Monday, April 13, 2009

Tradition! Tradition!

Sixteen springs ago a friend invited us to participate in a seder meal.

That experience changed our life. (Thanks, Bill, wherever you might be!)

Philip and I decided that we must integrate that family ceremony into our own set of family traditions.

No, we aren't Jewish. We are Protestant christians. But when we opened up the haggadah and celebrated the deliverance of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt, we just knew that we were celebrating our own history. All of a sudden the Lord's supper made sense. When we dipped the parsley into salt water and our matzah into charoseth we were sharing in a supper of tradition that Jesus and the apostles shared right before the crucifixion.

Each year we try to invite different friends to share the table. This year, our friends and fellow farmers, Thomas family and Moekkels family came. The girls picked reams of flowers, redbud, forsythia, weeping willow, daffodils for extravagant bouquets. We pulled out the table to seat 15. Out came the tableclothes and fancy silver and lots and lots of candles and wine glasses and big plates and little plates and fancy dishes and salt water and boiled eggs, shank bone and horseradish and matzah.

Kirsten brought horseradish and parsley and hyssop from her garden. (Along with a HUGE fresh salad from her green house) And cute little ramekins for Maggie to use in making our dessert.

Rachel brought beautiful boiled eggs from their chickens and made charoseth from apples from their last years' harvest and wine they made from local grapes. They also brought homemade dandelion wine to share with dessert. And last years' peppers from their garden which we carmelized with onions and vinegar.

We roasted a beautiful leg of lamb, farm raised, of course, studded with garlic and a paste of our friend, Stewart's rosemary, mustard, garlic and olive oil. We also roasted a couple of last December's chickens, stuffed with Stewart's sage leaves and some lemon and onions and garlic. Plenty of different homemade pepper jellies on the side. Since it is spring, we had to have some roasted asparagus (from Kroger). Also some roasted sweet potatoes with more of the fresh sage and olive oil and garlic. DON'T forget the matzah ball soup made with broth from our chicken necks and legs. Yum.

For dessert Maggie made the MOST delicious dessert of sunken chocolate cakes, using tons of Patrick's eggs, topped with a dollop of Coco's creme fraiche.

It was truly a magnificent sight, all the children (nine of them) seated around the table with parents, for hours, taking turns reading out of the haggadah, raising cups, speaking blessings, remembering that slavery is bitter, but God sweetens it with his grace. That out of sorrow comes joy and redemption and deliverance. The familiar tastes of bitter horseradish and charoseth and matzah stimulate years of sense memories.

We laugh as the kids bravely try new and strange tastes, making their own sense memories. These memories even more special as they have such appreciation for all the different foods on their plates. Last year they witnessed the birth of the lamb we ate. They named him and watched him grow. When they read that Jewish families back in the time of Christ would set apart their most perfect lamb and tend him in their yard to make sure he remained unblemished, they can imagine the heartbreak involved when it came time to butcher the little ram. We grownups look at our sweet children and try to imagine God the father allowing his perfect son, Jesus to offer up his life as a ransom for sin.

Tradition. The seder is probably the most important meal of the year for our family. Every little bit of it. Hearing the children as they grow up and learn to tackle reading out loud. All of us stumbling over unfamiliar Hebrew blessings that are so comforting. "Baruch etah adonai, elohaynu melech haholahm..."

Here is the final blessing in our haggadah:

"Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, for the vine and its fruit, and the produce of the field, and the delights of the land which is the inheritance of our fathers to en joy and love. We thank You for all Your lovingkindness to us. Have compassion, O God, on Your people Israel and build Jerusalem, Your holy city, rapidly in our days. Blessed are You, O God, for the land and its fruits."

And here is the recipe Maggie used to make our yummy dessert:

1/2 c. butter (from your own cow if your are TRULY blessed!)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (don't we wish we could grow chocolate!)
3 large REAL eggs, separated (surely you know SOMEONE with some chickens)
1/3 c. sugar, (we use succanat)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp sugar (or succanat)

Preheat over to 400degrees.
Butter 4- 3/4 cup ramekins or custard cups and dust with sugar.
Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler. Beat egg yolks and 1.3 c sugar in med bowl. When thick, pale and fluffy, add vanilla and then fold in chocolate mixture. In a clean bown, beat egg whites til frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue to whip. Add the final Tbsp of sugar and whip til stiff peaks form (or until you get too tired, it worked for us even though the whites wouldn't get stiff. Fold the whites into the chocolate very gently then spoon into ramekins. Bake for10-15 minutes or til the outside edges of the cakes are set but middle is still soft. Remover from oven. Turn out of mold, or just serve in the dish, garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche or cream or sour cream or brandied cherries or something. Taste and see that the Lord is good. I think this will definitely be served at the big feast in heaven, and then we won't even have to worry about the calories!

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