Passover Blessings!

Posted on April 18th, 2011

As an Italian-American, celebrations are a large part of our heritage and culture. All festivals are celebrated with delicious food, wine, and of course our family. Passover is a special time of year in Italy offering a rich tapestry of Jewish cultural expressions apart from its unparalleled natural beauty and remarkable artistic achievements  As we know, the major elements of the festival include family gatherings, the Seder meal, feasting and making merry. An Italian Pesach is steeped in history and tradition. I would like to wish everyone a joyful and blessed Passover!

Ever since the first Jews landed in Rome in the 2nd century BCE, they have made a distinct mark throughout Italy. However, Venice, located in northeastern Italy, has always been a Jewish hub. While coming back to Rome, the Italian Jews have created their own style and traditions of cooking since they were always isolated from other Jewish communities. Highly influenced by the Roman cuisine, the Jewish food is different from the Sephardic Jews of Spain and the Middle East as well as the Ashkenazy Jews of Northern and Eastern Europe.

A typical Roman menu for Passover would start off with starters like Haroset all’italiana, a paste-like mixture of ground dates, oranges, raisins and figs; carciofi alla romana and bresaola (air-cured beef) with arugula and lemon; carpione, cubes of fried white fish marinated in an herb vinaigrette with caramelized onions; and stracciatella, an egg-drop soup. The main course of the Italian Seder boasts of tortino di azzine, matzoh lasagna made from vegetables and lamb that is accompanied with insalata alla Sefardita, a salad of romaine, dill and green onions with red wine vinaigrette.

The desserts usually include ricciarelli di Siena which are rich almond-paste cookies rolled up in powdered sugar. The Seder plate is brought to the Seder table with great honor covered with a beautiful scarf. While the plate is brought to the table, the entire family members and others present sing songs to pay respect to it. Before placing it on the table, the plate is placed on a child’s head and rotated allowing everyone to have a look of it. Three pieces of matzoh are tied in a napkin to form a little sack. This sack is then passed all around the table from shoulder to shoulder.

A green onion, with long stems, is placed beside each member at the Seder table. This is picked up and wielded like a whip while singing Dayenu. While singing the chorus, the wrist of the person sitting next to a person is whipped with the onion on the stem. In case you are planning to celebrate one of the most memorable Passover, head straight to Venice where you can immerse yourself into an Italian Jewish’s life, both past and present.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 18th, 2011 and is filed under Holiday. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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