Last night was either the first night of Passover or the night before Passover, the night one can first celebrate it. I'm not Jewish and I haven't even played a Jewish person on TV. But I've been in a relationship with a Jewish man for over three years now. Trouble is, he had a major post Bar Mitzvah break with many of the Jewish traditions (his first, as he says, executive decision after the rabbi told him he was now "A man." If so, he was done with that flipping Hebrew school, etc.). So while he has muscle memory of what to do, he can't remember what it all means, exactly. What he does know how to do is the food.
Last night, he made matzoh ball soup and brisket. There was charoset, which certainly doesn't sound like it is spelled. This little fruit and nut concoction is to remind the Jews of the mortar used in building all the damn stuff the Egyptians forced them to build. Mortar is not my cup of tea, but this stuff isn't bad, especially when made with papaya, as Michael found out last night. Not what is typically found in Egypt, but hey! This is the 21st century, and a little papaya adds to the solemnity, don't you think? You can kind of dip into charoset with your matzoh cracker, which, of course, is the center of this meal, the whole unleavened thing being important. Why? I can't remember, except in Sunday school, I remember learning the Jews had to get the hell out of Cairo and in a hurry. No time to let the bread rise. They were off to cross the Red Sea, which we now know was likely covered in marshy stuff, reeds and such, which made walking through it a bit easier. Sorry, Moses, not quite as dramatic and Chuck Heston made us think it was.
There is a Passover dish that I can't even google the spelling of right now (it doesn't even want to give me a "Do you mean?"). The dish is made of carrots, prunes, apricots, and cooked down to some sweet goodness. I am sure it has some meaning attached to it, and I should try to figure it out.
I love matzoh ball soup. It makes me happy just thinking about it. And Michael's matzoh balls (please, don't even go into all the jokes I made last night) are wonderful, light and fluffy, and floating in homemade chicken soup. The whole meal could be just that. But then he pulled out the brisket that had been cooking in wine for about five hours, and it fell apart into amazing flavor.
I made a very strange unleavened cake because Michael ran out of time. No leavening but egg whites. I didn't taste it--I am big on leavening. I'm a pagan, I guess.
We had the little Haggadah on the table in order to explain why certain things were on the Passover plate--horseradish, bitter herbs, a chicken wing (supposed to be a lamb shank, but we improvised), but then we decided to eat, forgoing the prayers that no one could remember and ever knew and the three glasses of wine and the ritual. What it all boiled down to was the food, the guests, the talk. The ritual disappeared, and it was a nice meal with family.
I'm all for more rituals without the rituals, but the good rituals involve food. Good food usually means that other people are invited over, and then the ritual means a party. This is what Christmas and Easter and Passover, now, mean to us. We spend the time, we think about it, but we really just want to sit at the big table and talk with people we love. If we have amazing food along the way, that's even better.
Happy Passover! The angel of death flew right over and all is well.
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