Pi Day Rabbi(t) Hole

So today is 3/14/2020. Pi day. This is was already a fun holiday for me because it gave me an excuse to eat pie. Last year I had quiche for breakfast, pizza for supper, and for dessert, of course, pie. I think I went with apple. This year, however, I wanted to expand the parameters a bit.

Pi day is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. I’m a fan of Albert Einstein, but celebrating his birthday is a little difficult. I could try dressing up like him, but that sort of thing’s a bit outside my wheelhouse. I could make some cookies with an atom symbol or something on them. I might do that next year. I did do some semi-scientific research in his honor, but then I do that almost everyday. So as much as I’d like to honor Einstein, it’s difficult to find ways to really celebrate.

Now the connection might not be entirely clear, but a month or so ago I was watching Hunters, which is an over-the-top Tarantino-esque TV series about a group of people who hunt down former Nazis living in the US in the 70s. The series is something of a mixed bag. The side characters are great, Al Pacino does some of the best work I’ve seen him do, and there are some heart rending dramatic scenes. On the other hand, the main character is a bit annoying, the series tries to be funny at not quite appropriate times, and the ending was a twist that seemed unsatisfying and didn’t even really make sense to me. Anyway, there’s a necklace that features prominently in the series. It’s gold necklace with a pendant of the Hebrew word “chai,” (pronounced like “hi” but with more throat action on the H) which means “living.” It looks a lot like the greek letter pi with an apostrophe in front of it.

Image result for chai necklace
Chai necklace

So I thought…Chai Day! And of course once you write it out in English you can’t help but think of chai tea. So I could drink come chai while I ate some pie. But that doesn’t make a bit of sense with out the connection to the Hebrew symbol. It seemed I had a…Jewish problem.

Well, I could be like Hitler and try to eradicate all the Jewishness from the holiday, or, I thought, I could lean into it. I’m not Mexican, but I like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I’m not Christian, but I celebrate Christmas. I have perhaps a little more claim to St.Patrick’s day, but I’m only a quarter Irish, and that’s from the protestant part of Ireland at that, so technically I’m doing that wrong too. Besides, I’m half Polish and the Nazis didn’t like them either, and my Dad gave me some Bar Mitzvah money when I was thirteen because he liked that tradition. So I think I’m completely in the right here. It is my right as an ignorant American to culturally appropriate whenever I deem it… appropriate.

Albert Einstein was Jewish, and there are also other connections. Like the Darren Arronofsky film Pi, which was about a Jewish mathematician who tries to find God’s telephone number and goes insane. And then there’s the rabbinical discussions of descriptions of pi in the Torah. Really if you want to have a Jewish day, Pi day is a pretty good candidate.

So what sorts of things could I do to celebrate Jewish culture? Well there’s Purim, which I know about mostly from the film For Your Consideration. That coincidentally happens in March…You know what? I should have totally looked into that more. Maybe next year. But I wanted something I could make that was culturally Jewish, but not tied directly to the Jewish religion. So I settled on Shakshuka. It’s basically chili, only with red peppers and eggs instead of meat and beans. So maybe not like chili at all. I made it last week to try it out. I made it for supper, but it’s really more of a breakfast food. It’s a very bright and spicy dish. If you eat your scrambled eggs with salsa, it’s a lot like that, except the emphasis is on the tomatoes and peppers rather than the egg.

Shakshouka with five cooked eggs on top of tomato sauce in cast iron skillet
Shakshuka

Shakshuka is really more a dish of Israel, the middle east and surroundings, than a specifically Jewish dish. Really Einstein probably ate German food anyway. But it was still fun to try something new. I linked to a recipe but it’s not that complicated really. You sautee onion and red pepper together in olive oil, add a can of chopped tomato and spices, then add eggs and cover till they’re cooked.

I also wanted to find a mixed drink to celebrate the day, and after doing a search for Jewish cocktails, crossreferenced with spring, I found the Cel -Ray Spring tonic. It’s kosher or something, I guess. You take some cucumber wheels and some celery and muddle it with a wedge of lime and then add vodka, lime juice and ginger ale. Not bad, but I probably didn’t muddle it enough or strain it enough, because I had bits of vegetable still in it, which isn’t something I like. Pulp free OJ for me, thanks.

Cel-Ray Spring Tonic. | Photo courtesy of W&P Design.

So if you like Pi day, but maybe you aren’t a fan of Quiche or you want to try something different, maybe try some Jewish dishes. At the very least there’s bagels, which are circle-shaped. And maybe have some chai with your pie for dessert.