HanuCanada | December 10, 2020

Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown.  For those of you who aren’t up on your Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is an eight-day “festival of lights” to celebrate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after a group called the Maccabees overthrew their Greco-Syrian oppressors.  While Hanukkah has all of the trappings of a perfectly good holiday – battles, a miracle, donuts – it’s actually pretty minor compared to our big’uns.  However, over the past 2,000 years or so, the Boxing Day of Jewish holidays has been slowly elevated to commercialized VIP status thanks to its relative proximity to the season of Christmas and the acquiescence of Jewish parents all over the globe to their children asking, “Do I get a present, too?”

Still, even with all of the “I Latke Hanukkah” sweaters and Menches on Benches on the market, the actual tradition of Hanukkah remains relatively simple and unchanged: Light the menorah.  Say two blessings.  Eat food cooked in oil.  “Play” dreidel*.  Repeat.

Kyle is not Jewish (he’s Catholic).  He and I started dating in January and got engaged three months later (oy vey ammiright) – and so when he and I piled into the car that December for our first Christmastime trip to his hometown in Saskatchewan, Canada, it was also the first time I was meeting much of his very large extended family.  In that particular year, the first night of Hanukkah fell on December 25.

It is very convenient to be in a Jew/non-Jew relationship because you never need to discuss with whose family you will spend your respective holidays.  Even when I found out that Hanukkah and Christmas overlapped there was never any question in my mind where we’d be on Christmas Day; I figured I’d either celebrate the first few days of Hanukkah in spirit, or just push it back a bit (blasphemy!) and start Day 1 when we got home later that week.  Kyle, however, was not having it.

“I packed the menorah and candles,” he said matter-of-factly as we filled the Honda Civic from wheelbase to roof with presents and suitcases, “And we’ll light it up before supper each night.”

“Erm, okay,” I said, knowing full well that I was never going to do that.  I felt a little weird that my first substantial trip to my future family-in-law’s house would be wedging into their big’un holiday with my shrug-shrug of a holiday.  Like, “Hello, Canadians!  I am Amanda, an American who has appeared out of nowhere and claimed your guy.  Nevermind that Christmas tree; spin my dreidel, and comply!”  I was so set on not Hanukkah-ing up in Canada that I sneaked the menorah out of Kyle’s bag and back up into our apartment as we were preparing to go.

We arrived in Sask late, late that night.  Everyone should have been sleeping; instead, they were all waiting at the kitchen table with a giant meat tray and a pitcher of caesars and lovely smiling faces.  And right in the middle of the table was a brand-new ceramic menorah, which my beautiful, beloved mother-in-law pointed to and said, “We’re all ready for Hanukkah!”

And wouldn’t you know it, those sweet Canadian Catholics (and one Lutheran) were ready.  The Kosior Christmastime traditions began in earnest on Christmas Eve and went through Boxing Day, and smack in the middle of all of it they sat nicely as I lit the menorah, and ate fried potatoes, and played about 200 more rounds of dreidel than any modern-day Jew has ever played.

Kyle and I have been married for 14 years, and my Kosior family has celebrated Hanukkah at Christmas with that little ceramic menorah many more times since that first trip northward.  A photo of the menorah is above.

Speaking of lovely smiling faces, this week’s news is about Blessing Boxes, a good night’s sleep, and a miniature Christmas village.  Read on.

When Jake the Siberian Husky fell through the ice on a walk, the Dickinson Fire Department  and the Dickinson Rural Fire Department jumped in (maybe not literally) to help. (Dickinson Press)

Carrington’s Maartje Murphy has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her 100-flavor gelato business, which is getting ready to expand into a creamery. (Grand Forks Herald)

Minot is now how to Blessing Boxes – filled with food and personal care items – thanks to a Boy Scout named Logan. (KX Net)

Forty-eight families now have new mattresses, box springs, bed frames, sheets, and pillows thanks to Slumberland and its supporting volunteers. (KVRR)

Minot’s Dale Ganske started giving away extra merchandise from his store for no other reason but to help others, and was quickly supported by donations from Dairy Queen and Spicy Pie. (Minot Daily News)

The Santa Claus Girls in Grand Forks have packed their sleighs full in order to help families in need. (Grand Forks Herald)

The North Dakota Giving Company has gifts ready and wrapped for 19 children and siblings of fallen North Dakota soldiers. (KX Net)

An anonymous donor gave a class of fifth graders $10 each so they could fill Christmas stockings for those in need. (BHG News)

In the back of the Max Museum is a secret Christmas fairy village filled with 150 houses. (BHG News)

*Dreidel is a game played with a four-sided spinning top and gelt (money, or in much more modern common practice, chocolate coins).  It was originally created as a way for Jewish people to communicate during the aforementioned Maccabean revolt and not, in fact, as a fun pastime.  It’s a cross of the worst parts of marbles (what kid doesn’t want to play a game where someone else ends up with all of their candy) and top spinning (I mean…).  Do you know how long it takes for a top to fall once its spinning?  Long enough for a child to shove every piece of their chocolate gelt in his or her mouth and tap out of the game.  Ninety-nine-percent of dreidel games end after one round.  The rest of dreideling consists of competing to see who can spin a dreidel on its top, or on their foreheads, or on another dreidel, and then leaving the dreidels for some unsuspecting adult to step on in the middle of the night.

