Apr 1, 2016
A Tasty Guest Post for Passover!
Read Kelly's guest blog post below, and then check out her book over on the Kar-Ben website!
Writing My First Picture Book, I Think About Food! An Unleavened Blog, by Kelly Easton Ruben
My favorite Jewish Holiday is Passover. For one thing, there is the wonderful meal. I grew up with a mother who often referenced the family’s cook from her childhood, as in the question to my Dad: “Why don’t I get a cook like my mother did?” For some reason, she never tried to learn. A typical childhood supper cooked by my mother was baked steak, similar to a piece of tire, over-boiled pasty potatoes, and frozen peas, which once, were still icy on the inside. We were all skinny. Only the beagle was fat, since the leathery meat was passed under the table to him. The one Jewish food she “made” was lox and bagels, which we all loved. When I grew up, I was astonished to find that cooking was quite simple. On Passover we serve the traditional meal, personalized by special touches. My husband’s matzoh balls are like clouds from whipping the eggs into a frenzy. The broth has simmered for 24 hours, and is dotted with slivers of fresh dill. My matzoh kugel contains rosemary, roasted garlic, and sherry-poached mushrooms.
An aspect of Passover that is of equal import is storytelling. Each year we look for a different Haggadah for variations. Some of the food-related rituals that accompany the story of Passover exemplify one of Judaism’s most important edicts: compassion. The salty water on the Passover plate reminds us of the tears of the slaves. The ten drops of wine spilled expresses sympathy for the plagues suffered even by those who oppressed us. In a time when so many view “the other” as an enemy, Passover reminds us of our unity. Another aspect of this is setting a place for Elijah. This represents not only opening the door to spirituality itself, of unseen holiness, but caring for strangers, for “the other.” The principle of loving the stranger is central to Judaism. As it says in Leviticus 19:34: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” In “A Place for Elijah,” I wanted to demonstrate the family’s lovingkindness to their neighbors, and the joy they have of sharing their common humanity. With food, naturally. Joanne Friar’s illustrations captured that beautifully. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.