Rosh Hashanah started last night, and many Jews enjoyed a holiday dinner featuring a round challah. Or was it a turban challah?
The terms "round" and "turban" are used interchangeably, but the latter seems to have a special hold on the Puget Sound area. I'd never encountered the phrase until I saw it advertised at Noah's Bagels, which apparently is in the festive-bread business. Now I'm seeing it all over town.
After apples and honey, a circular challah is perhaps the most iconic Rosh Hashanah food. Hebrew-school students learn the traditionally braided loaf is reshaped for the High Holy Day because the year goes round and round. According to scholars, the challah without ends might reflect the fullness of the universe or symbolize the coronation of God as king, since it sort of looks like a crown. The bread is often studded with raisins to ensure a sweet year.
But what to call the loaf? According to Google, in New York - the hottest metro area for challah-searching - the holiday challah is almost always called a round challah. Residents of Boston and Los Angeles also prefer "round challah" to "turban challah" by a significant margin. But in Seattle and Miami, the two metro areas that complete the list of top five metro areas for Googling challah, "round challah" has a very slight lead over "turban challah."
Nationwide, Google produces almost half a million results for the search term "round challah." There are 37,300 hits for "turban challah." Yet Stopsky'surged its customers to "get you order in today for a loaf or two of turban challah." (Down in Portland, Kenny & Zuke's sells round challahs.)
No matter what it's called, this is challah season. According to Google, challah searches rise slightly around Passover - and spike in September. L'shanah tovah.