Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Our seder table, set for 15

I've been home (at my parents' house, in London) since Friday afternoon, to help with the preparations for Pesach, and to stay for the whole festival.

Pesach, the Hebrew word for what is often known as Passover, is the Jewish festival where we remember the story of the Jews being slaves in Egypt, their escape from Egypt, the 10 Plagues, and Moses parting the Red Sea.

Food-wise, it's one of the most demanding of all the Jewish festivals. The rules are based on the story that the Jews were in such a rush to leave Egypt that they did not have time for their bread to rise. To commemorate this, we do not eat bread, flour yeast, or anything that rises or swells in water. We also don't eat the five grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt. We also avoid a group of foods called kiniot, which are things we are less sure about. In practical terms, this means we dont eat: any kind of bread, crackers, rice, pasta, couscous, beans, pulses, chick peas, and corn.

However, in Judaism, we have a tradition of 'building walls' around our customs, to protect them, during the week of Passover, we only eat foods which are certified by a Rabbi as 'Kosher for Pesach'. In this day, sometimes it seems over-cautious, as health and hygiene laws these days tend to prevent people eating food over production lines, and risking contamination, but we do so nonetheless. This extends to drinks too - even our milk and diet coke is certified. Fruit, veg, and eggs are ok though.

We also have special sets of cutlery, plates, pans, utensils for this week. A kosher home has two sets of everything: we do not eat dairy and meat together, and thus we have one set of things for all meals involving dairy, and another for meals involving meat. A meal can't involve both: so no ice cream after chicken, no lasagne, no chicken in a cream sauce etc. We also have two further sets, that are used for Passover, and not the rest of the year. Because Passover involves lots of cooking, particularly as we wont eat out anywhere during the week, we have to have all sorts of things, like a food processor and a whisk.

Starting on Sunday, my family began the process of cleaning our kitchen, removing all traces of chametz (bread), and emptying cupboards so that we could bring in our Pesach things. We keep everything the garage for the rest of the year. We worked section by section so that on Monday and Tuesday we could cook for Passover during the day, and still have lunch and dinner as usual.

Tonight there will be 15 of us for dinner. We follow a service called the Seder, which means order, and we retell the story of the Exodus. We eat Matza, unleavened bread, and we have a special plate containing 6 symbolic foods:

Salt water, to represent our tears in Egypt
Horseradish, a bitter herb, to remember the bitterness of slavery
An burnt egg, to remember the sacrifice in the temple
A bone, to remember the sacrifice of the pascal lamb
Charoseth, a mix of apples and cinammon, which looks like cement to remind us of slavery
Parsley, a herb to remind us that we are now free

Our Seder Plate, you can see the egg, the bone and the horseradish root. We eat grated horseradish.

We start our meal with hard boiled eggs, which symbolise new life, in salt water

Tonight our meal will be:
Chicken soup, with matza meal dumplings and egg noodles
Chicken in a sweet and sour type sauce that I made earlier, with roast normal and sweet potatoes, mashed squash, and cabbage
Fresh fruit, almond and apple pudding, and homemade, dairy-free ice cream

Our matza cloth


  1. I dated a Jewish guy for four years and went to his family's house for Passover once. I never realized it was so much work! (Although I also don't think that they followed all the rules very closely). Happy holidays and have fun with the family!

  2. This year I learned that baby carrots aren't kosher for passover - even though they're a veg, since they are processed it doesn't count.

    Time for a cup of KLP (kosher le pesach) tea with my KLP Sweet n'Low. Hehe.