*Photo by Daniel Albanese
The Jew & The Carrot is a blog about Jews, food and contemporary life. We strive to maintain a diverse and inclusive community on the blog – one which welcomes posters and readers from across the Jewish denominational spectrum and beyond, and from all walks of culinary life…Our aim is to ensure that this community is inclusive and safe, as well as being a platform for vibrant discussion.
I thought this quote from the blog’s Community Guidelines was particularly relevant in my post last week, A “Traditional” Passover Seder or How to Make Everyone Happy Around Your Table. One of the comments on my post came from someone who identifies herself only as J. who pointed out that I had conflated the words chametz (the five grains – wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt, according to the torah are prohibited on Passover) and kitniot (which apparently can be literally translated as “little thing-a-ma-jigs,” that are also prohibited on Passover but are not chametz and are subject to debate as to what exactly falls into this category). I was pleased to get such a correction through the blog as it taught me something new.
However, I will disagree with J.’s point that as a convert I don’t have minhag. As I do feel that I carry with me a minhag avot (traditions or as defined by Michael Makovi in the comments specifically as “what your forefathers did”). Although I do not have a Jewish family, I still have a loving family and traditions that I was raised with. Traditions that I have tried to incorporate, the best that I can, into my new Jewish life – which brings me to charoset.
According to Wikipedia, charoset can be made from “chopped walnuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine” while Sephardi recipes also “call for dates and honey.” That combination of ingredients reminded me of an afternoon when I was very young, making date cookies with my mom (I was supposed to be taking a nap, but I hated taking naps so this day my mom relented and I got some very special alone time with her while my other sisters slept). The memory is pretty fuzzy, but I remember rolling a sweet, dark brown, sticky paste into little logs that we dusted with coconut.
Unsure of the details from this memory but thinking I was onto something, I called my mom and asked her if we had ever made date and coconut cookies together. “You remember that?” she said, “They were date and nut cookies, and that would have been a very long time ago.” And in fact it was, when she later unearthed the recipe (hand-written by a little old lady from my parents’ church) we realized I would have been about three years-old when we made those cookies (my mother writes copious notes on all the recipes she tries). The recipe is as follows (copied directly)
- Melt ¼ C. oleo [margarine] in an iron skillet. Add: 1½ C chopped dates, 1 C sugar and 2 eggs (well beaten). Cook for 15 minutes on low. Cool slightly.
- Add 2 C Rice Krispies, 1 tsp. vanilla and ½ C chopped nuts. Roll into small balls or about 1-inch fingers. Then roll in Angel Flake Coconut.
The next day when I made the date-nut cookies rolled in coconut, they were pretty much what I remembered – and apparently sold in many grocery stores. But it really got me thinking – could this be my (rather unique) charoset at my Seder this year? I realize that charoset is served in a bowl to be scooped out and not as individual finger-like cookies. And charoset doesn’t include eggs and would never include kitniot (which some of those ingredients would be by some standards) – but this was something from my family history, which strikes a chord with me. So if I were to follow my own minhag avot could I serve this childhood memory at my Seder table?