Chef's Corner: Pesach Desserts

During Passover Jews gather to tell the story of the Exodus. “Remember this day on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how God freed you from it with a mighty hand.” Exodus 13:3

Some people wonder if it is OK to invite strangers or non- Jews to their seder table. While most guests are family or close friends, this is the perfect time to extend an invitation to someone new. A newly transplanted Jewish family or single Jewish friends living a long way from home may have nowhere else to go and likely would be grateful for an invitation. An unaffiliated Jew may recall and rekindle a link to his or her past. Nearly all non-Jewish guests find the experience fascinating. (You might, however, want to give your non-Jewish friends a heads-up on the dietary restrictions, so they don’t bring challah as a hostess gift!) A heartfelt invitation to include a stranger at your seder might just spark a lifelong friendship.

Recently, while in Portland, Marshall and I had dinner with two couples, both very old and dear friends. We have watched our children grow, made the effort to visit even when we lived thousands of miles apart and celebrated each other’s milestones. Whenever we see each other, we easily pick up just where we left off. It’s effortless to enjoy the comfort and familiarity that comes with these treasured lifelong friendships.

We have moved several times, and everywhere we go we have developed new friendships. While we know these friendships may not be permanent, we are lucky to have friends to share the moments in our lives. While living in Boston, we had the chance to be the strangers at a family seder. We had a wonderful time and were appreciative for the invitation.

Since living here in Central Oregon, our annual Passover seder has included the same group of our newest close friends. Dan and Laurel host Nancy and Steven, Marshall and me, and our collective three boys – Ronan, Laz and Jesse. Shortly after moving to Bend, we met Dan and Laurel at shul, and Nancy and Steven were friends of friends who found themselves relocated to Bend. Our “Jewishness” brought us together. Now we have become very close friends and look forward to celebrating Passover together every year. Laurel makes the matzah ball soup and prepares the table, I make the gefilte fish and Nancy makes charoset, a roasted chicken or a side dish. Together we take turns reading from the Haggadah and retelling the story of Passover. Once strangers, we are now friends for life.

Along with her delicious soup, Laurel also prepares the desserts for our seder table. Some people just have the knack for making desserts, and Laurel is a bona fide expert. She will plan, create and recreate desserts until they are just right. If you find yourself as a guest at this year’s seder, either of Laurel’s Passover friendly desserts would make a perfect addition.

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