“Go down, Moses/Way down in Egypt land/Tell old Pharaoh/Let my people go.”
The story of Passover, which starts Monday at sundown, has been retold throughout the ages, but here it is in a nutshell from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership:
The holiday of Passover takes it’s name, according to the Hebrew Bible, from the ancient Israelites’ last night in Egypt. On that night, some 3,200 years ago if the story is historically accurate, God “passed over” the houses of those leaving Egypt, sparing them from the last of the 10 plagues: the death of the first born Egyptians. The Hebrew name for Passover is Pesach, from the word meaning to pass over.
I’ve long considered myself “culinarily Jewish,” meaning my father married a Jewish woman when I was very young and I’ve been reaping the benefits ever since.Whenever my Jewish family members celebrate holidays with enough food to feed an army, I’m first in line for the kugel. For this reason, I have fond memories of my grandmother’s Seder plate spread each year at the beginning of Passover, always accompanied by soup with hearty matzo balls submerged in the broth.
Passover is a tasty holiday, but it’s not known for boasting a foodie-friendly smorgasbord. Also known as “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread,” a proper Passover is celebrated without most carbohydrates; mixing dairy and meat is also nixed at celebrations.
But the clever find their way around the restriction. I called my grandmother, a woman who has fed our family — and, at times, her entire neighborhood — for over half a century, and asked her about her favorite part of Passover.
“Just the fact that it brings family together,” Beverly Zeitler said with a voice tinged with a Brooklyn accent. “That’s the most beautiful part. What more can I say?”
(She was quick to add, however, that potato kugel, a gluten-free pinch-hitter for our family favorite noodle koogle, runs a close second.)
From other savvy foodies: Our recipe section boasts flourless pie with non-dairy whipped cream, apple-almond cake and baked white fish. At some tables, quinoa is popping up as a guest star alternative to matzo, but there’s some debate over whether or not the grainlike crop is kosher. As for me, I found a flourless macaroon recipe that may be of use while I’m far from my family’s Pesach celebration.Tweet
How do you celebrate Passover? Have you found any unique recipes to add to the mix? Tell me using #passovereats, and I’ll post your tweet-sized recipes into this blog.
In the meantime, take a look at some multimedia Passover refreshers to get you up to speed:
And a musical version performed by the Maccabeats: