The Many Families of Passover

Guest blog entry by Penny Goldsmith


I’ve been a guest at many seders at Penny’s home over the years, and because we now live in different cities and I couldn’t come to her seder this year, I invited her to be a guest on my blog. – Marusya

I took the day off to cook. At 7:30 a.m. a knock on my door. It was one of the workmen from upstairs (major and loud renovations are going on in the house), telling me that I wouldn’t be able to use the water until noon. I begged for five minutes’ grace and filled everything I could think of!

I don’t host seders every year; it’s not so much the work of cooking (and filling pots of water!) as the struggle of identifying family and friends – who will come, who will get along with each other? I also wonder: are there at least some Jews there who are familiar with the seder process and already know my eclectic and very personal haggadah?

But this year, I was thinking about families and commitment, and so I wanted to prepare the feast for friends in Vancouver — some new, some old, some old, some young. …

There were ten of us in all; the table graced with silver candlesticks, a gift from my cousins on my 50th birthday. Elijah’s cup was my grandfather’s, and the seder plate was part of a set of crockery my mother always brought out at Passover (although we never were a particularly religious family). My home is full of books, so it was only appropriate that as well as the haggadah that I had revised for the occasion, there was a table of more traditional ones, including the one that my grandfather wrote, as well as alternative offerings, including my favourite of this year, called Love and Justice in Times of War Haggadah, subtitled, “Get your Feet Wet.”

As always, my not so large apartment magically expanded to fit everyone comfortably.


I started the day’s cooking with tsimmes (a savoury gratin of yam, apple, carrot and prune), from Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest – it takes two hours to bake and my oven wouldn’t hold it and the chicken at the same time. The trick with a seder is to have everything ready beforehand, but it’s not always easy to keep everything hot. At some point later in the day, my upstairs neighbour came home to check on the devastation of their torn apart house, and I sought advice: “How do I keep the chicken (by this time, 5 pm, already roasted), and the tsimmes and the mashed potatoes all hot until the service is over?” A moment of thought and then she gave me some of the best advice I’d ever received. “You leave all the food in the oven, turn it off, and turn it back on at 325 degrees fifteen minutes before you’re going to eat.” It worked like a charm. The chicken was moist, the tsimmes and mashed potatoes hot but not dried out.

The charoset is one of the symbols on the seder plate. It represents the mortar that was used to build the pyramids in Egypt. This I did make the day before. It’s better the longer it steeps. The recipe is a mixture of my mother’s and a Moroccan recipe that came, I think, from a magazine some years ago. It’s sweet and delicious.

• 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped raisins
• ¼ cup diced pitted dates
• 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped blanched almonds
• 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped walnuts
• 1 apple cored and diced
• 1 pear (fresh or dried) cored and diced
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
• ¼ cup sweet red Pesach wine or dry red wine sweetened with sugar to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process to the consistency desired. Yields about 2 ½ cups.

I doubled this recipe, and then panicked that there wouldn’t be enough and made another batch. It almost all went – but there was enough left over for me to have for breakfast the next morning.


  1. That looks nice! Probably I can taste some of those if the husband of my aunt can cook something like that. Since he is a Jew as well.

  2. Hi Penny,

    That oven sure must have wafted fragrant. My mouth is watering. And the seder table looks very inviting…blue, orange, silver, glass. See you soon!

  3. Hi Penny, sounds like a wonderful feast. I love the table, crowded with people and things that matter. The food you describe is not at all familiar to me and so it sounds exotic and yummy. The charoset recipe looks very tempting. I have been nosing arouond Morrocan cooking lately, so this may be the place for me to jump in.

  4. I was honoured to have been one of the guests at Penny’s seder and I can tell you that all of the wonderful smells you imagined were there. I’m a real fan of tsimmes and vow to learn how to make it. The seder was magical, the people chemistry just perfect, and all choreographed by a wonderful friend and great cook.

  5. I’m very intrigued about the hagaddah. So did you write your own revised haggadah Penny? I’ve heard of a feminist haggadah, but I don’t know what that means.

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