Sunday, April 9, 2017
Last week I pulled out my tattered, splattered Jewish cookbooks to plan our Passover Seder. I really love this time of year. For years I’ve been cooking from these books religiously. Literally. I converted to Judaism 23 years ago and immersing myself in cooking enhanced my new Jewish identity. Even today, all these years later, I’m still evolving yet holding onto traditions and rituals that are dear to me. And with Passover beginning this week I’m all in, but it’s not as easy as when we lived in Seattle.
In Seattle, our local grocery store dedicated a large area to Passover. The shelves were stocked with kosher-for-Passover products,
and while shopping I’d run into friends and swap Seder menu ideas and ask questions like, “Want to share a box of matzah cake meal?” In Seattle, being a Jewish mom was a significant part of my identity. I’m still Jewish and still a mom but my children and my Jewish community are not here now, which gets me thinking about who I am and where I am now. I’ve happily chosen to be here in the Methow Valley, much as I happily chose to become Jewish, so what does it mean now, for where I am in life and where I’m finding meaning? Yes, asking questions is an important part of Passover.
There’s no place I’d rather be, both physically and in life. I’m drawn to the quieter pace and nature, and I’m growing in completely new ways. I’ve become a pilot.
Yes! Well, I’m not yet licensed but Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth. Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be a pilot and now I’m doing it. Since moving here I’d been looking up at the sky longingly, and when a friend out here got her pilot’s license six months ago that was the final inspiration I needed to go for it. I absolutely love flying. I have soloed now, which means I can fly alone, and I still have a LOT to learn and practice before I get my license. But I’m so happy in the air. It’s magical. This valley is the best, most beautiful place to learn to fly.
The poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr says it better than I can. I’ve put out my hand, and touched the face of G-d.
I’m now a pilot and I’ve still got my tattered cookbooks and it’s Passover and it’s time for haroset.
Passover is filled with symbolic foods on the Seder plate. We gather around the table and talk about each of them as we tell the story of Passover (haggadah means “telling”) leading up to the meal.
Haroset represents the mortar used with the bricks when the Jews built the pyramids in ancient Egypt. Traditional haroset is a mix of chopped apples, walnuts, cinnamon and sweet wine. We eat it on matzah during the Seder and the eight days of Passover. There are harosets from all over the world and we often have haroset tastings from Surinam, Yemen, Italy or Persia at our Seders. About seven years ago, a Turkish exchange student lived with us so, of course, we needed Turkish haroset on our table.
For this delicious one, apples, dates, raisins and pistachios are chopped up together and flavored with orange zest and juice. The flavors are sweet, simple and refreshing. The original recipe calls for cooking the haroset until the apples soften, but I prefer to keep it raw for the crunchy freshness.
During the Seder we look back and remember the story of Passover and then look forward to what’s ahead (the Seder ends by saying “Next year in Jerusalem”). I’ve moved to a place where I’m finding meaning in the quiet and physical beauty and diving into new opportunities. Moving forward and back, layering the new on old and feeling gratitude.
Haroset from Turkey
Adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
2 sweet apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
½ pound dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup raisins (I use golden)
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
2 ounces pistachios (or walnuts)
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it forms a rough mixture. You can process until it becomes a paste, too, if you prefer. Serve in a bowl with matzah or chill in the fridge until ready to eat.