For over 30 years I have looked at the Seder plate and wondered why we don’t eat everything on it. If it’s about symbolism and reverence what better way to create a lasting memory than with flavor. Our ability to remember something from a smell or taste is truly remarkable. The taste, the smell, the texture, the feel of the food can not only help you remember but it can almost transport you in time… and after all isn’t that the point of the Seder plate?
On my Passover table I do still have the traditional Seder plate. To my surprise my husband was able to track down an exact duplicate of the one my father has had for all these years. Being able to have the same one on my table definitely invokes strong memories of Seders past.
Each night of passover I assemble my amuse bouche plates, my husband and I enjoy them, and then after cleaning up dinner I look at my traditional Seder Plate with the various elements drying out or wilting. This makes me a little sad. Being both conscientious about food waste and knowing just how good each of those items can taste I felt even more driven to update this focal point of the Passover Seder.
The stories that go with each item are small but powerful: Charoset – the mortar that held together the great structures of Egypt, Maror – the bitterness of being enslaved in Egypt, Beitzah – the mourning of no longer having a Temple to offer our Pessac sacrifice, Karpas – the tears of the Jews from the pains of slavery, Zeroa – the Pesch sacrifice that can be no more, and Chazaret – the harshness of the salvery the Jews endured while in Egypt.
While many articles and Jews will tell you there are some that are eaten and some that are not I think creating an experience that goes with the story is whats important to me. One with out the other is either just a task bite or a good story or lesson but together they become something greater, a sum of their parts.
This idea has lead me down a path of working on the flavors. Making them just like the stories: Small, brief, but powerful. Each bit needs to be something that makes you take notice but radically different form the other and though they are not perfected yet I know I am on the right path. Offering every element of the plate makes each piece mean something more to me. I have a flavor, a smell, a taste to go with it. I also feel it’s fitting that I do offer the lamb shank as something to be eaten. This bite of all of them is rich, luxurious, complex, sweet, and savory. It makes you yearn for more. It makes you wish you had a bigger bite and isn’t that the point. If this is to evoke a remembrance of the loss of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem I think it does that. The Jews yearn for the temple. It was something grand, complex, a culmination of all that was good and right. Tasting the shank allows you to know what you are missing, what you will not have more of, and when we’re so many generations removed from the loss of the temple this is, in my opinion, a way to help see something that was good and that is no longer. After that bite and hearing the oo’s and ahh’s, you can point out “What if I told you, you can NEVER have that again..?” Now, there’s a memory, and tangible experience that leaves a lasting impression.
By doing these mini Seder plates it allows everyone to participate in working through their individual Seder plates, learning what each item symbolizes, and ensures that every morsel is consumed leaving nothing to wilt or parish. So the next time you think through your Seder plate maybe take some if not any and all of my ideas and make it an experience that no one will forget. After all isn’t that the point of Passover. It’s about remembering…