Reinventing the Wheel
Every spring brings more articles about creative and fun new recipes to try for Passover than there are cherry blossoms down in Washington. This year brings a Washington Post story about a local caterer whose selections include a grapefruit ceviche in lieu of gefilte fish, or the story in the New York Times about the Jewish Rachael Ray who proffers quinoa and French macaroons. (Aren’t they actually macarons if they’re French? I trust Pierre Herme on this sort of thing…)
I have nothing wrong with doing something new for the seder. However, I personally feel absolutely no compulsion to do anything new for Passover this year, or any year really. Sure, sometimes I might mix it up a little, but there’s never anything like pickled Latin American fish on my seder table. I LIKE gefilte fish. I LIKE a Kosher turkey or a properly cooked brisket. I LOVE ye olde Ashkenazic-Jewish-American charoset, right down to the generous splash of crappy Manischevitz wine. I like tucking into hard-boiled eggs–Passover being the only time I eat them as a dinner course–and I like any potato or vegetable kugel that is made from scratch. About the only traditional American Jewish Pescah dish I detest is carrot tzimmes, and that’s because I don’t care for cooked carrots. Even then, I’ll ferret out the knaidle when nobody’s looking. (Ooh, knaidle!)
I suppose one could argue that the same-old Passover dishes are borrrrring…too boring for the big newspaper food sections to cover. But the Washington Post covers several turkey and gravy recipes for Thanksgiving every year–Jeanne McManus, a former editor of the section, even went on record once saying she feels the paper owes it to home cooks to guide them through this holiday when noncooks tackle a serious home-cooked meal for the only time each year. And the NY Times included a great video of how to carve a turkey, with a butcher doing the demo, last November. If they can do that, why can’t they cover a traditional seder in the spring? After all, it’s the one time every year when Jewish people cook a big meal packed with symbolism and tradition.
Maybe I’m the wrong one to ask. I eat the same things every Thanksgiving too, and I’m perfectly satisfied doing so. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to holiday foods. I think trends flutter away like those same cherry blossoms, and I’d rather enjoy something more substantial and old-fashioned when it comes to an occasion that happens only once a year.