A Charoset Blended Recipe

My grandmother, Bless her Soul, made the most amazing dishes.  Sadly, all the recipes disappeared when she passed away because she would never reveal any of her secrets.  She was born and raised in Egypt and emigrated with the Exodus of the 1950′s.

One dish I remember LOVING as a child was her charoset, a staple of the Passover Seder.  I used to steal the walnuts with some of the sweet dip during the Seder.

My grandmother lived (with my father’s family) in Italy for a while and from my research, I think her charoset recipe is a blend of a traditional Egyptian charoset and a traditional Italian charoset.

It seems fitting since my husband’s parents were both born in Italy.

I don’t have amounts, so these are approximate and then you can adjust based on taste.

The recipe:

  • 1 Cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • one apple (shredded) or 1/3 cup of apple sauce (I think the applesauce gives the charoset the flavour that I remember)
  • a bit of sugar (if you’d like it even sweeter)
  • a pinch of cinnamon or ground ginger (if you like that flavour)
  • a splash (or three!) of sweet wine or grape juice

Put the raisins and the dates into a saucepan with some of the wine (or grape juice) and some water and simmer gently until everything is softened and the liquid is gone.  Add all the ingredients together and blend.  Enjoy!

What charoset recipe do you use?  Was it a traditional recipe in your family (or country)?

Purim, Revealing the Hidden

One of the themes of Purim has to do with the hidden becoming revealed.  Esther hid her identity as a Jew within Achashverosh’s castle.  When the time was right not only did she reveal her true self, but she revealed Haman’s evil plot to destroy the Jews.  All the coincidences within the story of Esther all come together in the end and reveal a rich and interesting story.  G-d’s name is not mentioned at all in the Megillah (Scroll) of Esther, but is hidden within Esther’s name itself, which means Hidden.

My husband and I celebrated Purim with a local Jewish organization.  I dressed up as Time Flies (I had wings and clocks) and my husband dressed up as Father Time.  Father Time was a priest with clock picture on his chest.  We felt this was funny on a few levels, since my husband isn’t Jewish.  I think he appreciated being dressed up as a character that is distinctly not Jewish.  He could be his non-Jewish self openly when all through the year he feels like he has to downplay and maybe hide the fact he isn’t Jewish.

We had agreed that our son would be raised in an entirely Jewish environment and my husband isn’t/wasn’t very religious so it didn’t seem like a big deal.  It does mean though that he gets submerged and swallowed with Jewishness.  Kosher food, Shabbat meals, Jewish holidays… he’s surrounded all the time.

We celebrate Purim by hiding behind masks and pretending to be what we aren’t (or briefly live a fantasy of who we would like to be), just as Esther pretended she wasn’t Jewish.  My husband got to enjoy the party being openly non-Jewish.

I Don’t Like Purim

My first exposure to Purim came when my husband and I brought our then two year old daughter to the synagogue he attended through his childhood.  I had her dressed as a fairy, and she was so stinking cute, waving her little wand and clutching her tiara.  The rabbi jumped out from behind something and roared at her – he was dressed in a giant gorilla costume.  He was delighted and happy, everyone laughed.  My toddler was distinctly not amused, she was terrified.  I was even less amused – I was just furious.

Fast forward a few years, and Purim didn’t really get any better.  When my second child was born, Purim was a disaster.  He wasn’t a fan of crowds anyway, and taking him to the Megillah reading, with all the noisemakers – he screamed louder than any of them.  I’d pull him out of the service, but we could still hear the loud noisemakers and every time Haman’s name was read, not only would his name be drowned out, the noise of the noisemakers was drowned out as well, by the hysterical sobbing of a terrified boy.

The more I read about the Purim story, the less impressed I was.  Queen Esther seems to be held up as a pinnacle of bravery.  But she really didn’t do much more than be pretty and do as she was told.  On the upside, discussion of it did inspire a lot of conversation around here about the role of women and generations of learned Torah scholars interpreting the story to highlight the qualities that were most conducive to keeping women in a submissive position in society.  Esther was the king’s wife, not because she was smart or brave, but because she was beautiful.  And she saved the Jewish people not because she knew it had to be done, not because she independently made the decision to risk her own safety by appearing before the king without being summoned, but because she listened to the male head of her family and did as she was told.

And I don’t like hamentaschen.  Prune filled cookies are confusing to me, I’d much rather a nice chocolate chip cookie :-)

Slipping and Sliding

I live in the Mid-West.  I live in a place where it snows.  It is a fact of life that when it snows, there will be ice.  Ice can sneak up on you.  Sometimes you think the ground is clear and it isn’t and in a blink you can find yourself on the ground.   That is what happened to me today.  I was walking out of Best Buy after purchasing a replacement television for our basement.  I wasn’t going too fast.  I just hit the ice right and  bam, there I was on my butt.  I lay there on the ground for a minute composing myself and doing a quick mental inventory of my parts.  Other than my ankle, it seemed like all systems were go.  So I gingerly pushed myself up into an upright position and hobbled to my car.

I was not at my car before two worker bees were outside sprinkling salt on the ground.  This is great because the next unsuspecting soul will not meet my same demise.  I pulled my car up, got out and asked why no one came out to see if I was ok?  No one asked me if I was injured or offered me a hand up.  The response was, “We didn’t know it was icy out.”  Well duh you didn’t know it was icy out, but that wasn’t what I asked.  They loaded my television in my car and I drove away.  Not one inquiry about my physical well-being.

This irritated me.  I called the manager.  I told the receptionist what happened; she apologized, but didn’t ask me if I was alright.  I told the manager the story; he did not ask me if I was ok, until I pointed it out to him.

It got me thinking: have we really reached a state of such disrespect or perhaps fear of law suits that we can no longer take a minute to offer our hand to help up another person?  If someone slips on the ice, can’t we ask them if they are ok?  Or take that minute that was spent getting salt to scurry out and offer me a hand up?

I shared this story with my kids, and my oldest explained to me the concept of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.  He said that part of the concept is that G-d made the world broken; it is why bad things happen to good people.  I had never really thought about it in those terms, I always had thought about it as doing good deeds.

Today’s experience really drove home the message for me.  The world is broken if a reasonable adult cannot take a minute to ask another adult if they are injured after a fall on the ice.  I think that we have become so disconnected and afraid that we no longer take a minute to see if anyone is ok.  I’m not sure what has driven us to be this way.  But, my challenge for everyone is to think, what you can do to make the world a better place.  I for one will stop and help someone who has fallen on the ice.  But, maybe it is also holding the door for the person behind you, or saying hi or complimenting a stranger.

Habits are formed over 20 some odd days.  February is a short month.  This month I am going to try and do one kind thing for another person every day.  Maybe I will develop the habit of making the world a better place.  Want to join me?