Friday, April 14, 2006

Man O Manischewitz

Good Friday

I’m fasting today, naturally. I just had a little nibble to keep the pangs down—a broken matzoh. I washed it down with a glass of wine, kosher for Passover and sticky-sweet, like port but (at 11%) with only half the kick. On an empty stomach, though, it’s enough to mess me up a little.

I’ve got my problems with the whole Christian Pesach movement, though not for any toxic theological reasons: It simply seems like a stupid piece of cultural appropriation to me, like meaningless English phrases on a Japanese T-shirt, or meaningless kanji in an Anglo tattoo. That said, the symbolic foods angle has always grabbed me—it’s that idea of mindfulness again, of imbuing even the simplest action of human existence with sacred purpose.

Plus, y’know, there’s no cultural tourism in just eating. We all eat. And lamb is so very tasty, on a fine spring evening. So I grilled up a few chops on Palm Sunday, with homemade naan, and it was fine eating (though the mint chutney was thoroughly vile, and was quickly written off as a bad mistake).

For Maundy Thursday, though—the night when many Christian churches hold their quasi-Seders—I got a be in my bonnet that I did want to try some traditional Jewish recipes, both Ashkenazi and Sephardic—not ritual foods as such, but ethnically-identified foods I’d never tried.

Yeah. I’m talking about gefilte fish here.

And it was actually pretty good. I used boneless skinless tilapia fillets and canned stock, so it wasn’t the backbreaking marathon described in the above recipe, and the flavor was mild and pleasant. The texture, though... well, there’s not a lot of body, let’s say. In fact I’m struck by how many Jewish recipes call for basically grinding food to paste by way of preparation. Very odd.

This extends even to the undisputed hit of the evening, was the date haroseth, which I intentionally left a little chunky. This stuff’s dynamite spread on a matzoh.

The only problem? The recipe called for just three tablespoons of wine, leaving me with the rest of the bottle to get through. If I were Jewish, I could call on Elijah to help me down at least one cup of the stuff.

(Note Jesus’s cry at the Crucifixion—Eloi, Eloi, lema sabacthani?, which onlookers misheard as a call to Elijah. Given that Jesus is Himself presented as Paschal lamb of the New Covenant, there may have been some complex joke in this, especially as it came just before He was given the wine. Fucked if I can figure it out now, though. Where’d that bottle go?)

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