Passover is a bit of a strange holiday. I’ve always felt a bit unsettled that it’s a holiday with the retelling of a story that includes dead babies as part of the festive meal, but hey, we have Passover at the same time as Easter, a holiday that is the original Walking Dead story celebrated with a giant bunny who hides eggs… so I guess we all have our quirky religious dogma.
As with most Jewish holidays, Passover is a holiday that is defined by food. While most Jewish holidays involve some specific food to celebrate an event (apples and honey for a sweet new year for Rosh Hashanah, fried foods for the oil that lasted 8 days for Chanukah, triangular shaped Hamantaschen for the triangular hat that the bad guy in the Purim story wore… yup… religion is weird), Passover is a holiday that has many specific foods that celebrate many specific parts of the story. And boy are most of them depressing! We eat bitter herbs dipped in salt water to remind us of the bitter life that the Jews had under slavery and the tears they cried. We display a shank bone to represent an animal sacrifice. Matzo, the most constipating food on earth, to remember the fact that the Jews had to flee so quickly when they were liberated that their bread didn’t have time to rise (nor did they have the time to poop… I assume).
Then there are some foods that actually taste good, like Charoset, which despite its still depressing meaning (it represents the morter and bricks that the Jewish slaves used to build the Pharaoh’s buildings), is pretty rad.
The classic recipe consists of chopped up apples (peels on or off is a hot debate), walnuts, cinnamon, sugar and sweet red wine (usually Manischewitz, which if you have never tried, you aren’t missing much except a very bad headache in the morning… unless you ask Mike, in which case it’s the best wine on earth and nothing will ever compare so stop laughing right now and let’s just accept it).
The recipe is really kind of by eye… you chop up apples and walnuts, combine with wine, sugar, and cinnamon until it tastes right.
This year, we were asked to contribute this dish, which I was more than happy to do, except I also had a make a version that was a bit different. Mike affectionately called it “weird,” but I will call it “creative” or perhaps “nontraditional.” And after all, I’m not sure how you can beat Maple Bourbon Charoset with apples, pears, dates, and chestnuts. Mmm mmm mmm.
And I can’t have a holiday pass without making SOME sort of dessert. Each year I make my Grandma Litty’s classic meringue kisses, because they are not only one of the most popular cookies I make, but also because they are flour free, so they are a perfect Passover treat.
Our family seders are super nontraditional, and we usually make it just a few minutes into reading the Hagadah (tells the story of Passover and most people go around the table with each person reading a section to make sure we never forget… which we shouldn’t… but Jews never forget… we’re like elephants).
Last year, we had an accidental light saber fight in the middle of seder before rushing to the “eat the meal” portion.
We also usually celebrate a night with the very gracious family of our more conservative friends most years. They do the full pre-dinner seder and after-dinner seder (confession… until I was in my late 20s, I didn’t even know there was supposed to be an after-dinner portion). It is kind of nice to be able to do something much more traditional in comparison to my crazy family, even if I don’t entirely believe in all that the holiday has to say word for word. I am proudly Jewish in culture, after all, and traditions are nice to keep going.
Are you cooking for Passover or Easter? What are you making? Do you have traditional celebrations or is it typically more mayhem like my family?
One of my favorite cookies of all time, and great for passover
- 2 egg whites (room temperature)
- pinch of cream of tarter
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 oz. chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350
- Beat egg whites until frothy
- Add pinch of cream of tarter and salt and beat until stiff
- Add sugar 1 tsp at a time
- Slowly add vanilla
- Fold in chocolate chips
- Drop cookies onto silpat or parchment paper
- Place cookie sheets in oven and turn the oven off immediately
- Leave off over night and do not open the oven
These do not truly bake for 4 hours, but must stay in an oven that was heated and then turned off for at least 4 hours to "set."