Young children, elderly, and all ages in between participated in the Mega Challah Bake at the Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford last weekend. Imagine: 250 girls and women, in one giant room, making bread together — many for the first time. Participants were provided with all ingredients, tools, aprons, and even bags for taking home their bread.
The event opened with a few words and an open buffet. Directions were provided in print, on an overhead projector, and over the sound system. While everyone mixed and kneaded ingredients, lively music played. More experienced bakers helped out the newbies at their tables. The challah buffet re-opened and a guest speaker took to the stage while everyone waited for their dough to rise. Challah was braided, covered in egg, and given a few extras — rainbow sprinkles were a popular topping with the younger participants. Because actually baking the bread would have been a logistical nightmare, everyone wrapped their creations and took them home to finish in their own kitchens.
This sort of operation does not just plan itself. The Chabad House of Greater Hartford was instrumental in putting together the event, which also had a number of sponsors. The $25 registration fee covered buffet, ingredients, instruction, and those extras like bags and aprons.
Hartford having to get real about its finances has meant actually enforcing payment for what organizations were not previously paying for, such as parades. Some parade organizers, for instance, have figured out ways to raise funds that would keep their events going. Others have decided to cancel or reconfigure their events in ways that would save money. Or let them get back to their roots. Predictably, some folks have been upset about this loss of cultural events, but Hartford residents should think of ourselves as more creative than that. We can sit around and whine, or we can find other ways to make art and culture happen, regardless of what the City’s budget looks like.
Is an expensive parade what is needed, or can we have our festivities take other formats, such as a community-wide baking/cooking event where some kind of registration fee (less than $25, but more than free) is collected and people of all ages can participate?
We know that food connects people. We have community dinners. We have people who know how to make empanadas, doubles, pierogi, sushi, and more. Why not take it to the next level and teach some cooking and baking skills that people can use the next time they want to make something different for dinner?