Self Care – A Few Pics from Passover

(Quick note… this is the last of the overly religious posts for now, my fellow atheists. I just enjoy this holiday and want to share it with y’all.)

The first night of Passover ended on Monday, April 10. Well… okay… it actually ended today, March 11th, just after midnight. And it was a lot of fun… well… it would have been, but I’ll get to that…

First things first…

Of course there was a lot of religiosity, here. It’s a Jewish holiday, after all, which means services, prayers, and all that jazz. I don’t mind it, personally, because I grew up with it, and it’s not boring. Since my atheism isn’t exactly a secret, I got to make little asides and jokes last night that my family largely found funny because they know where I’m coming from. I have to be more careful tonight, because tonight’s seder is with some of Dad’s congregants, and they don’t know. But I’m okay with that, since I’ll probably be more focused on my fingers which… again… I’ll get to that…

We actually shortened things up nicely last night, so we got to the meal quicker than we have in the past, which was great. And the meal, of course, was delicious!

But I’m getting ahead of myself (largely to pad out this intro before the fold… 😛 )…

So… first things first. Like I mentioned yesterday, I made the horseradish. And I made it super spicy…

My homemade horseradish sauce...

My homemade horseradish sauce…

This was so spicy that we had to keep it covered, because every time it was opened, it almost immediately made everyone’s noses burn and eyes tear up.

And it was so. Damn. Good.

It’s also very easy to prepare… if you have a pair of goggles that cover both your eyes and nose, or can handle the fumes… or you’re congested. I didn’t have any of those conditions, so making this was a bit of a chore… heh…

In short, you first need to get ahold of some good horseradish root. Make sure it has few blemishes, is stiff and firm, and has a fresh smell. Cut off the crown and peel off the skin until you see nothing but white. Dice that up into chunks and throw them into a food processor with 2-3 ice cubes and 1/2 – 1 tsp salt. Grind into a pulp. Then, let it sit in the blender for no less than 4 minutes. Add 2.5 tbsps to 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and pulse to blend.

Get this into a covered container as quickly as possible.

Trust me. Those fumes are potent.

Also, I have no idea if letting it sit longer than 4 minutes makes it even spicier. Everything I’ve read suggests 4 minutes, but I can’t find anything talking about what happens if you let it sit longer…

And… also… be very, very careful cutting the horseradish root into chunks. I learned that the hard way when I sliced through the tips of my middle and ring fingers on my left hand…

My fingers, sliced up by a very sharp knife... post bandaging...

My fingers, sliced up by a very sharp knife… post-bandaging…

I’m relatively sure I don’t need stitches, but since I managed to hit my nerves almost directly… let me tell you… they hurt.

A lot.

So don’t do what I did.


Once my fingers were bandaged, I put a glove on that hand and went to work on the Haroset Bar.

Yes, I said Haroset Bar.

Oh wait… it was the word “haroset” that confused you? Sorry about that

Charoset, haroset, or charoses (Hebrew: חֲרֽוֹסֶת‎ [ḥărōset]) is a sweet, dark-colored paste made of fruits and nuts eaten at the Passover Seder. Its color and texture are meant to recall mortar (or mud used to make adobe bricks) which the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt as mentioned in Tractate Pesahim (page 116a) of the Talmud. The word “charoset” comes from the Hebrew word cheres — חרס — “clay.”

Charoset is one of the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder Plate. After reciting the blessings, and eating a matzah “Hillel sandwich” combining charoset and maror, the remainder is often eaten plain, spread on matzah.

In my family, it’s always been made by grinding walnuts and apples together with manischewitz in a food processor (or buying that particular premade mixture, as it’s not just the traditional form of Haroset in my family, but in general). However, Mom is allergic to apples, and until yesterday, I thought I hated nuts. So a few years back, we started this thing called a Haroset Bar…

Our Haroset Bar

Our Haroset Bar

From left to right in front, we have… walnuts, almonds, pecans, chocolate (yup), peanuts, cashews, and pistachios. In back, from left to right, we have pears, raisins, craisins, apples, and dates. In the past we’ve also had kiwi, banana, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and plums. I very much want to include dragonfruit, starfruit, and other fruits in the future, as well as chestnuts, pine nuts, and other nuts.

