Symbolic foods recognize Jewish history at Passover Seder

April 13, 2011 

Passover begins April 19 and continues for seven days. This is the time when Jewish families and friends gather to read the text of the Haggadah, a text that sets forth the order of the Seder. The Haggadah contains the narrative of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, special blessings and rituals, commentaries from the Talmud and special Passover songs.

The Seder, the feast that commemorates the exodus, is based on the Biblical verse commanding Jews to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt.

The Sisterhood of Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head Island recently held a Women's Seder. The women believe it's the duty of every Jew to tell the story of the exodus. In this sisterhood, there is a celebration of the role women played in the exodus from Egypt, and the continuous role in preserving and perpetuating Jewish heritage.

This is a joyous occasion for the women, as they prepared their rituals.

The Seder table is set with place settings and silverware. For the first half of the Seder, each participant will only need a plate and a wine glass. At the center of the table is a Seder plate, which contains symbolic foods that will be eaten during the course of the Seder. Placed nearby is a plate with three matzot and dishes of salt water for dipping. Each participant receives a copy of the Haggadah.

The items on the Seder plate are:

Karpas: A mild green vegetable such as parsley or celery. At the beginning of the service, the karpas is dipped into the salt water. The karpas symbolizes the new growth of spring and the salt water represents the tears shed by the enslaved Israelites.

Maror: A bitter herb, usually horseradish. It symbolizes the intense bitterness of slavery.

Charoset: A sweet spread made from fruit, nuts and wine. It represents the mortar the slaves prepared for building the pharaohs' cities and pyramids.

Zeroah: A roasted shank bone which represents the paschal lamb that was sacrificed at the temple before Pesach festival and then roasted for the meal.

Beitzah: A hard-boiled egg, symbolizing the festival sacrifice that was offered in the temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.

A plate of three matzot, folded in one or two large napkins or in a special matzo cover, is also placed on the table. The three matzot are necessary because two are used for every festival and Sabbath.

Small bowls of salt water are placed around the table for dipping. Each person should have a wine glass and there should be a cup for Elijah.

At the Women's Seder, two cups are placed -- one for Elijah the prophet and one filled with water for Miriam the Prophetess. The women come together to celebrate Passover, their liberation from slavery. They tell the story of their people, of their going out from Egypt, stepping into a familiar ritual. Passover is the time of accepting freedom as well as demanding it. The women are taking the responsibility for the choices they will make in the year ahead.

Here are some Passover recipes from a cookbook compiled by the Outreach Committee of Congregation Beth Yam.

White and Yellow Potato Latkes

2 large white potatoes

1 large sweet potato

1 medium onion

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dash pepper

1/4 cup matzo meal

Pare vegetables and grate or put through meat grinder. Add eggs, salt, pepper and matzo meal. Drop by tablespoon into hot peanut oil almost deep enough to cover the pancakes. Fry over moderate heat until browned on one side. Turn and brown the other side.

Passover Charoset

2 medium sized apples (recommended: Gala), peeled and cored

1/2-3/4 cup walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

1-2 teaspoons grape juice or sweet red wine

In a hand chopper or food processor combine apples and walnuts. Process until it is the consistency of mortar. Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Baked Gefilte Fish

To each jar of gefilte fish, not drained add:

1 sliced onion

1 carrot, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place gefilte fish (from a jar or can) on a bed of onion, along with jelly. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake for 2 hours. Baste after one hour.

Passover Brownies

1 stick margarine

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

2 squares melted bitter sweet chocolate

1 cup matzo cake meal

1 cup raisins and nuts or chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together margarine and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each. Add melted chocolate, then stir in cake meal, raisins, nuts or chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake for one hour.

Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. E-mail her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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