This past week, an exciting culinary and cultural event happened: I attended my first Passover Seder. With only lackluster common knowledge to inform any expectations, I went into the experience with a bouquet of flowers and at least a zillion questions. At the end, what resulted was surprise and delight at such rich cultural and culinary traditions.
Although every Seder is different in one way or another (a good friend actually texted me a photo of the Haggadah at his Seder — the JDate Haggadah, including quotes from Shia LaBeouf), what struck me from a culinary angle was the importance and symbolism attached to each item on the table. Tradition was everywhere — in the form of personal and family traditions as well as those laid out by religious texts.
Yes, there was charoset, a fruit and nut chutney type accompaniment. However, there were three variations — with wine, without wine, and stunning Sephardi version that glistened with sticky sweet honey, dried apricots, and for others the memory of a Seder once spent with new individuals and foreign traditions. Not only was it important to have the proper items on the table, but it was important to remember and include traditions within the family.
As a food person, I like to think I always place great importance on the meals I cook and eat. At Seder though, it occurred to me that I have never been at a meal where the presentation and events surrounding were executed with such thoughtful purpose. Everything on the table had an importance and rightful place — whether because it was a guest's new tradition of matzoh toffee (Check out our recipe if your mouth just instantly watered) or because it was a grandmother's childhood ritual.
As we munched on gefilte fish, a SPAM-like terrine of white fish that I weirdly enjoyed despite that awful description, it felt good to eat it in context of such an important holiday. Paired alongside the proper horseradish condiments and after the earlier events of the evening, I found a new resonance for so many items I knew only by name or taste, without meaning or weight.
What are your Passover traditions, new or old? Perhaps they will become my own next year!
(Image credits: Kate Gagnon)