The time on the Jewish holiday calendar perhaps most associated with food is Passover, or Pesach. This weeklong spring holiday celebrates freedom from slavery under Pharaoh and the Exodus out of Egypt. The centerpiece of Passover is the Seder, a special meal with specific dishes to remind Jews of their origins.
The Seder meal begins at sundown and starts with blessing over a cup of wine and has several symbolic foods:
- Vegetables dipped in salt water, karpas, symbolize the tears of Hebrew slaves and the simple foods of poor people.
- Bitter herbs (maror and chazeret) are reminders of the harshness of slavery. This part of the Seder is often freshly grated horseradish and Romaine lettuce.
- Charoset, a crumbly, sweet mixture of nuts and apples, represents the mortar used by Jewish slaves in Egypt.
- A roasted lamb or chicken bone, or z'roa, is placed on the Seder dish as reminder of the Pesach sacrifice.
- And a roasted egg (beitzah) recalls the destruction of the Temple.
A separate plate of three matzot is also at the Seder table and is eaten according to a set ritual. Leavened foods are not allowed during Passover, so unleavened matzo is the bread of choice. Matzo meal is used in place of flour in Passover recipes.