The Crowded Camel

Month: December, 2012

The Eight Bites of Hanukkah


As part of his recent efforts to expand his knowledge of different cultures, the Camel recently consumed a large quantity of jelly doughnuts and potato latkes to better experience the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah. As a result, he is seen above suffering from intense stomach pains, attempting to alleviate his suffering with antacids and rest. The Camel’s binging episode has left him in great discomfort and unable to sleep, and may cause him to question the wisdom of his decision to explore Hanukkah and Jewish culinary tradition.

Before becoming dissuaded from further exploration into Jewish culture, the Camel might be wise to reference John Cooper’s book Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food. Cooper notes that, historically, Jews have consumed fried foods on Hanukkah to symbolize the miracle of oil that burned for eight days while the Jews defended themselves against Greek soldiers in the 2nd century B.C.Thus, the doughnuts serve as a reminder of the historical struggles of Jews, and their ultimate perseverance through adversity.

If the Camel had known the reasoning behind eating fried foods, he might have used the food as an opportunity for reflection rather than an opportunity to over-indulge in fatty delicacies. Indeed, it is valuable for us all to understand the meaning behind the traditions in which we take part, because understanding the history behind our actions gives greater depth to the process, resulting in a more fulfilling, enriching and rewarding experience.


  1. Cooper, John. Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1993. Print.

Happy Hanukkah and Season’s Heatings


The Crowded Camel, having recently started dating again, is redoubling his efforts to cultivate an open mind towards other cultures and religions. This year he is partaking in the Hanukkah tradition of lighting candles and saying the Hebrew blessing. Afterward, he plans to enjoy some gelt and play dreidel games by himself.

Unfortunately, disaster strikes while the Camel is in the process of lighting his Menorah, as a candle falls and catches his Christmas tree on fire. If he cannot extinguish the flames, the fire threatens to consume his entire home. The Hanukkah experience has been a major disappointment for the Camel, and his attempts at broadening his cultural understandings have backfired, leaving him fearful and confused instead of peaceful and enlightened.

While tempering the flames that threaten to scorch his holiday experience, the Camel should reflect on the work of Milton Rokeach, a Polish-American social psychologist who wrote about open-mindedness in his 1960 book The Open and Closed Mind. Rokeach claimed that one is open minded when he can “receive, evaluate, and act on relevant information received from his environment on its own intrinsic merits, unaffected by irrelevant factors arising from within himself or from his environment.” This is precisely to what the Camel aspires. However, Rokeach also came to the conclusion that close-mindedness and dogmatism represent systems of defense against anxiety.1

Understanding that cultivating an open mind requires facing anxieties that have long been avoided, the Camel must realize that the process may be messy at times, and requires strong resolve and determination. As obstacles arise to discourage his goal, the Camel must overcome them in stride, realizing that by experiencing other cultures, he is on a noble path towards a more sympathetic, understanding, and enjoyable relationship with not only his lady friend, but all of mankind.


  1. Rokeach, Milton. The Open and Closed Mind; Investigations into the Nature of Belief Systems and Personality Systems. New York: Basic, 1960. Print.

Igniting Passion


In light of his recent kitchen mishap, the Camel has been particularly nervous around fire, and his nerves are exacerbated during a recent romantic dinner that he arranged for a lady friend. His apprehension in lighting the candle combines with his anticipation of hosting a romantic dinner to make the Camel feel extremely nervous and anxiety-ridden during what should have been an enjoyable and relaxing evening.

As his anxiety escalates, the Camel might find solace in a passage from the classic short story by Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration….He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero.

In trying to win over his date, the Camel should realize that what he aspires to is highly challenging and difficult to attain. Therefore, it is okay in this situation to be nervous and feel anxiety. Most importantly, he should not let his feelings of anxiety deter him from his pursuits, as the only way for one to fail is to not try at all.


Irving, Washington, and Arthur Rackham. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. New York: of Wonder, 1990. Print.

Simmer Down


An empty belly is the best cook.
        – Estonian proverb

The Crowded Camel recently enrolled in a beginner’s cooking class, and is seen above attempting to cook his first meal. To the horror of his classmates, a fire that started in his pan has spread to his hat and now threatens to spread throughout the kitchen. This cooking fire not only endangers his classmates, but is also ruining his dish. 

When the Camel realizes that his hat is on fire and that he also failed to successfully prepare a meal, he will likely be discouraged from pursuing future culinary endeavors, while also lamenting over what he could have done differently to prevent such an unfortunate outcome. In analyzing what went wrong, he may find guidance in the aforementioned Estonian proverb. In addition to its literal meaning, one can also interpret the proverb to mean that passion and care are necessary ingredients to all successful dishes.

The Camel, lacking both the physical hunger for food and the symbolic hunger to create a great dish, rushed through the process of cooking carelessly and without passion. The result is a series of disastrous incidents, which could have been avoided by slowing down and focusing on the craft of cooking, rather than the outcome. The Camel, and all of us, must remember that in all art forms, including cooking, the best results come when one brings true passion, care and love into the process of creation.