Fish and “Chrain”
The British may have their fish and chips. Never having been in England, I cannot vouch for the taste. But in my family, especially at Pesach, we enjoy our fish with “chrain”. The fish is Shula’s wonderful and delicious gefilte. The “chrain” which will bring tears to your eyes is Binyamin’s hand-grated horse-radish. No gefilte fish can be served without a good “chrain”.
My mother used to make it, shredding a large white horse-radish on a riebeisen…a hand-held grater, while holding a handkerchief to her eyes to prevent the scent of the “chrain” from burning her eyes. We always loved mother’s “chrain” especially when it was combined in Hillel’s sandwich with the sweet charoset mixture of grated apples, almonds, cinnamon and wine… a combination of the bitter and the sweet. It was a lesson for us all, that in every life we taste the bitter with the sweet.
This year, sadly, we will be eating more of the bitter and less of the sweet. Ma nishtana ha laila ha zeh? Why is this seder night different from all other nights? On all other nights I was honored to sit at the table surrounded by my children and grandchildren and wife. This year my beloved wife will no longer be with us. Her seat at the table remains unoccupied. I do not permit anyone to sit in Rahel’s place. In front of her chair on the table stands a photo of her smiling at us. We try to smile back through our tears but it is very painful and difficult.
My two daughters will be cooking and baking, following the recipes of their mother… recipes brought from Poland to Israel and passed down to generations of family members. Rahel will be absent from our Pesach table but the taste of her wonderful Pesach foods will remain a very delicious and loving memory.
Our “chrain” will be red, beets combined with horse-radish, strong but less strong than white “chrain”. My cousin Binyamin has lots of courage. He grates the white horse-radish without a tear in his eyes, making probably a kilo or at least a half-kilo of his famous Pesach “chrain”. All of Ramat Hasharon can smell the strong “chrain”. It is a happy marriage of his “chrain” with Shula’s gefilte fish.
On Pesach, zman cherutainu, we recall our liberation from Egyptian bondage as we began the long forty year trek to the land which God promised to Avraham and to his descendants. We are those descendants and our land, Eretz Yisrael/Medinat Yisrael is our gift from God who keeps His promise to our ancient people.
We are no longer in slavery. We no longer have to wander through desert and wilderness to reach our promised home. It is here and it is our duty to cherish and protect it from conflicts and dissent within and without our borders.
If your “chrain” is too strong, add a lot more of the sweet charoset… a happy and satisfying combination. And remember that gefilte fish is not gefilte fish without Binyamin’s hand-made “chrain”. B’tayavon. Bon appetite. A kosher and zeesen Pesach.
Yes, the British can enjoy their newspaper-wrapped fish and chips. As for me, I’ll take my fish with “chrain”.