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Posts Tagged ‘Seder in Ocean Grove’

 

Tonight begins Passover 5774 (Jewish calendar)  Eileen's seder table. Ocean Grove, 2014.  Note the Pope's yarmulka which I will wear tonight.

Tonight begins Passover 5774 (Jewish calendar) Eileen’s seder table. Ocean Grove, 2014. Note the Pope’s yarmulke which I will wear tonight.   Paul Goldfinger photo ©

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

Tsai is a woman who works at Wegman’s. Despite her Chinese heritage, she was assigned to the kosher department.   She knew nothing about Jewish food but she quickly learned about lox, matzoh balls, knishes, latkes, chopped liver and many other items.

She was fascinated with Passover rituals where special foods have traditional meanings.   Tsai found out about seders (Passover meals where the history of the Jewish people is recounted) and about kosher food regulations. She learned why they have separate dishes and a special kosher kitchen at Wegmans.

Although most of the foods were initially strange to her, one thing that she knew about was liver. “The only customers at Wegmans who like liver are the Jews and the Chinese,” she told me in an exclusive Blogfinger interview. “At Wegmans we make large vats of chopped liver for Passover, so I learned what the Jewish version is supposed to taste like,” she said. “When we prepare foods at Wegman’s, somebody in the kitchen has to taste each item, so I was the kosher chopped liver lady.”

By the time Tsai was transferred to another part of the store, she knew more about Jewish cuisine than some Jews. Last year the kitchen had prepared chopped liver for Passover, but no one in the kitchen knew what it was supposed to taste like. Tsai offered to help them. She tasted it and said, “It’s no good—it’s sour.”

But the staff didn’t believe her, so they sought a second opinion and found a man who worked in the store who was half Jewish. They had him taste it. “It’s terrible,” he said. So they dumped the whole batch and did it again. After that, they trusted Tsai’s chopped liver assessment.

Passover is the most popular Jewish holiday. It is happy and is about tradition, freedom, family, and history. It is also importantly about food, some of which has great symbolic relevance. No one will allow Eileen to skip any of the special foods.  For example, the charosis consists of chopped apples, cinnamon, walnuts, raisins and wine. The recipe varies quite a bit.   It symbolizes the mortar that the Jewish slaves used to build the pyramids for Pharaoh about 3,500 years ago. There is not much written history about this, but I think that Pharaoh was building a theme park along the Nile.  If I were there with my ancestors, I would have hired a contractor.

Some people who are not Jewish enjoy Passover customs and they like to eat matzohs (unleavened bread.) Many even enjoy going to seders.

We sometimes find non-Jews at our seder table. I don’t know how they got there, but they do love the rituals, the family jokes, the story telling and the food. I had a patient in the hospital (Mt. Sinai in New York)  years ago who was a classic little old Italian mama with a gold tooth in front and a  bun in the back. She was eating some matzoh. I asked her what that was, and she said , “Matz.”

Some people wonder how Jews can eat unusual and worrisome looking foods like gefilte fish and chopped liver. Sometimes ethnic foods can seem gross to outsiders, and it takes courage for a non-Jew to try gefilte fish.

It is because chopped liver is often rejected when offered that the expression “What am I? Chopped liver?” came about. I like that expression–it’s like so many that people use without knowing the actual meaning.

There are many recipes for chopped liver, but mostly it is chicken livers sautéed in onions, with salt and pepper, schmaltz (chicken fat) and oftentimes with hard boiled eggs, all chopped together.  You take a piece of matzoh and scoop up some of it (it’s like the corn chips and guacamole among the Mexicans.).   It is served as an appetizer, and our family loves it.

Passover is a complicated holiday and widely open to interpretation. A little book called the Haggadah is used during the seder to guide the ceremony, but there are over 3,000 versions from all over the world.

You can get chicken soup with kreplach all year round—-just go to a Chinese restaurant and ask for won ton soup.

PASSOVER SONG  “Eliyahu Hanavi” by Deborah Katchko-Gray.  It is about Elijah the Prophet who visits every Jewish home on Passover. The orthodox believe that Elijah comes to make sure all the males are circumcised.  We skip that part at our seder.

 

 

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