Parzen Family Passover

Seder plate.

Wow, what a trip to celebrate the Passover and read the story of the Exodus and think about all the folks who are fighting for their freedom in the Middle East???!!!

Gefilte fish from Ziggy’s in Houston.

Tracie P and I had eight persons at our dining room table for a seder, which I led using this haggadah posted for all to use by the Jewish Federations of North America.

I roasted a leg of lamb for the main course.

Mama Judy taught me how to make her matzoh balls and her charoset. And I made my own horseradish sauce to serve with the gefilte fish and the lamb.

We drank three orphaned bottles from the Hippie Six-Pack — a gently sparkling Cortese and a still Barbera by Valli Unite and Tony Coturri’s Sandocino.

The Barbera by Valli Unite is one of the best wines I’ve tasted in 2011 and it is simply SINGING right now. Cannot drink enough of it. All of the wines were made using native, ambient yeasts… definitely not kosher for Passover (and we obviously don’t keep a kosher kitchen) but it was interesting to contemplate the role of yeast in the religion of Natural wine and Passover. If humankind’s use of yeast is the rational distortion of nature (as Lévi-Strauss interpreted it), Passover is the festival that removes yeast from our lives, instructing us to banish yeast from our homes. A rational distortion of a rational distortion? Of course, the Passover seder could not be complete or completed without wine. And so yeast is inevitably and invariably part of the ritual. (The best source for kosher for Passover wines, btw imho, is our favorite wine writer and one of our favorite people in the world, Alice Feiring.)

Three generations sat at our dining room table for our first Passover seder. As I led the seder and read the words, “It is because of what G-d did for me when I came out of Egypt,” I thought about the generation of my family who fled Eastern Europe at the turn of the last century, before the Russian revolution, to make a better life for their children in the U.S. For all the headaches and troubles we deal with on a day-to-day basis, we sure have a good life and we sure are lucky to have each other.

Hag sameach, ya’ll!

The last day of Passover and a time to begin again

Above (literally “above”): I took this picture of the full moon over San Diego on the first night of the Passover, the night before the first day, during my family’s Passover seder.

The Passover is over. Yesterday was the last day. For the Jews living in Israel, there are seven days of Passover. For Jews living in the Diaspora, there are eight. Yesterday was the last day.

The Passover, Easter, and the Garden of Adonis… All of these rituals have their roots in an ancient (ancient before the time of the written word) cult of death, rebirth, and renewal. Doing some sleuthing this morning, I found this wonderful passage in The Golden Bough (33):

    At the approach of Easter, Sicilian women sow wheat, lentils, and canaryseed in plates, which they keep in the dark and water every two days. The plants soon shoot up; the stalks are tied together with red ribbons, and the plates containing them are placed on the sepulchres which, with the effigies of the dead Christ, are made up in Catholic and Greek churches on Good Friday, just as the gardens of Adonis were placed on the grave of the dead Adonis. The practice is not confined to Sicily, for it is observed also at Cosenza in Calabria, and perhaps in other places. The whole custom—sepulchres as well as plates of sprouting grain—may be nothing but a continuation, under a different name, of the worship of Adonis.

Indeed, the Passover and Easter “may be nothing but a continuation, under a different name, of the worship of Adonis.”

One of the interesting traces of this cult in the Passover is the “burning of the bread” in the Jewish tradition — the banishment of yeast from the home and the dinner table. Once the Passover is over, yeast is allowed again.

Tracie P and I have spent a lot of time thinking about yeast and how it relates to wine — natural yeast, native yeast, ambient yeast, cultured yeast, selected yeast, “killer” yeast — over the last year. One of the things that struck me about the Passover this year (something I’d never thought about before) is how the Passover ritual requires that we remove all yeast from our lives while requiring us to talk and think about yeast at the same time.

And so it is a time to begin again and watch the yeast do its work. In the words of one of my Italian colleagues, ricominciamo…

You just gotta love Italian T.V., right? And man, you gotta love a name like Pappalardo, literally lard soup. Leavened bread, anyone?