A Pious-or-Not Holiday Weekend in Paris
This year there just wasn’t enough time or energy to organize a proper Passover “seder” (a ritual performed over dinner involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt). Even though I’m not religious or ‘practicing,’ some traditions still have a place in my heart. This one, if not always in my heart, is in my stomach — as I do love the traditional food that goes with it: matzo ball soup, “charoset,” “gefilte fish” with horseradish, etc.
Out of guilt, knowing I had no seder to attend, a gentile friend who is one of the owners at “Le Palace des Vosges,” invited me for dinner there on the first night of Passover, who didn’t have an inkling about the tradition. To assuage my own guilt, as well as to appease my longing for traditional fare, I offered to make and bring “charoset,” the matzot and a bottle of wine. I also packed a few “haggadahs” — “the text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder.” (Wikipedia.org)
The haggadahs were leftover from a seder that had taken place at the American Cathedral (of all places!) many years ago, adapted/edited by an old friend and formidable copywriter, Lisa Rothstein, who used to live in Paris. I’m sure she has no idea her work has been on my shelf all these years!
The charoset, is one of the symbols of the story of the Exodus. There are various interpretations of its meaning, as many as there are of recipes. One particularly interesting explanation is that “it’s a reminder of the (tart) apple trees in Egypt under which Israel made love and gave birth; it’s a reminder of the mud and straw (dates/apples and spices) for the bricks they made as slaves.” (theshalomcenter.org/)
Traditionally it’s a mixture of chopped nuts and apples, spiced with cinnamon, wine and honey — is one of my favorite parts of the meal, eaten alone or on matzo (best of all!). There are many different recipes for it, but the one I make is a standard Ashkenazi (Eastern European) recipe. The Sephardic recipe is more complex adding dates, bananas, raisins, other kinds of nuts, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. That’s a bit overboard for me, but it sounds delicious! (See a ‘bevy’ of charoset recipes)
On the way over to dinner, with the charoset, matzo and wine in a sack, I called my 97 year-old mother to say “Chag Sameach” (happy holiday)…to which she asked, “They don’t have Passover there, do they?”
“Of course they do! I’m on my way now to dinner with friends and I’m bringing the charoset,” I answered, freeing myself of all guilt for not attending a traditional seder! She commented that in all of her years, she had never made the sweet concoction, to which I was seriously surprised…and that made me feel a whole lot better for my lack of piousness.
Easter Sunday was chilly, but sunny and glorious. The immediate world was on the streets of Paris, paying little attention to the holiday, perhaps as non-pious as me, but enjoying the sun and the onset of Spring. I took no photos, but basked in the pleasure of the abundance of life and the hope for bright warmer days. Voices in many languages could be heard wherever I went, indicating that the tourists are back and the city will is awash with new energy.
In past years, Easter was spent in the Riviera city of Nice, where the flowers at the market on the Cours Saleya were overwhelmingly breathtaking. Instead this year, an adventure in Nice and Provence will take place mid month, so stay tuned for a report on Spring in the South of France…
A la prochaine,
(Passover Charoset 2005)
P.S. Mark your calendars for Parler Paris Après Midi April 14, 2015. Our guest will be high-profile business executive and author, Roy Camblin, speaking on “Individual Financial Survival in a Toxic Economy.” Don’t miss it!
P.P.S. Two of Parler Paris Apartments finest vacation rental studio apartments, “Le Provençal” and “La Paris Plage/Le Parisol,” have been sold and as of the end of June will no longer be available for rental! So, now’s your chance to book one of them LAST MINUTE — and be one of the last to enjoy these luxury Parler Paris Apartments! Visit adrianleeds.com/ for more information or email [email protected] to book your stay!