Category Archives: Customs

Breaking the fast: The sound logic of sweet melon seeds

The beverages Jews drink to break the fast of Yom Kippur vary among communities, but the majority of them come down to  sweetened teas or herbal infusions, sometimes with spice added.

Putting spice in your empty stomach first thing after a 25-hour fast might sound counterintuitive, but many spices have soothing digestive properties. Yom Kippur drinks may contain cinnamon, or cardamom, or herbs like mint and lemon verbena. Other spices valued for their digestive and calming properties include anise, fennel seed, and ginger, and it’s a safe bet someone will be ingesting them somewhere at the close of the holiday.

As a people whose diet is shy of strong spices, Ottoman Sephardim re-awaken the stomach with the mildest of beverages: pipitada, an infusion of crushed melon seeds, steeped several hours in cold water, strained, and sweetened with a little sugar. The drink is in keeping with our custom of beginning meals each day with a melon course, an ancient practice with a sound, healthful logic. Continue reading

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Filed under Customs, Holidays (fiestas judias)