Posts Tagged ‘family’


We love making charoses!

We love making charoses!

Now back in my hometown for Passover, it was time to make charoses.  For the uninitiated, charoses is one of the traditional foods eaten at the Pesach seder.  It’s meant to represent the mortar used by Jewish slaves in building the pyramids under their Egyptian taskmasters.

It seems like every family has a different recipe for charoses.  Sephardic Jews often add dates, nuts, wine, cinnamon and ginger to the grated apples; most Ashkenazi Jews use apples, cinnamon, wine, and ground walnuts or almonds.  But my mother’s a”h recipe called for raisins as the secret ingredient.

Peeling apples

Peeling apples

Making charoses was practically a whole-day project, or so it seemed when I was a little girl, but one that I looked forward to the entire year.  We made enormous quantities of charoses since not only did we have at least 30 people at our seder, but we liked it so much we noshed for the entire week of Pesach.

First, we would buy whole walnuts.  We would spend a few hours cracking the nuts and separating the meat from the shell.  Along with the walnuts, raisins and red apples would be fed through a grinder in alternating batches.  The grinder was powered by a hand crank and lots of elbow grease, and this too seemed to take forever, but in a good way:  everyone in the family was involved and it was a relaxed, happy time.  Finally, after the cinnamon had been added, sweet red wine (the really syrupy stuff that resembles Robitussin) would be added in.  Of course we’d all have to take multiple tastes to ensure the mixture was just right.  Over the next few days, as the apples absorbed the flavors, more wine would be added, until an entire bottle had been emptied.  The stirring, adjusting, and adding took five days, right up until the Seder night.

Adding wine . . .

Adding wine . . .

The process for making charoses has changed.  It’s a lot faster and easier now with a food processor and tastes equally delicious, but some of that old-time taam (flavor) has nevertheless been lost – – everyone is so busy and pressured and of course my mother is gone, too.  But I do invite my grandchildren to make charoses with me, and they enjoy the experience.

Hopefully they will pass on both the family recipe and the charoses-making tradition to their own grandchildren some day.

... and more wine ...

… and more wine …

My partners in crime

My partners in crime

Princess Bride

When I went to my Tai Chi class, held in a small town “recreation center” which is really just a basketball gym in an old, crumbling clapboard building, I noticed several crayon drawings posted on the bulletin board.  The artist was clearly a preschooler.  Apparently, the night before, there had been a pickup basketball game, but one of the guys, a single dad, couldn’t get a babysitter, so he brought his daughter along and sat her down next to the bleachers with a box of crayons and paper.  He told her that if she was a good girl and let daddy play without interruption, he would show off her work to the multitudes.

“I’m trying to figure out what I’m looking at,” said one of my Tai Chi classmates as she stared at the “art” on the bulletin board.  Turning to me, she asked, “Anyone here good at interpreting toddler drawings?”

That was one role I certainly qualified for, since all of my young grandchildren are prolific “artists.”

“Sure,” I said with more confidence than I felt, “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”

There was a crude stick figure that was a partial amputee (one of the arms had been forgotten).  The “person” might  have been a difficult call gender-wise if not for the crown at the top of a lopsided circle,  and two giant loops at the side of its “head.”  The loops looked like long doggy ears, which was clearly the source of my classmate’s confusion.

“Oh, that’s easy,” I said (breathing a sigh of relief that I “got it,”).  “It’s clearly a princess (see the crown?) and those long doggy ears are actually earrings.”

“Yeah!” my classmate exclaimed, “I really do see it now!” She looked at me conspiratorially.  “Do you have granddaughters who like to dress as princesses?  For awhile my granddaughters were really into the princess-phase thing, and boy am I glad they are starting to get over it!  I was getting more than a little sick of the pink wands, crowns, and tutus ad nauseam!”

I laughed.

“Yeah, we also have the princess obsession,” I said, “although I confess, they’re really much more into dressing up as brides,” I replied, thinking of our recent spate of Purim costumes.

“Really?” my classmate, a woman in her seventies, exclaimed.  “Gosh, I remember when I used to love dressing up as a bride when I was a little girl!  It’s funny, but my granddaughters never ask to be brides – – I wonder why not?  They just want to be princesses !”

I thought a lot about what she said.  The definition of a nuclear family has become so blurred in the secular, Western world.  Expectant moms are often single by choice and an “ideal”  family doesn’t necessarily translate into a mother-father-child combo .   No mother today asks her young daughter “what do you want to dress up as?” and expect to hear “a bride!” as the answer.  Princesses (She Who Must Be Served) rule.   Unlike when I was a little girl, today’s young women may say they want to be lawyers, doctors, or construction workers, which is great.  But “bride” is no longer a “required” part of that equation as the be-all and end-all goal in a young woman’s life.

In the Jewish world, the concept of a family unit consisting of father, mother, and child is still very strong.   On the downside, within the Orthodox Jewish milieu, the desire to be a bride trumps just about everything else, and young Jewish women may feel panicked and obsessed if they’re not engaged by age 24.

In my granddaughters’ classes (preschool and 1st grade), there were a few Queen Esthers  dressed for Purim; a butterfly; and a ballerina or two; but overwhelmingly the most popular costume was to dress up as a bride.