Thursday, 16 April 2009

A humble Passover

Passover for me is synonymous with Israel, my birthplace. I go every year, almost without fail. We would visit my grandmother, my Safta, in Jerusalem, and she would prepare fragrant pilaf rice in the Buchari (Sephardic) tradition.

Sadly my Safta has now passed away, and with her the tradition of spending Passover in Israel is slowly fading. But as old traditions die out new ones are created, and I discovered to my delight this year that I could prepare a Seder myself without too much fuss. This had always seemed like a formidable task but I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how wrong I was.

This year, Ima came over from Israel to celebrate with us in London, and we also had some Italian guests over. They aren't Jewish and aren't familiar with Jewish culture - they must have thought we were crazy not eating bread, singing neverending songs, starting to eat so late and most crucially not eating the beautiful baked goods they had kindly schlepped all the way from Italy. But they joined in with such spirit and sang with all their heart - it was really touching.

Passover brings with it a familiar 'argument' in my family: Dad wants to read as little of the Haggadah as possible so that we can eat promptly and Ima wants to read the whole Haggadah and sings the songs very loudly indeed. In the end each is exasperated with the other. This little comic routine repeats itself every year and, don't tell them, I find it very entertaining!

I actually really love the story of Passover and find the message so meaningful: that we should put ourselves in the shoes of the Jews who escaped Egypt. I love the importance placed on passing the story onto our children. I am proud that mine is a faith that encourages questions and debate, and that is essentially what Passover is all about. Even the songs and prayers are phrased as rhetorical questions.

Our Seder was casual because everyone was too busy to cook a huge meal. But Ima made her legendary chicken soup (replete with matzo balls), an Israeli salad, I made harosset, Moroccan chicken, rice and roast vegetables and dessert. Dessert was a meringue with rhubarb compote and berries. There aren't many Kosher for passover dessert options of which I'm aware (I've seen meringue desserts pop up all over the place this week!) but I was fond of this dessert. Basically, put rhubarb in almost anything and I am sold!

I hope you all had a lovely Passover/Easter!

This egg is amazing! It is HUGE. Look at the makeup counters in the background for an idea of the scale! It costs £500!!!


Esme said...

Thanks for sharing your family tradition.

Pearl said...

oh vanessa - thank you for sharing such beautiful memories and tradition. the table spread looks incredible and the scenes you described sound absolutely priceless.

emlizalmo said...

What a beautiful tradition to share with your family. The food looks amazing. :)