It’s been a horrible year of mixed emotions and isolation.
We’ve grown accustomed to wearing a mask and standing away from the next person in line. Going to the supermarket isn’t fun like it used to be, but it’s not the terrifying reconnaissance mission it was last spring.
But things are looking brighter. Most of the older people we know have been vaccinated (yay!), and the CDC says that we can get together with a few friends or maybe see our kids. So we’re trying to keep our hopes up and plan for a Passover that might be on the road to sort-of normal.
Speaking of on the road, we can count on a field trip to the amazing ShopRite supermarket in Cherry Hill, NJ, to get our enthusiasm for the most food-centered Jewish holiday going. Just off of Route 70 in the Garden State Pavilion (turn at the “Famous King of Pizza” restaurant), the ShopRite is the last store at the end of the parking lot. We’ve written about the ShopRite before and how much we love its aisles of pesachdik (OK for Passover) groceries and products imported from Israel.
Members of the tribe who live in the boondocks have told us how lucky we are to have such a tremendous selection of Passover foods. They post photos on line – of lonely jars of gefillte fish and yahrzeit candles, filling half a shelf in the “Foreign Foods ” aisle of their supermarkets. Most grocery stores do not order in the goods like the Ravitz family does. We know it’s special – and that’s one of the reasons we love it.
This year Passover comes early. The first seder is Saturday night, March 27, so we went early to check out what’s new. We passed right by the wall of pesachdik cereals.
We tried them once or twice when the kids were little, but as soon as everyone tasted them – and agreed they tasted nothing like Honey Nut Cheerios – the box went in the trash. One year, we sprinkled the O’s in the backyard, and even the squirrels turned them down. We learned our lesson many years ago: Another $4.99 ventured, nothing gained.
Then we spied a label we could love: Haroset!
Haroset is the classic mixture of apples, walnuts, sweet wine and cinnamon that stands in for bricks and mortar on the seder plate. We like to make our own. It’s one of the Passover cooking jobs the kids used to love to do. Maybe that’s because they liked to pour (and sample) the sweet Manischewitz wine. Many recipes call for only a few tablespoons of wine, which yields a dry haroset where the white, shredded apples shine through. We say the apples should have enough wine to take a bath in! They should soak it up and look a little purple by the time you’re ready to eat.
If you make Sephardic haroset, you don’t use apples. Sephardic haroset (like Sephardic Jews) comes from countries in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East – including Italy, Morocco, Spain and Israel. Sephardic haroset calls for fruits like dried dates, apricots and figs. You can add pistachios and spices like cardamom, clove, and ginger. So we give props to this import from Israel: The label says it contains Kinneret dates, which are grown near Lake Kinneret, aka the Sea of Galilee, the fertile farming region of Central Israel.
It turns out that those dates took a pit stop in Bayonne, NJ, on their way from Israel to Cherry Hill!
Did you know that North Jersey is a mecca of Jewish foods? From their gigantic warehouse in Bayonne, Kayco is a family-owned company that distributes 105 of the best-known Jewish food brands, including many that they import from Israel. Their roster of well-known Jewish food names includes Carmel, Gefen, Yehuda and Afikomen brands. (You know that’s for Passover!)
They have Sabra hummus, Telma soups, Dorot spices, Prigat grapefruit drink and Kedem the dark purple grape juice you remember. In 2019, when Kayco acquired all of Manischewitz’s products, “the announcement was seen in the kosher world as the equivalent of General Motors acquiring Ford,” wrote Joseph Berger in The New York Times.
New products from Kayco this year include Gefen’s almond milk coffee creamer and Manischewitz macaroons in Earl Grey Tea and Cold Brew Coffee flavors. We remember the year when we looked forward to sampling the “new” Rocky Road flavor, only to be disappointed by shreds of pareve marshmallow in a standard chocolate macaroon. But “cold-brew coffee” flavored? Who says Manischewitz is not hipster! We won’t be able to resist trying these, but we’re glad they did not try to make kombucha flavored.
It’s no surprise that we ended up with a cart full of Passover goodies!
But just as much as we enjoy the newest Passover products, we treasure our oldest and dearest Passover objects. When we take them out again each Spring, it’s like seeing old friends: The Israeli seder plate that was a gift from a favorite cousin. The jumping frog decoration that our preschooler made (25+ years ago!) with a paper plate and googly eyes. The shallow, wooden bowl that Poppy used to chop apples in to make the haroset. The Elijah’s Cup, from a husband’s bar mitzvah kiddush many eons ago. Joyce’s grandmother’s 12-quart Wearever aluminum stock pot – which can hold enough matzah ball soup for the masses.
We cherish the memories and the links to family history. We like combining the old and the new – so we’ we look forward to placing the new-fangled flavor cold brew coffee macaroons on Aunt Ruth’s vintage pressed glass cake stand. We know she would be eager to try them too!
Happy Passover to our family and friends!
Enjoy – and taste the haroset!