The theme of the Hebrew month of Elul and the high holidays of Rosh HaShana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is returning - both to G-d and to one's better self. Introspection, prayer, and giving of charity help this effort.
In our family, Rosh HaShana marks a more down-to-earth time of returning. It is the time when we go back to our winter menu.
When I became an observant Jew and set up my own home, I especially enjoyed learning how to cook all of the traditional foods for the Sabbath and holidays. My mother would make them only once a year - on Passover, but I wanted to make them more often. I used the Lubavitch cookbook (old version) to make everything from challah (egg bread) to cholent (a meat stew specially made just for the Sabbath).
When we made aliyah we made two changes to this. One, we incorporated Israeli foods into our repertoire, taking advantage of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Two, we took into account the different climate. I know that there are some out there who can't give up their Shabbat chicken soup and cholent, even in the dog days of August, and they just blast the air conditioner. Westbankpapa and I can't deal with this. The idea of eating such heavy stuff in the heat makes us ill - so our summer menu is adjusted and we eat more shnitzel and fresh salads.
It turns out that I stop making cholent around Passover, and I stop making chicken soup around Shavuot. I resume my winter menu again at Rosh HaShana.
Yesterday I made challot with my kids. This is a once yearly activity that my boys don't let me skip. I make the round ones, they enjoy making the braids (yes, in a family with only boys, they are taught not only to wash the floor but to make cookies and challa!). They asked me what I would be making for Rosh HaShana and were delighted - to the point of dancing around the kitchen - when I told them that chicken soup and cholent would be on the menu.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder - even when it comes to chicken soup.