Thursday, April 6, 2017

April Holidays and their Culinary Traditions

Easter is a religious holiday that celebrates Jesus resurrecting from the dead, 3 days after his crucifixion by the Romans. Passover is the Jewish  spring festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelite's from Egyptian slavery, lasting seven or eight days. A traditional Easter dinner may have lamb, eggs, ham and cake or bread. A traditional Passover dinner will include wine, bread and gefilte fish. These foods all symbolize something much more than just Sunday dinner. Lamb is used as a religious symbol for Jesus and sacrifice. Since Jesus is commonly referred to as the Lamb of God. 

Red wine is consumed 4 times during 4 different moments during Passover dinner. This tradition happens for a few reasons. Red wine is shared in order to commemorate important religious moments.

Eggs symbolize rebirth, fertility and rejuvenation, so finding eggs were seen as good luck. When hens are unconfined they deposit their eggs in unexpected places. To find such a hidden nest before a hen has started to set and incubate the eggs is a perfect analogy to finding hidden treasure.

A roasted bone, hard boiled egg, horseradish root, a mix of chopped walnuts, apple and red wine, a slice of onion or boiled potato and a piece of romaine lettuce are placed on a Seder plate. The Seder plate is used as a setting for the these special foods. These food hold a great amount of religious meaning. Passover is about much more than just food, it's also about telling a story and sharing a history. 

Ham, with its rich, delicious fattiness has come to symbolize wealth and prosperity. It’s also said that ham is served because the days before refrigeration or canning to preserve foods, livestock was slaughtered in the fall. The fresh pork that wasn’t consumed during the late fall and throughout the winter months was “cured” for consumption in the spring. The curing process took several months, and the first hams were ready in the early spring.

Bread is meant to symbolize fertility. An example of bread made for the Easter holiday is Hot Cross Buns. English folklore says that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday would never spoil throughout the following year. Some bakers believed that holding on to one Hot Cross Bun and hanging it in the kitchen meant that all yeast products in the coming year would rise successfully.

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