Passover, for me, is a funny holiday to celebrate. It is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, and comes with a very memorable and distinct set of rituals and practices. First there is the seder; a meal/ceremony/story telling of sorts that involves a wide variety of prayers, rituals like hand washing, asking specific questions and leaning on pillows, not to mention the symbolic eating of many foods we don’t see outside of the holiday. Once the seder (and possibly second seder depending on your level of involvement) have finished there there is the keeping of specific dietary restrictions which include the avoidance many flours and grains (again for symbolic purposes) for eight days following. All of this, plus other rituals I have left out for simplicity purposes, makes Passover a holiday that one must plan out well in advance to practice.
I identify myself as a cultural Jew, growing up deeply immersed in the Jewish culture. Most of my friends were Jewish. My parents and grandparents on both sides were Jewish. I grew up in Cleveland, a city which contains one of the most densely populated Jewish areas in the Unites States. The Jewish deli wasn’t where we went for trendy sandwiches and pickles like it is here in London. It’s where we went to eat dinner at 4pm on a Sunday with Grandma. The culture and the people and the food were so a part of my everyday experience that I always feel a slight pang of sadness when acknowledging how different the culture I’m living in now is. I don’t need the temple. It’s not where I feel most Jewish anyhow. I need the household that’s using the leftover challah for french toast on Sunday, or smells like stale oil after the first night of Chanukah, or of vinegar, fresh horseradish and brisket when Passover is coming up. So it’s up to me to create it.
As I started thinking about what part of Passover I wanted to create for my children, I have been flooded by all of the wonderful memories I had of it through out my own childhood. My grandfather; reading each word from the haggadah as slow as humanly possible while I sat in my chair impatient and hungry for dinner. My father; drawing straws with his best friend as to who was going to down the glass of kosher wine when the kids all went to the door to welcome in Elijah. My mother; the year she and I sat down and rewrote the prayers and stories to include all the Jewish matriarchs who had been left out. My grandmother; who I always yearned to sit next to during seder, mimicking how she did absolutely everything during the meal because that lady knew how to eat well. My sister, bemoaning always having to sing the four questions but then doing so with the most beautiful voice.
There’s more. There is so much more. It’s overwhelming in fact.
I don’t know quite how to take this village of people and their roles in creating my memories, and try to authentically recreate it for my own girls. How can I teach them everything I know? How can I possibly have the same impact as the multitude of people that gathered around our seder table and beyond? I can’t. It is an impossible task.
My children will remember very different aspects about their childhood community. But it will be filled with just as much love and cultural nuances and significance as mine was.
We will just have to settle for being the house that smells like vinegar just before Passover.
These Beet Pickled Eggs were one of my favourite staples of our Passover seder growing up. They were special, despite their simplicity. An acquired taste perhaps, and one that I only now have really begun to appreciate.
Pickled Beet Eggs
- 1 cup pickled red beets including their liquid ** I roasted my beets first, then pickled for 24 hours them in the following brine, which had been headed up, mixed together until sugar dissolved, then cooled until room: 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, 1 tsp cinnamon**
- 6 hard boiled free-range eggs, cooled and peeled
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp celery seed
- It’s about as simple as it can get once you’ve got your components together. Mix your eggs together with your beets in an airtight container. Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours, making sure to give the jar a little shake so you disperse the colour evenly around the eggs.
- Use as desired; at your seder, on your matzah (mmm matzah), in non-kosher-for-passover-hummus wraps, in salads, egg salad sandwiches, maybe as an alternative pairing with Korean dishes like the bibimbap? They inspire creativity. Because nothing says ‘easy pairing’ like pickled, purple, hard boiled eggs. Right?