Don’t Pass Over Passover
For the first time at And Cuisine For All, we’re hosting a guest post! Longtime fencing friend Kethrim is sharing her experiences with Passover cooking – after her awesome birthday cake!
I decided to host a Passover seder this year for some friends. Typically, such an event involves a special service, the seder itself, during which the story of Passover is told and certain symbolic foods are explained (and eaten!), followed by a dinner, and in our case, a game of Apples to Apples.
The Passover story is the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, where we were slaves, forced to toil for the Egyptians. Moses went to Pharoh to demand freedom for his people, and when he was denied, God brought down ten plagues on the Egyptians: blood, frogs, lice, insects, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the firstborn, which finally convinced Pharoh to let the Israelites go free. They left hastily, before Pharoh could change his mind, leaving no time for the bread dough to rise- the first matzoh, unleavened bread. We do not want to forget the suffering that the Egyptians, too, had to go through, so we remove one drop of wine from our own cups for each plague. Wine is the Jewish symbol of joy, but our joy is less when we remember the suffering of the Egyptians, because they too are God’s creation.
Looking at the seder plate (mine pictured above), you see the symbolic foods that are explained during the seder. The first is parsley, or another green vegetable, which reminds us of spring and hope. However, we dip the parsley in salt water to remind of the tears we shed when we were slaves in Egypt, and to remind us not to become so complacent that we forget the pain of others.
The next symbol is, traditionally, a shank bone, represented on my seder plate by a chicken wing. When the Angel of Death came to claim the firstborn children, the Israelites smeared lamb’s blood on their doorposts, so that their homes would be spared, or passed over- hence the name, Passover.
Matzoh is the bread of affliction, of suffering. It is unleavened to remind us of the hurry that the Israelites left Egypt in, without enough time to let their dough rise. Matzoh, therefore, represents both the suffering that we went through as well as the freedom that we gained. Passover celebrates our freedom, and expresses the hope that one day, all people will be free.
Maror, the bitter herb, is represented by horseradish. It reminds us of the bitterness of slavery. At Passover, we are instructed to feel as though we ourselves were slaves in Egypt, and were led out of Egypt, and the maror makes us cry the tears of enslavement.
To balance the bitterness of the maror, we have the sweetness of the charoset (below the chicken wing on the seder plate). The charoset represents the mortar that the Israelites used to make bricks. It is my favorite food of Passover, and I will share the recipe below.
We use the maror and charoset together with matzoh to make a “Hillel sandwich,” which combines the bitterness of the maror and the sweetness of the charoset, and the maror of slavery with the matzoh of freedom. Even in times of slavery, we hope for freedom. In times of freedom, we remember slavery, so that we can work to eradicate slavery from the world, and ensure that we are never enslaved again.
On the seder plate, you can also see a hard-boiled (or, traditionally, roasted) egg. The egg is a springtime symbol in many cultures. It represents renewal, babies and hope for the future, and its round shape reminds us that the year goes around and nothing bad lasts forever.
The last thing that you see on my seder plate is an orange. While the orange is not an original symbol of Passover, it has become a tradition for many Jews who disagree with sexism. The story goes that a woman wanted to lead a seder, but the male elders of her community told her that “a woman will lead a seder when there is an orange on the seder plate!” So she went and got an orange, put it on her seder plate, and held her head high. In this tradition, I, also a woman, place an orange on my seder plate and led my seder proudly.
2 Fuji apples
1 Granny Smith apple
2 c. walnuts
1 1/2 c. almonds
8 oz. dates
1/4 c. sweet red wine (you can use the same wine that you’ll drink at the seder; this year I used Mogen David Blackberry Wine)
the juice of half a lemon (about 1 T)
Cinnamon to taste
Core the apples and cut in chunks small enough to fit in a food processor. Mix all ingredients together and process in the food processor until it’s to your desired consistency- chunky or smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can also just chop the ingredients for a chunky charoset, which is what I did the first year I made this.
I hope you enjoyed this little excursion – watch out for possibly more guest posts in the future!
Enjoy your meals!