Thursday, April 21, 2011

Passover Degustation

It's this time of year that the Jewish festival of Passover dawns upon us.

The main prohibition on Passover is that you are not meant to eat bread (and other food products that rise, expand, etc) for a couple of weeks, to reflect that the Jews had no time to bake bread before exodusing Egypt. So I was deeply embarrassed Tuesday when my regular barista asked me why I had just ordered a sandwich when passover had just started. I quickly responded with an unconvincing medical excuse - although when you are ordering a proscuitto, cheese and roasted vegetable roll, it is difficult to sell yourself as a devout practicing Jew at the best of times.

Anyway, Monday night was the first night of passover and we were fortunate enough to have my Mum prepare a Passover degustation. After a very paraphrased abridged summary of the story of exodus (the Haggadah) having been read, we moved straight into the important part of the evening - the food. A lot of the food eaten on Passover is to remind us of what the Jews went through in slavery in Egypt. So, for example, we eat bitter herb, or horseradish, to remind us of the bitter times. We eat "charoset" (a mixture of walnuts, raisins, apples, cinnamon, honey, etc) which looks like brown sludge and intended to mirror mortar to remind us of the bricks and mortar that the enslaved Jews used to build the pyramids.

So the meal went us follows:

1. Boiled Eggs and Saltwater (to remind us of the tears cried in slavery)

2. Gefilte fish (essentially sweet minced fish) - Note: must be served with strong horseradish. These are bitter-sweet for me - I used to get called this as a kid (in a teasing sense) - see picture for why. Jewish private school kids can be cruel.

3. Matzah ball soup - a staple in any Jewish household. They are light and fluffy on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside. A great effort by Mum this year. These were previously made by her mother using Chicken schmaltz (fat) and for years she had insisted that they were vegetarian notwithstanding.

4. Roast chicken, sweet carrots, home-made pickles & potato kugel - It really doesn't get more Eastern European Jewish than this dish. The highlight is by far the pickles which are strong flavoured, garlicky and with a hint of spice. Kugel was a nice starchy block of grated potatoes and combined with the honey sweet carrots, I managed to overcome my impending fullness and push through Man Vs Food style.
5. Apple Compote - Another staple in the Jewish meal. Really just a clandestine way for Jewish Mothers to sneak in a course between Main and Dessert.

6. Cake - too full to recall how this was but know it was good because I managed to have 2 slices.

Overall a great degustation, rivalled only by my diametrically opposite degustation experience at Attica in Ripponlea.

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