Chicago Tribune

Hanukkah cheese-basked pastries celebrate the story of Judith

At the culinary heart of Hanukkah (which begins at sundown Tuesday) are foods fried in oil to commemorate the triumph of the Maccabees, who won back their sacred temple, and the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days.

But there's another Hanukkah story, not as well-known, that shifts the culinary narrative to a brave woman and her killer cheese. This story from the Book of Judith explains why dairy makes it onto the holiday table.

According to "The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible," the Assyrian leader Nebuchadnezzar sent one of his generals, Holofernes, to destroy the Jews of Bethulia, a town that commanded access to the road to Jerusalem. The plan was to seize the spring at the foot of the mountain, so the Jews would be deprived of their water supply.

When the cisterns in the town were empty, the people began to lose heart. It seemed better to live as slaves than to die in vain. One woman

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