by Robrt L. Pela
My spouse claims that I manage to work into every conversation the fact that we are not allowed by law to marry one another. He’s exaggerating, of course, but I am pretty bitter about this. His accusation came to mind when I sat down to write this essay, which originally began with the sentence “The Seder plate in our home was made by my father-in-law—or rather, the man who would be my father-in-law if it were legal for me to marry his son, to whom I’ve been betrothed for 11 years.”
Anyway. Frank Grossman glazed our Seder plate, sometime before his untimely death in 1978, at one of those paint-it-yourself pottery places. For those who don’t know, the Passover Seder plate (or ke’ara in Hebrew) is a platter meant to hold symbolic foods used by Jews during a Passover Seder. Each of the six items arranged on the plate has special significance to the retelling of the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, which is the point of Passover in the first place.
Probably you already knew all that, but I didn’t when I met my spouse, who celebrates Jewish holidays grudgingly, and only because I make him.
“I’m an ethnic Jew,” he tells me often, “not a religious Jew.”
Whatever. The Jews are all about their dishes, and anything involving dishware gets me going. Jews who keep kosher have a separate set for dairy-based foods and another for meat, and at Passover, those get left in the cupboard and still another set of china gets pressed into play. All this dishware is exciting to me, but not exciting enough for me to abandon atheism in favor of a religion that requires that I throw away all the food in the house once a year. I deplore wastefulness.
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Anyway. Our Seder plate is very cleverly painted, with a separate compartment for each of the six foodstuffs (bitter herb; parsley dipped into salt water; a chicken bone; a boiled egg; horseradish, and charoset, a paste made of wine, walnuts and apples). But the person who designed the original ceramic mold was a little whacked out, I think. The horseradish is shaped like a couple of curly-tailed anchovy, and the space for the bitter herb depicts what looks like three over-ripe turnips. Huh?
But the one that bugs me the most is the space for the chicken bone, which depicts an entire chicken leg; a drumstick so meaty and Flintstonian in its girth that it looks more like a weapon than a placeholder for a wee bit of poultry cartilage.
I don’t know why I care. My spouse certainly doesn’t. He recently used our Seder plate to serve cheese and crackers to a couple of cocktail hour drop-ins. Oy.