Also, as I alluded to already, I rather accidentally discovered that I actually like nuts. To be fair, I’ve always loved peanuts, but those are technically legumes, or beans… not nuts. However, I have very strong memories of hating actual nuts. But then I found myself absentmindedly snacking on the cashews (pre-grind) while preparing the bar when I realized… hey wait! I like these! So I tried all the other nuts, too, and… lo and behold… they’re all good! So it seems that, as I get older, my palate expands.

So at that point, guests are able to make their own haroset by taking what they want, adding Manischewitz (or whatever other alcohol they like), pouring it in to the hand chopper you see in the back left, and chopping it up until it’s a sticky, wonderful block of alcoholic nuts and fruits. Me being a chocolate-lover, I load my haroset with chocolate chips, and instead of Manischewitz, I use a thick dark chocolate liqueur. It’s very chocolatey and desserty, and yet pairs exceedingly well with the ridiculously (and wonderfully) hot horseradish.

And that’s the Haroset bar!

After that, I set up the Passover Seder Plate.

Our Passover Seder Plate

Our Passover Seder Plate

So it works like this…

In the middle there is Elijah’s cup. Then, going clockwise, starting just to the right of (and behind) Elijah’s cup, is the following…

The Z’roa. In this case, a roast lamb shankbone.
-The Haroset
Hazeret. In this case, lettuce.
Karpas. In this case, parsley.
The Beitzah.
The Maror. Sliced horseradish.

Finally, the matzah was set up. We had two kinds on the table. First is the square kind made by Manischewitz:

Matzo by Manischewitz

Matzo by Manischewitz

This is the good matzah. It tastes like a giant cracker, and I like that.

We also had out shmura matzah

Shmura Matzah

Shmura Matzah

Although we didn’t make it ourselves, it’s meant to be homemade. This is the gross matzah, IMO. It tastes like burnt cardboard… or at least what I imagine burnt cardboard would taste like… although it makes a delicious matzah brei, oddly enough. (Matzah brei, by the way, is literally just eggs with crushed matzah scrambled into them.)

The seder itself starts out with the order (yes, we sing the order of the seder), the first cup of wine, dipping the karpas into salt water, breaking the middle matzah (this is the Afikoman), the story of Passover, the four questions (Mah Nishta Nah), the second cup of wine, ritual hand-washing, blessing the matzah, eating horseradish on lettuce, making the Hillel Sandwich (horseradish and haroset between two pieces of matzah), the festival meal (this is the giant feast), bartering for gifts and eating the Afikoman, the blessing after the meal (Jews don’t say blessings before a meal, but after), the third cup of wine, welcoming Elijah into the home (it’s actually explained by Rabbis to be a metaphor, not an actual invitation to an actual ghost), the fourth cup of wine and songs of praise, and, finally, finishing the seder.

Here’s us singing the order of the seder… it’s being filmed by my uncle, and you see Dad first, then my cousin, my brother, me, Mom, and my aunt.

All in all, we started around 8pm and finished just after midnight.

Yeah, it’s long. And yes, we get pretty darn drunk (especially because, on top of the four cups of wine, there’s plenty of alcohol to enjoy during the feast, as well). And there’s family and friends, and all around just a lot of fun. I definitely would have had more fun if my fingers weren’t throbbing.

And we’re doing this all again today, too…

Except for me slicing my fingers… hopefully… because I’ll be making more horseradish today…

I’ll share some of the cool things (along with recipes) we make during the weak, including Passover Rolls, Matzah and Cheese, Matzah Pizza, Matzah Brei, and such. But otherwise, this is the end of the overtly religious posts for now.

And see? Atheists can enjoy religious holidays, too!

Oh… and I’ll be ending all of my Passover-related posts like this…

Chag Pesach Sameach, everyone!


  1. anat says

    You use a food processor to make haroset? That was a big no-no according to my grandfather. If the haroset symbolizes slavery it is to be made 100% by hand power. He had a technique to chop the apples into tiny cubes with just a knife. Didn’t even use a cutting board. Just peeled the apple , held it in one hand, scored tiny squares with the knife and sliced off the scored part of the apple.

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