Earlier this month, Tablet launched the 100 Most Jewish Foods project, a celebration, we wrote, of the foods that “have been most profoundly inspired by the rhythms of the Jewish calendar and the contingencies of the Jewish experience.” It should come as no surprise that Passover, arguably the most food-centric of all Jewish holidays, was heavily represented in the list. Before you sit down at the Seder table, then, why not take a look at some of its culinary highlights?
Matzo: “It is not outlandish,” wrote Tablet Editor in Chief Alana Newhouse, “to argue that only one food was present at the creation of the Jewish people, and it has miraculously managed to sustain that bond over millennia: matzo—our unleavened bread of affliction and redemption. This is the only entry that is receiving a numerical value, because on a list of foods judged for their Jewish significance, none is more important.”
Gefilte Fish: “When I first tried it, friends warned me that it tasted like a bad pike quenelle—so naturally, I had pretty low expectations,” wrote Eric Ripert, the chef and co-owner of New York’s legendary Le Bernardin restaurant. But you hardly have to be a celebrated master to know that when prepared properly, the dish—”moist, light, and full of flavor”—is a delight.
Horseradish: “Let the WASPs have their Worcestershire,” wrote the essayist and novelist Daphne Merkin; “leave it to the Jews to turn suffering into a craving.” After all, what other condiment could be counted on to save even the most gelatinous gefilte from utter inedibility?
Macaroons: “What the pedestrian foodie might not realize,” wrote cookbook author Molly Yeh, “is that the French macaron and the coconut macaroon are in fact cousins. They share an ancestor: An Italian cookie made of almonds, sugar, and egg whites, which won the hearts of Jews way back in the day because they could be eaten on Passover.” Still, if your only encounter with macaroons comes from popping open a can of mass-produced pastries, you’re missing out on some real magic.
Wine: “Call me a highbrow oenophile (lots of people do),” mused Jill Kargman, the creator, writer, and star of Odd Mom Out, “but this chick loves Manischewitz. When I drink it, I imagine douchey NoCal sommeliers dramatically swirling it in a glass, noting the tremendous nose of flamboyant cherry-kissed red oak: ‘This jammy table wine has top notes of Concord grape and… Robitussin.’”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: There’s Mina de Matzo, a lasagna-like construction popular with Sephardi Jews; Mufleta, a honey-infused crepe Moroccan Jews eat to celebrate Mimuna, marking the end of Passover; and, of course, staples like Matzo Brei, Matzo balls, and Charoset. Feast on these entries while you’re waiting for the festive meal to finally begin…