Like the ubiquitous Turkey on Thanksgiving or Ham ( I think that’s what people eat) on Easter, Passover has it’s own very recognizable menu features that I can count on not eating every year. No, kidding, some of them I love to eat! There are two areas of food that I will go into, one is the symbolic foods eaten during the, uh, story time, and the other is the Seder meal itself.
You may have heard of the Seder plate. The Sedar plate consists of a number of food items, some of which are eaten (charoset) and some of which are just referred to (egg) at various points in the story. Here’s a rundown of what you eat:
Charoset: A mixture of nuts, apples, sugar and red wine (many different variations), charoset represents the mortar that the Israelites used to lay the bricks of the Egyptians while they were slaves.
Parsley: You dip parsley in salt water to represent tears. Self-explanatory.
Bitter Herbs: Always horseradish on my family’s table, representative of the bitter life of slavery.
Hillel Sandwich: Spread some charoset on one little piece of matzah, spread some bitter herbs on another. Put those babies together and you have something very yummy that actually led to my learning to love horseradish. Representative of? There are different schools of thought apparently, but basically sacrifice.
Wine: You are supposed to drink four glasses of kosher wine before you get to the meal. In the book it orders you to “Drink the first glass of wine” and if you take this literally and chug it before moving on you will be having yourself a good time quickly. Many people think of Manischewitz (a cloyingly sweet red wine) as being the only wine you can drink on Passover. But I can guarantee you the adults in my family never drank it when I was growing up. However, many a Jewish child has gotten a thrill from making the move from grape juice to drinking it.
There are many rules and regulations about what can be served at the Seder meal. You may notice that your grocery store’s Jewish section and end caps become filled with boxes marked “Kosher for Passover!” and that is because the regular kosher is not cutting it for this holiday. No sir-ee. You may even know that you cannot serve any leavened foods. Which means a whole lotta matzah. (Kosher for Passover! Of course) Any Sedar meal worth it’s salt will include the following:
Gefilte Fish: Poached fish balls. Generally served chilled or at room temperature. You have to be a real Jew to eat this and enjoy it.
Matzah Ball Soup: Traditionally chicken soup with matzah balls (ground matzah meal mixed with egg and formed into balls, dropped into the soup and cooked) in it. Although when I was veggie I used to make an awesome vegetarian version.
Roasted Meat: Often brisket, I seem to remember it always being red meat at our Seders. Although apparently you could do poultry or anything.
Veggies: Whatever you want as long as it’s not leavened.
If you know my father, or me, or my sisters, than imagine a whole family like us when it comes to food and you can imagine the kind of feasts we used to end up with. For the past three years my cousin K has been hosting up in Detroit. This poses an interesting problem for me because I want to contribute to the meal but my options are limited by circumstance. Usually, husband and I will drive up the day of which means that whatever I make must stand up to a 5-6 hour car ride. Last year I made Carmel Matzah Crunch which was very successful so I am definitely making it again this year. But, as this is a meal the fabulous BCD girls are heavily involved in, I feel the need to step up my game this year. I have settled on making this jam-print cookie but I’d love to add one more thing. There’s always brownies or macaroons (but I hate coconut) everything else I would want to make would never make it there. (Anything meringue or frozen) suggestions welcome!