Is it time to update the Seder plate?

Seder plate with the 6 traditional items on it

I know, I know, I did not humour you with a post yesterday. Because I had festivities to attend in the evening, I needed a long afternoon nap instead. Today I’ve had to badger J. to complete my entries for this year’s hockey pool. I’ve had a lot on my Seder plate.

Last night, I thoroughly enjoyed the 30-minute Seder, abbreviated out of respect for the short attention spans of the two toddlers present (and me). In no time at all, we managed to hit the highlights, including the Passover story, the 10 plagues (recited in Hebrew so as not to invoke any fear of smiting in the wee ones), and the meaning of the items on the Seder plate. That left us time for a few songs.

Consider the Seder plate the centrepiece of the festive table. On it are 6 traditional items: bitter herbs, bitter greens, another vegetable for dipping, a hard boiled egg, a lamb shank bone (replaced by a doggy Milkbone when the real deal is unavailable), and charoset, a fruit-nut mixture representing the mortar and bricks of our labour. Oh, and there’s matzah and salt water alongside too. Together these items represent the hardship we endured when we were enslaved in Egypt. Let’s say those herbs are bitter for a reason.

Were I to expound on the meaning of each item, you’d think we Jews were a cranky lot, but that’s not true. Sure, we went through tough times, but we have so much to celebrate. Perhaps revamping that downer of a Seder plate would help. Can we fathom some new symbols less reflective of suffering? How about a chocolate egg instead of that boiled one? Seems obvious why kids enjoy Easter more than Passover.

A pile of small coconut macaroonsWe might include something from the coconut food group, since coconut is pivotal in Passover treats. I envision some delicious canned Manishewitz macaroons, so small they can be eaten by the handful. (You’re surprised to learn that Manishewitz produces not only sweet wine but all manner of tasty kosher food? Try the gefilte fish!) Several of these one-bite wonders would look at home on the Seder plate, and they’d be one of the first things I’d crave after years of eating matzah.

Pile of toasted coconut marshmallowsThose pillowy soft toasted-coconut marshmallows would look splendid too. Kosher marshmallows are hard to come by since marshmallows are made with gelatin, an animal byproduct. If the animal isn’t kosher (pigs aren’t, I hear), neither is the gelatin derived from it. But every year, toasted-coconut marshmallows made with kosher gelatin magically appear amongst the Passover foods at the supermarket. For those of you attending a second Seder tonight (I bow out after one), what better gift for the Seder host (other than Manishewitz wine of course)? If you don’t believe me, try one of these scrumptious marshmallow delicacies sometime, and another, and another. The bag will be gone in no time.

To any observant Jews reading this post–after your second Seder ends of course–I mean no offence. I simply believe we Jews are a happy, sometimes chubby, people who appreciate our sweets, and that these treats deserve a place at the Seder. Children (and I) would prefer marshmallows to bitter herbs hands down.

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