Monday evening marked the beginning of Passover. My family had the good fortune of observing the day with our dear friends, Dan and Valeri Remark. The Remarks opened their lovely home to seventeen guests. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed delicious food prepared by Dan, a chef, as well as matzo ball soup, roasted vegetables, and assorted cheeses provided by other guests. I made the charoset and received many compliments.
The Seder hosted by the Remarks was relaxed and welcoming. Guests had the opportunity to ask questions if they didn’t understand or comment with insight. Roman, Dan and Valeri’s grandson, did an excellent job asking the four required questions and opening the door for Elijah. Our son, Joshua, and the Remarks son-in-law, Quentin, engaged in a challenge to see who could eat the most horseradish. Quentin consumed three slices the size of a quarter, and Joshua managed to down four. Joshua was fine for the first few moments until the pungency of the root vegetable reached his nose. Luckily, Joshua is a good sport who joined in the laughter as his face reddened and he gulped grape juice to cool the burn.
One elegant touch I’ll be sure to borrow from Valeri if I ever host my own Passover Seder is to offer my guests warmed, damp washcloths scented with orange essential oil for the custom of washing one’s hands. Another is the use of a broken piece of pottery to collect the drops of wine while reciting the ten plagues three times each.
Giving up foods with yeast/leavening for eight days may seem like a huge sacrifice. Yeast/leavening appears in places one wouldn’t expect such as canned broth and soup, prepared meatballs, and salad dressing. It requires a little reworking of the menu when you can’t grab the items you’re used to. Yet what we receive in return is so much more and makes up for the minor inconvenience of denying ourselves yeast/leavening for eight days. The fellowship of the Seder alone is worth it, not to mention the freely flowing wine, love, and laughter we enjoyed at the Remarks. Then there is the opportunity to reflect on Passover and what it means for us today.
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and finely diced
3 Gala apples, peeled and finely diced
2 c toasted walnuts, coarsely diced
½ c kosher sweet wine
½ c honey
¼ c dark brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
Three hearty dashes of allspice
Toss the diced apples with the toasted walnuts. Combine the wine, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Whisk thoroughly and pour over the apple/walnut mixture. Stir several times to coat before covering. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Stir again before serving. Serve chilled at the Seder with pieces of matzo.