The cycle of life: hag sameach and happy Easter to all

recipe shank passover beefAbove: in preparation for Erev Pesach tomorrow, I roasted a beef shank early this morning. I rubbed the shank with kosher salt and then extra-virgin olive oil. Then I roasted it in a 450° F. oven for 30 minutes to get it brown and crispy on the outside and finished for another 30 minutes at 350°. And yes, wow, whole wheat matzot! I could have never imagined that when I was a kid…

“Meet Annia Lucilla, our easter lamb, a true Roman,” wrote my friend Hande yesterday in a post on her Facebook. She’s a top Italian wine educator who grew up in Turkey and now lives and works in Rome. “Getting to know my meat before it hits my plate reminds me of the sacrifice feasts of my childhood.”

I thought of her post early this morning, Texas time, when I got up before the girls so that I could roast a beef shank for our Passover seder tomorrow night.

Of course, I didn’t get to meet the cow whose shank I bought yesterday at a local market. And we’re going to be having Jewish-style brisket for our main course tomorrow night: the shank serves solely as a symbolic component — the centerpiece — of our seder plate.

But her note and my own “sacrificial lamb” remind me of how the Passover, Easter, and the renewal and rebirth of spring are ancient traditions that bind us together in our humanity.

This year, Erev Pesach (the first night of the Passover) falls on Good Friday. The confluence reminds us that Easter has its roots in the Passover (most agree that Jesus’ “Last Supper” was a Passover celebration).

And Passover — as Jewish scholars widely acknowledge — has its roots in ancient pagan celebrations of spring.

In the Passover legend, the z’roa is a symbol of the Pesach sacrifice, a lamb that was offered by the ancient Jews in the Temple of Jerusalem on the first night the Passover festival. But the expiatory sacrifice of a lamb in springtime dates back to the Romans and beyond.

Just think of it: in a time before monotheism, the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures and the renewal of the vegetative cycle were gifts from the gods.

(On Saturday, btw, my client Bele Casel in Asolo posted an image of first bud break on its blog.)

It’s not hard to imagine why they were inspired to slaughter a lamb as an offering.

Here at the Parzen household, we’ll be celebrating the Passover tomorrow night with my mother, who’s flying in for the holiday. And then we’ll be heading to Orange in East Texas to paint Easter eggs and celebrate the holiday with Tracie P’s family.

I’ll be taking a break from the blog and from work until next week as I reconnect with family and recharge my spirits: it’s a time for renewal and rebirth.

O and we’ll be pairing 2013 Cirelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with our brisket tomorrow night.

Hag sameach — happy festival — and happy Easter to all! See you next week…

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