Apr 03 2010

La Pâque Juive and le pain azyme

by at 12:48 pm

This past week has been an interesting one.  Rather than fleeing to Israel, as we did last year, we did Passover here at home in Switzerland.  For this, Seth cleaned our apartment and hid our hametz under a towel (we don’t know any gentiles willing to buy it off of us).  I stopped at the Manor (nice department store with a food level) in Geneva, which has a kosher food aisle, to stock up on supplies.  I bought a couple boxes of matzah imported from Strasbourg (tasty stuff, and it is a different shape than American or Israeli matzah…rectangular), awesome macaroons from Italy, chocolate from Switzerland (the only kosher food actually made in Switzerland), and horseradish from Brooklyn.  When we were in Paris a few weeks ago, we additionally picked up some Bordeaux, Casher le Pessah, for something like 6 Euros (jealous?).  Having hauled all the stuff home, we also took multiple trips to the market and Migros, buying veggies as we needed them so our fridge wouldn’t get too stuffed.  Meanwhile, Seth cooked and cooked the whole weekend before Passover, following our carefully planned menu.  He even made chocolate macaroons, using a recipe which called for sweetened condensed milk, which he made from scratch using lactose-free milk.

On the first night, the two of us headed to our Yiddish teacher’s house, armed with beets, and did the seder there.  A few other people from Yiddish were there, along with some of her friends and her two sons’ young families.  Her four little grandchildren were adorable.  They were absolutely enthralled with the way in which Seth and I read their children’s books to them out loud, and we kept getting asked for encore readings.  Their parents, meanwhile, looked on in amazement as their kids quietly sat through several book readings.  Apparently Anglophone-accented Zoe et Theo au Parc is far more exciting than the normal Francophone version.

On Tuesday, we hosted a seder.  We’ve done it before with PJA, but then we didn’t have to cook all the food (then again, that food was the opposite of tasty).    We squished 5 Swiss, 3 Israelis, and 2 Americans besides us into our living room and used the Velveteen Rabbi’s online haggadah.  It was no PJA Haggadah, but it was pretty nice.  Our seder wasn’t quite as progressive and discussion-oriented as in PJA years past, but our vegetarian food went over quite well, including the vegetable stock for the matzah ball soup, and we all had a good time.  Dinner was capped off by some local greengage plum brandy (eau-de-vie reine-claude), purchased at the Saturday market.  Hopefully we didn’t disrupt our neighbors too much.

In the meantime, over the course of this week, I also sang Bach’s three-hour long, gargantuan St. Matthew Passion FOUR times.  Twice in the Lausanne Cathedral, once in Fribourg canton, and once in Montreux.  It was a singing marathon, for which huge numbers of hours got sucked in for rehearsal.  It was rather ironic to be singing this during Passover.  I have partially come to terms with the fact that, as a person who likes to sing in classical choirs, I am going to have to sing about Jesus in an adoring way on a regular basis.  On the other hand, I still feel uncomfortable when they are explicitly religious concerts, like Christmas concerts or Easter concerts, and I feel rather annoyed when those concerts get scheduled over my actual holiday.  The text of the St. Matthew Passion does not have the best portraiture of the Jewish people, and it felt pretty darn weird to be crunching on my matzah at the post-concert receptions.  My plate of Seth’s macaroon’s, hand labeled, “casher le pessah” and put out at one such reception, elicited fascinated attention, and everyone wanted to try this unleavened ball of something; if there WAS anyone else at the reception who was keeping Passover (doubtful), he/she probably didn’t make it to the macaroons before they were gone.  When fellow choristers observed my matzah, and inquired about it, I gave them a taste.  One said, “Oh yes, the two Pâques are at the same time this year!”  Yes, right.  French needs a real word for Passover, because the fact that non-Jews refer to Easter as Pâque and Passover as the Pâque Juive (Jews just call it Pessah) doesn’t work so well for me.  Ahem, if anything, I believe it should be Pâque and Pâque Chretienne, seeing as ours came first. On the other hand, one of our Swiss guests at the seder pointed out that, unlike in English, there is a French word for matzah: pain azyme.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “La Pâque Juive and le pain azyme”

  1. Lizon 04 Apr 2010 at 2:11 pm

    FOUR TIMES?!? Jeez louise, my condolences. Just once through the St. John was dreary enough…

  2. HSFon 12 Apr 2010 at 2:30 pm

    mazel tov on your seder hosting!

    did you see the billboard ad for this play?

  3. Jackieon 15 Apr 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Yeah, I was not very enthusiastic. But now that we’re planning for a cooler concert in June, half the group has disappeared. I suppose it is a combination of burn out plus the fact that people were more excited about the St Passion than a collection of short pieces a capella. The burnout, I understand…

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