For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen
I became an aunt when I was still a teenager when the idea of someone calling me “Aunt” Dori felt terribly wrong to me. My sister suggested her kids just call me Dori, and so it has been all these years. Now, at 52 years-old I wish I were that lovey-huggy-Auntie, complete with the honorific. And now, thanks to my new niece, Nicole, I am a born-again aunt, Aunt Dori.
Nicole married my nephew Ari in August. They are freshly minted newly weds. Raised in an Orthodox family, a daughter of South African Jews, I imagine that Nicole’s first Passover away from home as a married woman might be a little lonesome. I asked if there was a food that she’d like to have at our Seder, something that she would ordinarily have at her family’s celebration, and she suggested this charoset. Her mother, Jane, sent the “recipe,” which, in true Jewish mother tradition, is nothing more than a list of ingredients: dates, figs, almonds, dried apricots, honey and wine, with sometime the addition of raisins, apples or walnuts. With no set quantities, I went to our local organic food shop and bagged and labeled the various ingredients. Laying the plastic bags with their long, white, coded twist ties on the counter, all in a misshapen jumble, I thought about how inelegant this would be to work with. Nicole was arriving the next day and would assemble the charoset in my kitchen. Embracing my Auntie-ness I emptied the items each into their own mason jar and arranged them in the pantry. I loved the effect so much that I then emptied out onions and sweet potatoes from their bags and made a little arrangement in the big red bowl in the butler’s pantry. I loved how inviting the kitchen looked, ready for the women to work together, to share some old traditions as well begin some new ones.