A Seder with Friends

Monday evening we enjoyed the hospitality of good friends at a Passover seder in their home.  It was very special to be included in our friends' celebration -- an evening of metaphor, music, laughter, remembering, and, of course, delicious food.

Before the meal, all of us -- young and old(er) -- took a turn reading from the haggadah to tell part of the Passover story.  Karen, who led the service chose a haggadah that included comments by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, adding relevance and insight to the traditional story.

Of course, we left the singing in Hebrew to those who knew what they were doing.  And somewhere in the telling, Jesus got mistaken for Moses in the parting of the Red Sea story, which was quite hilarious.

And then there was eating.  Luckily, food is also a part of the remembering and story telling.

We ate from the Passover plate.  First, we ate parsley, a symbol of coming spring, dipped in salt water to remember the tears and pain felt by the Jewish slaves.  And next, on matzoh, we ate the maror or bitter herbs (in this case, horseradish) with charoset.  Marror is a reminder of the bitter hardship the Jewish slaves endured in Egypt.  Charoset is a wonderful combination of nuts, apple, and dried fruit with sweet wine, which symbolizes the clay used by the Jews to make many Egyptian bricks.

At some point, we remembered to fill Elijah's cup with wine and open the window for him (inviting the prophet of peace to the table), and there was also the hiding of the special matzoh (the afikomen) for the children to find.  It was fun to learn and share these special rituals.

After the Passover story was told, we enjoyed the Passover meal, which the Viking of the house (and by that I mean Kyle, not the range) had spent all day cooking for us.  The menu included several traditional foods like brisket, tzimmes, gefiltefish, and of course, matzoh. 

I am not that familiar with traditional Jewish foods, but here's what I've learned.

Gefiltefish is basically a boiled fish dumpling that has bread crumbs, egg, and a bit of sugar in it.  I thought it was tasty, although its unique slightly sweet flavor makes it one of those foods I think one must acquire a taste for in order to eat on a regular basis. 

Tzimmes is a dish of little bread pudding-like balls made from sweet potato and spices, among other things, browned and drenched in apricot glaze, and brought steaming to the table.  These delicious morsels apparently take all day to make, which is probably why they are so seriously delicious!  I ate far more than my share, I admit.

Brisket is a cut of beef that is cooked and cooked and cooked some more.  I really don't know anything about making it, except that in the end it's full of flavor and very tender, and there are often vegetables in the pot with it.  Although I really don't eat red meat, I tried this brisket because it looked so good.  And it was.

Of course, we had matzoh.  Matzoh is an unleavened bread.  The story goes that once given their freedom, the Jewish slaves left Egypt so quickly that their bread did not have time to rise before they left.

And then there was Ali's chocolate matzoh.  I ask you, "What's not to like about a crunchy cracker topped with hardened chocolate and flaked salt?"  BTW, you must check out Ali's latest album -- it's even better than the chocolate matzoh!  She's a talented woman.

And speaking of dessert, I absolutely can't say enough good things about the warm-from-the-oven coconut macaroons that the chef whipped up after dinner.  Chewy, tender, crunchy, sweet -- in a word, amazing.

We left for home not only with full stomachs but also grateful for good friends and the joy that celebrating traditions (even if they belong to someone else) brings.


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