(Also…Like the story above?  Check out last week’s tale of rye bread or this post from last year about Christmastime for the Jews.)

North Dakota Grows: Brenda, Dan, Adam, and Woodward Farm

On 80 acres of pure country near Cathay, ND sits Woodward Farm, home to a smorgasbord of homemade magic courtesy of Brenda Gorseth.  Brenda has spent the last six years cooking up everything from “Man in a Can” onion pepper relish to custom kuchen to – ready for it – “North Dakota Nice” salsa.

The wonderful Brenda has offered her thoughts on how to can, jar, and bottle North Dakota sunshine:

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Tell us about Woodward Farm and your connection to North Dakota.

Our North Dakota story is unique; my husband is from Stanley, ND, and I’m from Minnesota. We were living in Georgia and wanted to get back to the Midwest, so we looked on a map and found Carrington in the middle of our hometowns. After searching on the Internet for properties in the area, we found an 80-acre ranch and purchased it. I was an English teacher until 2013 when we started Woodward Farm and converted our two-car garage into a large commercial kitchen. We built it to process and sell the produce we harvested here and around the area, but stumbled upon catering and discovered it’s something I love doing. Winters make it difficult to want to stay in North Dakota, but the people are what make it a great place.

I grew up on a farm and a large family; my maternal grandma came out almost daily to help out my mom and together they taught us how to can, bake, and garden. While teaching, I often baked things or created a jam recipe for my students to enjoy; they are the ones who encouraged me to create a business and sell to larger outlets than the local farmers’ markets. We were taught to use what you have, and after large harvests of fruit and vegetables, realized I needed to create some fun recipes that were not the ‘norm’-everyone makes strawberry-rhubarb jam, but NOT everyone makes ‘Ugly Sister Rhubarb Salsa’-a niche market is the way to be successful on the crowded shelves at the store.

Everything in the product line either comes from our large garden or someone locally. One of my sources for produce is the Carrington Research Extension Center; while there, they asked if I catered events as they host many throughout the year – I did it once and was hooked.

My goal with the catering is to make it as ‘farm to table’ as possible, even in the winter months. By canning green beans, carrots, spaghetti sauce, etc, and using fresh produce in the summer and fall months as well as using local sources of meat, honey, flour, etc, the goal of keeping it North Dakota sourced succeeds. All the breads and desserts are made from scratch; every week I provide three types of cookies to Gate City Bank in Carrington, and while opening a box of frozen pre-formed cookie dough works for some, it doesn’t for me.

What’s your secret recipe for working well together as a family?

My family has been very supportive and help out whenever it is needed; my son helped in the garden from the time he was six with weeding, picking, trellising, and harvesting. Now he’s 17 and makes better looking dinner rolls than I do (I think it’s the mathematician in him). My husband, who works in the oil fields, helps out when he can with grilling, heavy lifting and serving at big events.

What are you most proud of related to Woodward Farm?

Creating and owning a business is hard work; one becomes the both the CEO and custodian, and some days are really long. I am proud of what is produced both in product and in catering and since I do the majority of the prep myself, I know what is in it and how it was made. Many of the caterings at the Carrington Research Center involve people in the agriculture business, and the biggest compliment is when they tell me they appreciate a home cooked meal that has generous portions and is made well. Peeling potatoes for a group of fifty is a lot of spuds, but the taste of real mashed potatoes versus a box puts a smile on their faces, and that’s what my business is about. When a cattleman tells me the roast beef is the best he’s tasted, I know it’s a big deal and appreciate it.

Why should people by North Dakota-made products over anywhere else?

We are fortunate in North Dakota to have a state mill and an ample supple of locally sourced honey, just to name a few. I believe It’s important to use the local resources we have and to take pride in creating products for others to enjoy. From aronia berries to bison meat, this state has unique raw materials other states may not produce, and as a caterer and producer, it’s my challenge to showcase them for others to appreciate. Purchasing North Dakota made products means you are supporting the community you live in, not some factory mass producing a bland, but cheaper, jam or salsa in a state the product isn’t even grown in. When you buy ‘Grapes of Wrath’ or ‘North Dakota Nice Salsa’, you help my company to invest in the local chamber of commerce, donate a gift basket to the local charity, or be able to bake items for my son’s FFA chapter.  The biggest challenge local businesses like mine face is people buying out of state or area products that are cheaper; yes, mine may cost more, but you know where the apples came from, you know it was made in a small batch, and hopefully you understand how buying it helps our local economy.

[From Amanda: You can pick up a jar of “North Dakota Nice” salsa or book your next event by going to the Woodward Farm website here, or follow their goings-on on Facebook here.]

Nice news of the day – November 22, 2018

There’s a lot to like about living in the country.  It’s quiet. There’s a lot of space.  You can walk around without pants on (if you don’t have neighbors).  But you typically can’t get food delivery –which is why it’s great that the Great Plains Food Bank is taking its mobile food pantry to some of North Dakota’s rural communities to serve residents who need no-cost food. (New Rockford Transcript)

This farm has thousands of chickens, cattle, sheep, and pigs roaming free, which is the basis for “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and basically my 3-year old son’s dream scenario. (Dickinson Press)

The Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative received a prestigious 2018 Bush Prize for Community Innovation for the work the group is doing with 15 rural North Dakota school districts. The program is so interesting that it’s worth the time to read the whole article. (Minot Daily News)