When I lived in China, situations would arise when I would tell people I was Jewish. Once, I was at a restaurant for an official school dinner when we were served a chicken-brothy soup with dumplings in it that was strikingly similar to matzoh ball soup. My assessment somehow made it to the ears of one of the school leaders, who asked if I was Jewish, then nodded and said he had heard of those.
About a year later, a somewhat skuzzy local businessman who spoke English and had made friends with my predecessors insisted on taking me out to dinner at the same restaurant mentioned above. We ordered the same soup, I made the same comment about its resemblance to matzoh ball soup, and he was suddenly absolutely giddy to learn that he had met himself a real live Jew. He does business frequently in Ethiopia, and called me a few days later to ask if he could bring me any “Jewish things” from Ethiopia.
Needless to say, Passover was a lonely time. I’m not highly observant, but I would have loved to curl up with a few matzoh balls and a cup or two of Manishewitz with a few like-minded individuals. Strangely, not many Chinese seem to have heard of Jewish people. The subject would occasionally come up in conversation, and when I told them in Chinese that I am Jewish, they would shake their heads ignorantly.
I find this interesting especially because there is (or, was) a Jewish Quarter in Shanghai, where refugees fleeing Europe settled. But with the ban on speaking at all of Western religions, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since Christmas is as secular as Valentine’s Day.
After a few years of wandering through the Jewish desert of China, I’ve made it to Florida, where there is certainly no dearth of Jews. In honor of finally being able to find some Manischewitz wine again, I made my second favorite (after matzoh ball soup) Passover dish, Charoset.
I know everyone jokes about how Manischewitz isn’t really wine, but as a sweet-wine loving oeno-rube, I relish the four cups of wine routine.
My charoset is a jewel-colored mix of the best of the dried fruit world. Figs:
Yes, there’s a piece of paper towel under the fig so it doesn’t leave a smudge on my new light box.
Whirred together in the traditional Cuisinart:
Then mixed with some chopped, roasted walnuts:
And then of course, a conservative glass of Manischewitz wine, plus a little extra to drink out of the glass before you pour it into the mixing bowl.
Heap onto matzoh:
And just to make it sound extra trendy and healthy, it’s vegetarian, vegan, and Kosher! May health foodies everywhere rejoice. And to those who partake, merry Passover. Can I come to your seder?
Fig Apricot Date Charoseth
2/3 C dried Mission Figs
2/3 C dried apricots
1/3 C pitted dates
1 C chopped roasted walnuts
1/4 C Manischewitz wine
1/4 t each cinnamon and ground ginger
1/8 t cayenne pepper
Whir the dried fruit together in a food processor. To roast the walnuts, heat oven to 350 degrees, dump the walnut pieces on the tray, and bake 5-7 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Mix the dried fruit with the walnuts, wine, and spices, then drink 4 cups of wine and say L’Chaim!
For more on being a Jew in China see:
The Huzhou Food Jew is a Lonely Eater
For more about being a Food Jew: Jew Eat Yet?America, cooking, holidays, home cooking, recipes