חֲרֽוֹסֶת

2009/04/09 12:08 AM 9 years ago

Tonight was of course פֶּסַח and so I went over to Berkeley for my cousin’s סֵדֶר, which is a large enough affair that he does it as a pot luck. Since I didn’t have any ideas for what to bring, he assigned me to do the חֲרֽוֹסֶת, which is one of the vital staple symbolic foods (it represents the mortar the slaves used to assemble the pyramids, never mind that the pyramids probably didn’t use mortar).

Growing up, eating חֲרֽוֹסֶת always seemed like something of a chore, so I decided to kick it up a bit and make it something people would actually want to eat. Since I didn’t know how many people were coming to dinner I made a whole bunch (which turned out to be about twice as much as needed). On the plus side, it was the hit of the dinner and people were commenting about it non-stop.

I ended up leaving all the leftovers with my cousin, since I don’t have any מַצָּה‎ to put it on and no inclination to eat it on its own.

The base: 6 red delicious apples, 1 fuji apple, and half a pound of jicama, peeled and grated, and tossed with lime juice. (Somehow I was worried this would not be enough.)

Add-ins: about a cup and a half of dried figs and dates, chopped and soaked for an hour or so in half a bottle of Kosher wine (I used Manischevitz blackberry, because that was all that was available at Safeway last night), added along with the soak wine. Also half a cup or so of raisins, and half a cup or so of coarsely chopped walnuts.

Spices: a few tablespoons of cinnamon powder and freshly grated ginger, all to taste. (The cinnamon should be a very strong but not overpowering note, and the ginger should be a subtle background flavor.)

Thickener/texture: a loosely-ground paste of walnuts (maybe ¼ cup or so after grinding).

No offense to my mom, but I am sure this is the most delicious חֲרֽוֹסֶת I’d ever had, and certainly high up on the list for everyone else at this סֵדֶר.

Glossary

חֲרֽוֹסֶת (charoset; EN: clay)
A mixture of chopped or grated apples, nuts, and other fruits. Varies widely by region.
פֶּסַח (pesach; EN: passover)
An annual celebration commemorating the first recorded slave rebellion in history, namely the Jews' escape from Egypt.
סֵדֶר (seder; EN: order)
The religious service that surrounds the Passover dinner. The particular details vary quite a lot per family tradition.
מַצָּה‎ (matzoh; EN: a literal translation is up to debate but “bread of the afflicted” seems to be the closest)
A flat unleavened bread which one has the option of eating at any time but is generally only eaten during פֶּסַח (the ancient Hebrews didn’t have time for their bread to rise when they escaped from Egypt, so several thousand years later we’re still suffering for it). On the plus side, it lasts for years. And I guess kugel is pretty okay.
הגדה‎ (haggadah; EN: telling)
The text of the סֵדֶר. Generally contains a telling of the story of Exodus, an explanation of the סֵדֶר, standard questions about פֶּסַח in a historical context (both past and future), and songs of joy and reflection. My cousin and his wife use a very secular/humanist version which focuses on the humans, doesn’t even mention יַהְוֶה, and gives equal billing to Elijah and Miriam (the female caretaker of baby מֹשֶׁה/Moses). It essentially treats Jews as an ethnicity and ignores the entire religious aspect of it. I can totally get behind that (since that’s how I identify as Jewish, what with being an atheist, which I don’t see as contradictory.)
יַהְוֶה (Yahweh; EN: The Dude)
He’s just this guy, you know?

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