Seder in the 16th

by tiresomemoi

Or Passover 101 for my French friends

Hard won (horseradish)Chopped horseradish


Paraphrasing and just plane lifting from Wikipedia: The Seder is a festive meal where friends and family retell the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This story is in the Book of Exodus: “You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:8) Traditionally, families and friends gather in the evening to read the text of the Haggadah. The Haggadah contains the narrative of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, special blessings and rituals, commentaries from the Talmud, and special Passover songs.

“Seder customs include drinking four cups of wine, eating matza, partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate, and reclining in celebration of freedom. The Seder is performed in much the same way by Jews all over the world.”

Sweet wine and regular wineWine


My own personal Seder plate
The plate

The Seder Plate

Maror and chazeret — Bitter herbs (lettuce and horseradish), these represent the bitterness and harshness the Jews endured in Egypt.

Charoset — My favorite part, represents the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the pyramids of Egypt. Charoset is made with nuts, chopped apples, dried fruit, cinnamon, and sweet red wine.

Karpas — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, usually parsley, sadly cilantro* in our case, which is dipped into salt water (tears).  The dipping of the Krapas into the salt water represents the pain the Jews suffered in Egypt.

Z’roa —  A roasted shankbone, represents the Pesach sacrifice. It’s just there for looks, it’s not eaten or otherwise used during the meal.

Beitzah — A roasted hard-boiled egg, represents the festival sacrifice. The beitzah represents mourning over the destruction of the Temple.


Durring Passover chametz, bread and other food which is made with leavened grain, is forbidden. Unleavened matzo is eaten instead.

This is the everyday matzoEveryday matzos


This is fancy Seder matzoFancy matzo


The people at this particular Seder: two state department workers and their wives and children, a woman from England and her mother, a recent Georgetown graduate and her French boyfriend**, me and my plus one.

Traditional dishes

Gefilte fish***Gefilte fish


Matzo Ball SoupNorth African Matzos ball soup

The End

*I was supposed to bring strawberries, horseradish, and parsley but unwisely asked my plus one to pick up the parsley. He brought cilantro. I have the cilantro gene so eating it is like having my mouth washed out with soap. Usually when I mention my supreme aversion to the green menace I’m met with eye rolling but to my amazement there were two others at the table who recoiled in disgust when faced with the not parsley on their plates. I kept my mouth shut and tucked the foul leaf under my plate.

**The French boyfriend had worked as a waiter in a faux French Restaurant at Epcot Center in Orlando. He hated it and said he was exploited and generally badly treated.

*** I’m not a fan of the slimy pickled version but we had fried gefilte fish too and it was delicious.

Getting Home

TDinner ended well after the last bus so I went to the cab stand at Place Victor-Hugo to hire my way home. The Taximan was none too happy to see me but reluctantly let me in. I impressed him with my wheelchair dismantling skills. Once I was in the cab and we were heading south he decided I was OK. He asked me where I was from and why I was in Paris. I asked him where he was from and what languages he spoke. Ali said he was from Algeria and spoke French, Arabic, and Berber. He said he wanted to learn English. To make it clear that he was serious about learning English he put in his British “Learn To Speak English” cd and we followed along, both repeating the phrases as instructed.

Where do you Live?

I live in a semi-detached in Richmond.

I live in a flat in Ealing.

There was one part about a pen that wasn’t called a pen that I didn’t understand at all. The pen that wasn’t called a pen lead to a discussion of the relative difficulties of our two primary languages. We then moved on to slang.

It turns out the French equivalent of “pig” (police officer) is “poulet”. I also learned that there is a student cafeteria just down the street from my apartment. All and all, a very productive cab ride.