Tradition! Tevye shouts in the beloved musical Fiddler!
We are all connected to our past; to our histories; to our families. Tradition is the glue that binds us together, making us who we are, whether we want to admit it or not.
There is something about the sameness of an annual event — our traditions — that are familiar and I think, are comforting. At our house any family gathering that involves food is filled with traditions: Jeffrey’s Kiddush cup and his grandmother’s tablecloth and silver candlesticks; my mother’s handmade gravy boat and soup tureen; Aunt Carrie’s cut glass fruit compote; Maxine’s silver platter; my sister’s napkin rings. Everyone is represented. They are with us.
I happily admit it – I’m an unapologetic sentimentalist and when these lovely things are at my table, it reinforces my memories and connections. Our home is filled with the comfort and pleasure I derive from them. This is the ritual of life that somehow assures us that in the midst of change and uncertainty, that some things will remain constant: the Thanksgiving Day football game, the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or, yes, even the lowly second course of the Passover Seder: Gefilte Fish. This traditional offering has suffered the most indignant of descriptions, however accurate it might be. (Get the picture?)
To veer from any tradition can have the potential to cause a seismic emotional shift, if we change something that is tagged to that comfort. So as the head non-Jew in charge of the Passover menu in my family, it was a big challenge to approach, with justifiable trepidation, the camouflaging of the Gefilte Fish – to make it into something that looked even remotely edible.
Ah… Enter Martha Stewart, with whom I’ve developed a symbiotic relationship over the years. Through her I discovered what I hoped would be a more palatable recipe for the dreaded Gefilte Fish, made from poached Salmon rather than Pike. (Who sells pike these days, I ask you!) Some family members said why do you bother – just buy the kind in the jar. But making the effort, going to the trouble to prepare all these special things is part of the tradition, just as our mother’s did for so many, many years. That’s the point and it’s my pleasure.
Last year I worked up the courage to replicate Martha’s recipe using Salmon and we were all surprised to find that it wasn’t that bad. That’s not to say that the plates were are all scraped completely clean when they were returned to the kitchen, but I thought it was an improvement. Not so sure the traditionalists agreed…but then, we are a blended family. This year I’m adding it to the menu again, in the hopes that it comes our tradition, but I’ll keep my ear tuned to any emotional discomfort that results.
Passover this year incidentally coincides with Easter, so whether you’re having the traditional Easter Ham, the Passover Brisket (mine is roasted in brandy for five hours,) or simply enjoying the rights of spring with your loved ones –
Bon Appetit! Buona Mangia! l’Chaim! Enjoy! Tradition!
Here’s my menu: Eliza’s Chicken Liver Pate; Tillie’s Matzo Ball Soup with plenty of dill and parsnips; Martha’s Tureen of Poached Salmon; Eliza’s Brisket roasted with Onions and Brandy and Roasted Root Vegetables; Ruthie’s Stewed Compote of Apricots, Pears, Figs, and Raisins; Jeffrey’s Verona Salad of Cabbage, Cucumbers, Peppers, Onions with Sweet Lemon Vinegar Dressing; and Ilene’s Flourless Cakes for desert.
And here’s a link to many similar recipes. http://www.marthastewart.com/274198/passover-recipes/@center/307033/spring-holidays