Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Seder Table
The Seder table at Chez Elisson.

Here’s our table, (almost) all set and ready for our guests to arrive.

As we made our last-minute preparations Monday afternoon, I snipped the stems off a bunch of parsley, destined for the Seder plate. The bright green aroma of that fresh parsley practically shouted at me: “Springtime! Passover!”

Seder Plate
The Seder plate.

The round plate in the center of the photograph holds several Symbolic Foods. The egg, at top, represents the Passover (Paschal) sacrifice, as does the roasted lamb shank next to it (moving clockwise). Slices of black radish are the bitter herb, representing the years of bitter enslavement. Next is parsley, a green vegetable, a harbinger of spring; it’s dipped in salt water - representing tears - before being eaten. Moving clockwise, there’s some more bitter herb (romaine lettuce, this time). Finally, there is charoset, a relish made of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, symbolizing the mortar used to build Pharaoh’s cities.

That big-ass goblet of wine you see there is Elijah’s cup. Much as Christians leave out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, we Jews put a glass of wine out for Eliyahu ha-Navi - Elijah the Prophet - who is said to visit every Jewish home on Passover. When we open the door at one point in the service, the children look carefully at Elijah’s cup. “It went down. I saw it! Elijah was here!”

Handmade shmura matzoh.
“Behold, this is the bread of affliction our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come in to eat, let all in want come to observe Pesach. This year here, next year in Israel; this year as subjects, next year as free people.”
- The Passover Haggadah
Bread of affliction? You betcha. Eat enough of it...and you will be afflicted with a case of Impacted Intestines that will cause you to howl in anguish. And yet...

There’s nothing like a couple of sheets of matzoh, slathered in salted butter. Or toasty matzoh farfel with sautéed onions, flavored with the juices from a roasted chicken. Or delicate matzoh balls surrounded by a pool of golden soup. Or matzoh meal pancakes, fresh from the pan and crisp around the edges, with a dusting of sugar and a dollop of sour cream.

But ask me again in about five days.

By the time Passover ends next Tuesday at sundown, we will all be ready for some Major Leavening Action. Pizza. Chinese food. Bread. Beer. Scotch!

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