Simple advice for a better life.

Seder – A Ceremonial Meal at Passover

Passover table setting for 50While Christians are getting ready to celebrate Easter, the Jewish people are preparing for Passover.

Passover commemorates the formative experience of the Jewish people, and their transformation from scattered tribes indentured in Egypt, to a nation on the road of redemption.

Passover lasts 7 days in Israel, and 8 days in the rest of the world.  This year it begins on March 30th (actually at sundown of March 29th), and ends on April 5th.

There are numerous preparations taking place before Passover, but on the first night of Passover, a ceremonial meal called Seder, is held in the company of family and friends.

To give you a better understanding of Seder, I am posting a quote of the opening words, one of my friends recites at the Seder meal his family hosts every year for a large circle of their family and friends (their very elegant table setting above).

“We are about to engage in a ritual that has been performed for thousands of years.

It involves the telling of stories, the singing of songs and the eating of special foods.

I cannot personally vouch for the factual content of the stories and songs.

The food I know will be wonderful.

Another thing I know is that it makes me feel good to gather family and friends to share in an event that to me is intensely meaningful.

You hold in your hands the Haggadah.  Ha-ga-da means “to tell”.

And at Passover time it tells a story about freedom.

And not just freedom from slavery, but freedom from greed, envy, hate, and apathy.

Imagine a world without greed, envy, hate and apathy.

This religious ritual is merely a means to convey the idea.

It is the responsibility of every adult to bring this message to their children, so they can, in turn, pass it on to their children.

Tonight is a reminder of what we should all be doing every single day.

So if there are some factual inconsistencies, or conflicting interpretations in the stories or songs, please remember that freedom despite everything you hear about it being a right, is really a privilege borne from the responsibility to teach it by example.

Hopefully we all sense our individual freedom and the desire to teach by example.”

As the Haggadah is read, various foods, which recall slavery and freedom, are being consumed:

  • Matzoh – a flat, yeastless cracker of flour and water – symbolizes redemption and freedom
  • Maror – a bitter herb (horseradish mixed with red beets and sugar) – symbolizes the bitterness and harshness of   slavery
  • Charoset – a sweet mixture made of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine – represents the mortar used by the Jewish slaves
  • Karpas – vegetable dipped in salted water (parsley, celery or boiled potatoes) – representing tears of the Jewish slaves
  • Z’roa – a roasted lamb or goat shank bone , chicken wing, or chicken neck -  symbol of the sacrificial lamb offered in the Holy temple at Jerusalem
  • Beitzah – a hard boiled egg – symbol of fertility and spring

Also four cups of wine are drunk during the course of the Seder evening as the Haggadah is being read.

The leader of the Seder encourages family participation and discussion to make the Haggadah more interesting, and as relevant as possible.

The youngest child present, asks the question “Why does this night differ from all other nights”, which engages others to reflect on the meaning of this special event.

The Seder is concluded with a joyous “LA-SHANAH HA-BA’AH BI-YERUSHALAYIM (Next Year in Jerusalem).

No, no, this is not the end of the celebration, now everyone is treated to a very tasty, more traditional menu, which includes Beef Brisket, Oven Browned Salt Potatoes, Vegetarian Matzoh Lasagna, Gefilte Fish, Matzoh Balls, Carrot Kugel, Matzoh Apple Kugel, and numerous others, plus a myriad of other dessert choices.

Passover Food by Andi Passover desserts2Passover food

Children also have fun during Afikomen, as they are asked to search for pieces of broken matzoh, hidden in the house, and the child who finds the hidden piece of Matzoh receives the first prize (larger amount dollar bill), and all the other children receive a consolation prize, which is still money, but in smaller denomination.

If your family follows other special traditions during Seder, you are welcome to share them with all of our readers.

TIPBy next Passover, I will share recipes for some of the foods, displayed above.

Ukrainian Easter Basket – Beautiful Tradition

Ukrainian Traditional Easter BasketEaster is such a beautiful holiday, but here in the US, it does not even get close to the vast recognition that Christmas is showered with.

I know that for many people the best thing about Easter is ham dinner, and Easter Egg Hunt games.  These are wonderful and fun, but for me that is just not enough.  Easter is not only a secular holiday but also a very spiritual one, at least for Christians.

My family and I feel very lucky to be familiar with, and able to practice the Ukrainian Easter traditions.  Besides the 40 days of the Great Lent, and the different church services from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, there is the traditional Easter Basket Blessing,which takes place at the church on Holy Saturday, or right after the Sunrise Easter Sunday Liturgy, in other parishes.

