“Wherever Jews have lived, they have adapted to the products of the land, ” Susan Barocas, project director for the Experience, told the group at Equinox. In an interview after the event, Barocas spoke about the relationship between food, Passover and the journey of the Jewish people.
From cleaning to preparing meals according to Kosher laws, Passover is an exciting but challenging time of year, Barocas said. And when it comes to preparing matzoh for Passover, there are specific Kosher laws. “To make something Kosher, you have 18 minutes to stir it up, roll it flat and get it into an oven,” she said.
Equinox co-owners Todd and Ellen Kassoff Gray talk about how to put a local, seasonal spin on traditional Passover dishes.
Barocas said that during Passover, people keeping Kosher don’t eat pasta or leavened bread. Jews also avoid shellfish and refrain from consuming meat and milk at the same time.
“It is not about sacrifice. It is really is about the separation and being aware of what you are eating and thanking God for that animal,” Barocas said. “For me , Passover is a time of freedom. You think about the journey — the Exodus was a huge journey. I think about the personal journey in my life. It is definitely a time you want to be with family.”
Joan Nathan, broadcaster and author of 10 cookbooks including “Jewish Cooking in America,” was also at Equinox last week.
“Jewish people have always adapted to whatever community they were in, but they have adapted to the laws of Kashrut [keeping Kosher] so that there is Jewish Indian food, Jewish Iraqi food,” Nathan said.
While the focus was solely on food during the cooking demonstration, Stuart S. Kurlander, Jewish federation president, said the goal of the Experience is to create a more welcoming environment, and for the Jewish community to come together in a greater way.
DeDe Feinberg, a trustee of the United Jewish Endowment Fund, which is part of the federation, echoed those sentiments.
“Being a Jewish mother, there is nothing more important than food,” Feinberg said.
“It is not only the bringing of the food to the table and the nurturing; it brings the family together. The food is the medium for people coming together.”