Adding ‘magic’ and meaning to the Passover Seder
At Andy Goldfarb’s Passover Seders, guests have matzo-eating contests. They watch the host perform a “magic trick” with the unleavened bread, turning it into the Afikomen that will be the goal of a treasure hunt for children. But rather than making light of the holiday, these are activities that the Boston-based venture capitalist has come up with to ensure that his loved ones share his passion for the holiday, which this year begins on April 3 at sundown.
To Goldfarb, Passover is “magical, meaningful, and memorable” and last month he launched a website, BreakingMatzo.com, geared toward helping others create lasting holiday memories. On the site, Goldfarb, who lives in Brookline with his wife and four children (one daughter is in college), traces Passover through 150 years of his family history. He illustrates his ancestral tradition through a photo of more than a dozen family members celebrating in Poland in 1930. His great-grandfather, Max Fish, who attended Goldfarb’s family’s Seders throughout his childhood, sits at the table in a suit and bow tie.
Every year Goldfarb plans and executes a large, multi-generational Seder for family and friends with his wife and children, now 9 through 18. They write their own Hagaddah (the book used to lead the Seder), with the children designing new covers annually, and prepare the meal together, the kids helping at whatever level their ages allow. A week before the Seder, Goldfarb sends a discussion topic to all the guests, so they can arrive prepared. He picks the topics to allow participation from adults and children alike. These celebrations have become so well known among Goldfarb’s acquaintances around the country that they routinely ask him for copies of the Haggadah for their own Seders.
For years, he obliged. Finally, he says, “I decided to get into the digital age and do it once.”
His website Breaking Matzo went live on March 18. Created with the help of Lynne Viera, who tested recipes and shot cooking videos in her how2heroes studio in Cambridge, and local writer Louisa Kasdon, the site also features activities and discussion topics — under the headers Food, Fun, and Philosophy — all based on Goldfarb’s experiences.
Chief among the recipes is a collection of charoset variations from around the world. On the Seder plate, charoset represents mortar for the bricks made by Jewish slaves in ancient Egypt. Usually eaten with matzo, the most common Ashkenazic (Jews of Eastern European origin) version is made with apples, nuts, cinnamon, and red wine. But recipes vary in different parts of the world. Several years ago Goldfarb began to research charoset “because I was curious, I love to cook, and I’m always looking for things to get the kids involved.”
To that end, the site offers recipes for Ashkenazic, Spanish, Italian, Piedmontese, and Moroccan charoset. Goldfarb, who used to live in Japan and has traveled extensively in China, could not find any real examples of Chinese charoset, so he created one, also on the site, using typical ingredients such as soy sauce and pine nuts.
In a video, he makes this dish with his oldest daughter, Caroline. In other videos, the father makes rose water almond cookies, etrog (a citrus fruit) marmalade, and chocolate-covered matzo with each of his other children.
Also online are long-time favorites like Goldfarb’s chicken soup and “lucky” matzo balls (some of them have hidden gribenes, or crunchy brown bits of chicken skin); his “freedom lamb,” featuring pomegranates, dates, and figs, which freed slaves would have found in the Promised Land; and his mother’s chocolate matzo mousse cake, which he says is like a “Passover tiramisu.”
Time to make some Passover magic.