Actually, not only the Ukrainians bless their Easter Baskets, but also the Roman Catholics in Poland follow this tradition as well, which is almost identical to the Ukrainian one.

Unfortunately, here in the US,  I am not familiar with any of the Roman Catholic churches continuing this beautiful tradition, not even the Polish parishes.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I am supporting my opinion by the conversations I had with my friends and acquaintances who are Roman Catholic, and of Polish decent.

I am very curious to know if the Polish Catholics in other foreign countries continue with this tradition, because I know for a fact that this is a must for Ukrainians all around the world.

By now you are probably getting very anxious to find out about this tradition, and of course I can’t wait to tell you.

Since the Great Lent lasts for 40 days, culminating with the morning of Easter Sunday, everyone is anxiously awaiting to partake of the foods in the Easter Basket at Easter Sunday breakfast/brunch.

The Traditional Ukrainian Easter Basket contains the following foods:

  • Paska (Easter Bread)
  • Ham
  • Pork (some people also add lamb and veal)
  • Kovbasa
  • Red Beets Vinaigrette
  • Horseradish
  • Boiled Eggs (including Pysanky for decoration)
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Wine (optional)

There is a symbolic meaning associated with each of these foods, but that will have to be a future post.

All of these foods are prepared a day before, and assembled in the basket the day of the blessing.  The completed basket is decorated with flowers and greens (optional, but almost everyone does it), covered with a foil or saran wrap, to protect the embroidered scarf from getting food stained.

The beautifully arranged baskets are taken to the local Ukrainian church for a Blessing.  The parish priest is all dressed in his special holiday robes, carries a cross, holy water and a prayer book, chants all the special prayers associated with all the foods to be blessed, and generously sprinkles the Holly Water all over the food filled baskets and his parishioners.

Blessing of Easter baskets

It is a beautiful site, to see the numerous baskets sitting atop of rows of tables, with a burning candle in each, and beautiful embroidery adoring each basket, not mentioning the wonderful aroma of the food.

Ahhh… if you could only imagine the aroma of fresh bread, smoked meats, horseradish…it is an amazing thing to experience.

The though part is, that you are not all0wed to eat any of this food until after the Easter Sunday Liturgy, and in addition to that, you are fasting the whole day on Holy Saturday.  Now you know why this food tastes so great on Easter Sunday.

HAPPY EASTER TO YOU ALL!!

CHRIST HAS RISEN – INDEED HE HAS RISEN! (English)

KHRYSTOS VOSKRES – VOISTYNU VOSKRES!! (Ukraninian)

KHRYSTUS ZMARTVYCHVSTAL – PRAVDZIVIE ZMARTVYCHVSTAL! (Polish)

Kobasa from NYCKobasa is a very popular food in Eastern Europe, and fairly well known even here in the US.

However, as with any other ethnic foods, one will come across several different spellings and pronunciations, related to the same food item. Kobasa is one of these foods, as you can see in the title of this article:

  • Kobasa – is the most popular name used by most Ukrainians
  • Kovbasa – is actually the correct (literary) name to be used
  • Kielbasa – this is the Polish description of the product
  • Kobasi/Kobasy – I hear that a lot here in the US, among the Eastern Europeans. I guess you can call it an “Americanized” version

Those of you who are not familiar with any of these description, probably wonder what is this item.

Unfortunately, the description will not do it justice, as it sounds worse than it really is.  Kobasa (as I refer to it), is a pork sausage, made out of pork meat and some pork fat, flavored with lots of garlic, salt and pepper, stuffed in an artificial or natural casing, and smoked to perfection.  Some butchers like to add some beef to their kobasa, and now you can also find veal, chicken, and turkey sausage (but I personally would not call these kobasa).

My dad made the BEST kobasa, and all the folks who were lucky enough to taste it, would definitely attest to that.

Kobasa, being smoked, may be used as is, cooked, baked, or used in other dishes.  The Ukrainian and Polish cooks like to prepare it with sour kraut, and serve it as a hot meal.  If you are in NYC and would like to have an authentic Ukrainian meal, please stop by Veselka Restaurant.


Kobasie with Kraut (Bigos)

If you visit Ukraine or Poland, you will find kobasa available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Having sliced kobasa with fresh rye bread, fresh slices of tomatoes, and cheese, is a standard breakfast menu. Scrambled eggs with sauted kobasa is great as well.  Kobasa is used in Eastern Europe on daily basis, just like hamburgers in the US.

