid inside the pot and its continual “raining” down on the ingredients helps infuse the food with flavor. It is also one of the healthiest ways to cook meat.
 
 
This slow cook method is true with religion as well. If we continuously slowly infuse Judaism into our families, the results will be tender and tasty to them. You don’t want to quick flash religion, spirituality or nationhood. It is best slowly fused together like a tchulent. Tchulent starts off as separate ingredients, but by the time Shabbat lunch comes around it is a dish. Yes, you can pick out the meat (if it was added) and the potatoes, but it is a cohesive dish. It all goes together.
 
 
And that’s like Judaism. You can pick out holidays, or laws, or nationhood, or history, but somehow they all come together. They fit. Some people pick at this aspect or that, but you still know that it is part of a whole and the flavor has infused all parts of the dish.
 
 
And another thing that has been slow cooked over the years are the Jews. We started off as a single family. That is one reason we keep mentioning Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rivka (Rebecca) and Jacob (Israel) and Leah and Rachel. They were the original simple ingredients. As time went on we added more characters and many events to throw into the pot, as well as laws. So, basically we are a tchulent.
 
 
And just like the modern slow cookers, we can individualize our Judaism and change the setting. On the outside perhaps our Judaism looks different, but basically inside the pot is the pride, history, culture and background that simmers in all of us. And perhaps some of us turn the heat up more than others, and of course recipes vary. But the point is that in the end we are like one big Crock Pot of tchulent – filling our souls with hot wholesome food on a cold day!
 
 
Marcia Goldlist is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online. She was the author of one of the blog postings selected for the Second Quarter 5779 Jewish Values Online Best Blogs.
 
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
 
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