Welcome to the first part of my Virtual Seder! I hope you learn, I hope you feast and more than anything I hope you are entertained. I will do my best to be both reverent and irreverent over the course of these posts. Traditionally the story of Passover is told near the beginning of your Passover Seder. First it is preceded by blessings and the drinking of a cup of wine. After the wine everyone washes their hands and moves on to the first element of the Seder plate. Now the Seder plate is a literal plate that has been set with 7 symbolic foods for the telling and remembering of Passover. These foods are consumed in a specific order. Tonight we feature the first – the Karpas. This is the first food eaten of the night after the washing of hands.
The Karpas is a vegetable, usually something bitter like parsley, and it is dipped in salt water before consuming. This is meant to symbolize the bitterness and tears of slavery for the Jews of Egypt. This action, dipping of vegetables in salt water, is meant to prompt curiosity of the children and lead them to ask the question: Ma nishtana ha lyla ha zeh mikkol hallaylot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
SO why do Jews celebrate Passover? What prompted this holiday in the first place? Well it’s a line from Exodus in the Old Testament that provides the basis for the entire ritual: You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:8)
The Story of Passover – as overly-simplified and wryly told by Olivia.
Once again those people with the funny looking sideburns were the target for some genocidal lunatic. They ran away, survived and now to remember the fact that we once again managed to avoid extinction spend by spending 8 days eating, drinking and praying.
Haha very funny Olivia. So what is it…really?
Well the story that most people who are familiar with is the Biblical narrative of Moses. Many many years ago the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt. Some crazy Pharoah decided that all male Hebrew babies should be put to death. One mother managed to hide her child for a while and eventually, in a desperate attempt to save his life, set him adrift on the nile in a basket to avoid the soldiers that had come to kill him. The child was discovered by the Pharoah’s daughter and raised as a member of the family. Many years later the boy, who was named Moses, intervened when an Egyptian was beating a Hebrew slave. Intervened as in he killed the slaver. Whoops. Papa Pharoah not so happy about that so Moses flees, winds up saving some more Jews, marries one and hey look you’re actually one of us. Who knew? Oh Moses did okay cool. Anyway.
Eventually after having what some might argue was a pyromania fueled schizophrenic talk with some shrubbery, Moses believes he has the command of G-d to return to Egypt and set his people free. Moses commands the Pharaoh release the Hebrews and when he doesn’t, 10 plagues descend upon Egypt. Water to blood, frogs and lice as afflictions of the land followed by flies, diseased livestock, disfiguring boils, hailstorms, locusts and days of darkness all followed as the Pharaoh refused again and again to free the Jews. Finally the tenth plague was death of all the first born sons of Egypt. Ah the story has come round from the beginning, clever narrative or a just G-d depending on your personal religious leanings. The Hebrews marked their homes with the blood of the lamb so that death would know that Jewish people lived in this house and pass over their doors, sparing the Hebrew children.
And that is where the term Passover comes from. Isn’t the Old Testament so much more fun than the New? By fun I mean just the kind of radical and violent story we love to read. It may be a bloody and horrific tale but it’s certainly a captivating one. There’s a lot of “Blood of Lamb” references to Jesus but the original use of this term to denote the favor of God upon the innocent, his “children”, began with some other Jews in Egypt. I say other because as Avenue Q loves to remind us “Hey guys, Jesus was Jewish….”
Moving on…seeing children die, including his own son, apparently gets to Pharaoh. Finally he relents, frees the Jews only he changes his mind. Actually the exact wording is that G-d hardens his heart…what a dick. Apparently he set up the Pharoah to fail? I never understood that bit. Anyway for whatever reason he changes his mind and sends his soldiers against the fleeing Israelites. There’s a whole chase scene involving water being parted in the Red Sea thanks to Moses and his big stick. The Jews hustle through like there’s a sale at Loehmann’s on the other side. Once safely across the parted ocean waters, the waves collapse back down drowning the pursuing Egyptians. (Then there’s the whole Ten Comandments and getting lost in the desert thing but that’s a whole other story and holiday for another time.)
Endeth the story. Onto the Karpas!
I’ve almost always seen Parsley used as the vegetable for the Karpas and it’s probably the only time (other than some out-of-date 90′s restaurant plate styling) that you ever see curly parsley on a table. Thus I always think of Passover when I see curly parsley at the store. Typically the Italian Flat-leaf variety beats out this cousin because it’s a little less bitter but with much more flavor due to a higher volume of oils in the leaves. For my recipe today I used both varieties. I wanted to really showcase the flavor of the parsley. The result? Broiled Tilapia with a parsley-vegetable pistou. Tilapia is a fantastic fish to use when you want something with a mild flavor so I knew it would be just the thing to let my main star shine through. It’s so easy to cook if you have a broiler on your oven. If you need something simple and Kosher for the middle of the week, this is just the ticket. The whole meal can come together in 30 minutes. Plus this is a great Think Thin Tuesday post since Pistou is similar to Pesto but lower in fat and calories since it omits cheese and pine nuts. Traditional pistou is just basil, oil and salt. Mine has considerably less basil and a lot more vegetables to bulk it up.
Tilapia with Parsley Pistou
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