Last weekend marked both the beginning of Passover and Easter Sunday, two holidays we celebrate secularly in our household, primarily with food.
Culturally, I have no history of celebrating Easter outside of with my husband and children, so I find it that much harder to navigate when it comes to preparing for it. I have no longstanding experience with it, nothing from which to connect my childhood memories to my children’s. It feels that much harder to find a tradition to make it feel like ours, without simply looking to the mould created for us by some very wealthy and influential marketing executives, and copying it.
Passover is another story. Religious aspect aside (though we are trying to focus on the idea and the importance of freedom for all peoples), this time of year brings back floods of memories and connections; to my parents, my grandparents, family friends who sat around our seder table each year and took turns being the ones to wash the hands of others (a ritual performed by the youngest) or guzzle the goblet kosher wine when ‘Elijah came to the door’ (sorry Roger – you’re it now).
I can recall, despite my visceral reaction, how much my grandma and grandpa loved soaking their matzah in the brine from gefilte fish, or how my dad always piled on a bit too much horseradish to hide the bland chalky taste of matzoh, how my sister and I would fight over the last of the pickled herring, or how good my mothers incredibly sweet root vegetable casserole tasted for breakfast the next morning.
This week I find myself feeling extra nostalgic, as so many of the people to whom the food memories are attached are now gone or far away. We made pickled eggs and beetroot this week to honour the holiday and I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandmother. She too always had a story or an association when it came to food.
I feel a great sense of responsibility to create food memories and ties for my girls that live up to the ones I’ve grown up with. Despite my love of living amongst other cultures, I also feel out of my depth at times as so many cultural practices now pertain to holidays and celebrations that I still don’t quite understand or feel a deep connection to. I am trying, but it often feels clumsy, like I’m walking around in the dark attempting to grasp at ideas for stability, but whose shape I’m unsure of. So is, I suspect, the life of an immigrant no mater where from and where settled.
I wrote an essay about Passover below back in 2016, back when both my grandmother and father were still alive. As I found and read it this week, this particular paragraph summed up the same feelings I have today.
I don’t know quite how to take this village of people and their roles in creating my memories, and try to authentically recreate it for my own girls. How can I possibly have the same impact as the multitude of people that gathered around our seder table and beyond? I can’t. It is an impossible task. My children will remember very different aspects about their childhood community. But it will be filled with just as much love and cultural nuances and significance as mine was.
We will just have to settle for being the house that smells like vinegar just before Passover.
And so, to that end…
*While this is a very traditional Passover food, it can be eaten through out the entire year, as well I think it should be! Both the beets and eggs make for a great accompaniment to a charcuterie plate – and equally help to brighten up a cheese board with their deep purples and bright pink hues.
Pickled Beetroot & Eggs
3 large whole beetroot
6 hard boiled free range eggs
250ml/1 cup water
185ml/ 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons unrefined sugar
optional additions: cinnamon stick, cloves, celery seed
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Wash well your beetroot then wrap in foil and set onto a baking tray in the centre of your preheated oven. Roast for 1-2 hours (depending on the size of your beetroot) until fork tender. Carefully run under cool water and slip off the skin – it should peel off quite easily.
Once cooled to the touch cut into chunks and divide amongst as many glass seal-tight jars as necessary, taking care to ensure there is enough room for your eggs.
Hard boil your eggs (you can soft boil them too if you’re not planning to allow them to sit for more than a few days) and peel. Divide your eggs amongst your jars of beetroot – I like to try to strategically surround my eggs with the beetroot to allow for less white spotting and a more evenly pigmented purple colour when pickling.
In a small saucepan heat your pickling solution until just boiling and sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from heat and cool slightly before pouring into the beet and egg filled, seal-tight glass jars. The pickling liquid should completely cover the eggs and beet, if it doesn’t you can make another batch of liquid to pour over to fully cover. Allow to cool fully for approx 2 hours before sealing and refrigerating for overnight and up to a week (though the flavour will be very strong if left for a full week!)