Kobasa, Italian sweet peppers, party bread

So, if this stuff is so good, where does one find it?

Well, you already have seen all different brands of “Polish Kielbasa” in your favorite grocery store, but the ones I have tasted don’t come close to the ones you can find at a Ukrainian, Polish, or German butcher shop.  My favorite one is Ukrainian or Polish kobasa, as they are flavored just the way I like it, and smoked with the right kind of wood.

Most larger cities have these butcher shops still available, but because more and more people are being health conscientious, and do not consume as much of these products as they used to, the number of these privately owned specialty shops have dramatically decreased.

I will list some of the ones I am familiar with, and would love  my readers to utilize the comment section of this post, and provide contact information for their favorite butcher shops in their location (even if you live in another country, it might benefit other people living there and searching for this information).

East Village Meat Market and Deli

139 Second Ave., New York City, NY  (between 8th and 9th Street)

Owner: Julian Bachynsky

212-228-5590

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Olympic Community Market

122 40th Street, Irvington, NJ

Owner: Oleh Lazirka

973-375-3181

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European Meat Market

20 Downs Ave, Binghamton, NY

Owner:  Konstantin Nagorny

(607) 777-9519

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Dnister

9 Glenwood Ave, Binghamton, NY
Phone: 607-729-5905
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Pulaski Meat Products

123 North Wood Ave, Linden, NJ
908-925-5380
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Sikorski Meat Market

603 Manhattan Avenue
(between Driggs Ave & Nassau Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Williamsburg – North Side, Greenpoint

(718) 389-6181

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Krakus Market

3150 Richmond Street, Philadelphia, PA

Owners: Zenon and Elizabeth Gardyasz

215-426-4336

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If you like your pork sausage with a similar taste to Kobasa, but leaning a little more towards the taste of salami, you can find it in NYC at:

Salumeria Biellese

378 8th Ave

(two blocks South of Madison Square Garden)

212-736-7376

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My Collection of Easter Eggs (Pysanky)

Ukrainian Easter Egg  - Family collectionIf you have been following my posts for a while now, you have learned a great deal about the Ukrainian art of Easter Egg decorating.  However if you just joined us recently, you may catch up by visiting these previous posts on this subject:

Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pysanka) – Tradition and Design

The Twelve Steps In Decorating Pysanky

80 Years Old Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Pysanky)

Today I would like to share with you some of the Easter Eggs in my own collection:

easter-eggs-decorated-by-my-children

My children, during their early teenage years (that is several years ago now), designed these Ukrainian Easter Eggs.  I have devoted 16 years as a volunteer program director of a youth group at my church, and Easter Egg decorating was the most desired craft project every year.  Even the youngest group members, 6 years old, tried their hand at the art of decorating Easter Eggs (we would let them use hard boiled eggs….to avoid disasters and disappointments with the finished product).  It was such a joy to see their faces light up, once the wax came off their completed eggs, and the beautiful colors of the design miraculously appeared from underneath.

Now let me share some of the different styles of Easter Eggs in my collection.

easter-eggs-designed-by-very-talented-young-ladies-from-my-church1

These two Ukrainian Easter Eggs were designed by a couple of very talented young ladies from a church my family and I were members of in upstate New York, and presented to my husband and me, as a going away gift.

easter-egg-from-poland

This Easter Egg was shipped to me from Poland, by my niece.  It is a real egg shell, and the design is brush painted on, and preserved with a special sealer.

real-egg-shell-studded-with-beads

This Easter Egg was designed in Ukraine, and given to me as a gift.  It is a real egg shell studded with color beads, creating an interesting design.

painted-wooden-eggs-from-ukraine

These  are wooden eggs, with the design painted on.   These eggs were made in Ukraine, and purchased by me at a craft show.

You may like to visit The Ukrainian Museum, to preview a beautiful display of Ukrainian Easter Eggs and other artifacts.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day EVERYONE feels Irish, especially those who like to drink beer, since  green beer is plentiful that day.

My son-in-law is of Irish and Dutch decent, so he and my daughter always host St. Patrick’s Day party for their family and friends.  My husband and I also attend, and enjoy spending some fun time with everyone (there is always lots of great food and plenty of drinks).

I bet you thought I will post another recipe, but this time I decided to post this wonderful poem:

AN IRISH FRIENDSHIP WISH


May there always be work for your hands to do


May your purse always hold a coin or two


May the sun always shine on your windowpane


May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain


May the hand of a friend always be near you


May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!!


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