Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jewish Interlude

I wrote this as homework for my food studies class, but I think I'll post it here because, for an oh-my-god-it's-due-in-fifteen-minutes-and-I-haven't-started kinda thing, I'm sort of proud of it.  What I write here is obviously pretty blunt prose - I don't do much description (or editing, for that matter) on here.  So this is a little bit different.  I hope you enjoy it - it's something I really care about.

“Your love is better than wine… sustain me with raisins, revive me with apples, for I am faint with love”  ~King Solomon, Song of Songs

It won’t be Passover for a while, but I was surfing around SassyRadish today and couldn’t resist posting this.  Haroset is basically a paste made of fruit, nuts and other types of deliciousness, and it’s meant to represent the mortar which the Israelites used as slaves in Egypt.  As with a lot of words associated with Jewish festivals, there are a lot of ways to spell this – Charoset, Harroseth, Charoses, etc., etc… think Chanukkah.  But, if you dare fathom these kinds of numbers (and we are at a math and science school), try to believe me when I say how many more ways there are to make this stuff.  Ashkenazi or Sephardi, German, Spanish, Russian… it’s like Thanksgiving stuffing.  Everyone has their own way of making it, and the results rarely bear any resemblance to each other at all.  I don’t think I’ve ever had it the same way twice.  Apples, raisins, dates, figs… almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts… honey or sugar?  Wine, or some other liquor?  What spices?  This is a totally customizable thing, but at the same time very traditional and meaningful, and probably my favourite part of Passover (a holiday that I’ll admit readily to hating most other aspects of).  I like it apple-and-honey rich, and, as always, with lots and lots of toasted nuts and a little marsala, but the darker Sephardic versions leave me weak as well.  It’s vying for the top spot on my list of Jewish nostalgia triggers, fighting an endless battle with almond macaroons, but while I am unreasonably picky about my macaroons and their every characteristic – not too soft, nor too sweet, they should be like nougat in texture and have grains of almond large enough to crush individually between tooth and tongue, and, for God’s sake, no coconut! – I will take my haroset in almost any of its forms.  Eaten on matzo, a chunky pate of apples and raisins is a decent approximation of all that is good in the world.  It’s not fatty or heavy, but it’s sweet and juicy and satisfying and oh, so changeable.  Haroset is the capricious lover at a boring and otherwise unchanging family Pesach table.  It won’t appear the same way twice, but it will almost always be fabulously sexy, and sometimes leave you weeping.

No comments: