Friday, February 27, 2009

Activist Art and the Passover Plate

I can't imagine something less attractive than the Jewish food aisle in the food stores.
The traditional food, especially for the Jewish holidays and most of all Passover means mostly the Eastern European cuisine, which is shapeless in varied shades of gray.
I'm talking about :
  • Gefilte fish
  • Matzah (Matzo) Balls Soup
  • Chopped Liver
  • Matzahs
  • coconut cookies for passover
Gefilte Fish - One of the Ready Made Versions
Photo by acidosis314 (Flicker)

Gefilte fish - a Homemade Version
Photo by
by naama rona (Flicker)

When it's home made it can be really delicious (depends who cooked it, of course...).
No - It's nothing like the appealing look of Chines food or Indian food (at least not in the variations they serve in Western restaurants..........) - don't wait for too much colors or attractive shapes most of it is pretty colorless mushy staff.

Since we came to Eugene, Oregon, few years ago, I have seen them more than once on the food store shelves - the Matzah balls powder in packs, the Gefilte Fish floating in murky water in pickle jars like the internal organs of an unknown creature in a crazy scientist's lab. Thanks God I didn't see the chopped liver anywhere in Eugene, although I'm sure it's somewhere here ( in larger cities you can find it easily).

Matzah Balls Soup
Photo by reutC (Flicker)

In fact the Seder dinner is quite amazing - for so many years people celebrate Passover dinner with the same Haggadah text reading out loud this mysterious ancient Aramaic they don't even speak (except for the very few people who still speak Aramaic) eating the same treditional and tasty (though mushy) food (as I said, if it's not from a box - it can be really yummy!)

If you are Jewish you know what I mean and if you are not - find yourself a Jewish friend (and make it soon) so that he/she will invite you for this special dinner sometime.

You know what? - I'm not proud of that but I've never been an activist artist, no political subjects in my work. I guess I am not a confident enough or a brave enough person regarding public issues . My art has always been very personal.

But these days, while I'm making craft in my fifth winter in Oregon: I'm sure - I am forty two years old, and I want to improve the unforgivable images these holidays imprinted on my brain (at least from looking at the food stores shelves). I am the most emberassed when in the beautiful food store where we do most of our shopping, on the week before the Passover dinner they, move all this stuff closer to the cashiers so everybody is engaged with it, not just people who are looking for it....

So no other choice this time, I'm all the way to the "hard core" straight froward into the "Passover plate" which is one of the main symbols of the holiday.
As for my goal.... very challenging to deal with for me because, since I was a child, I considered it as "weird" - even when the exhibits on the plate are "fresh" the look "very gray" (kind of dead). The plate itself can be very fancy but the stuff inside.......

On the plate you put six items, part of them got very strange names (even if you speak Hebrew since it's not Hebrew it's Aramaic that is written in Hebrew letters!) .Each item symbolized some issue in the story of the Haggadah (a thin book read during the passover dinner) :
  1. Boiled Egg (baitza - "egg" in Hebrew)
  2. Mixed Fruits (called "Charoset" and have brown scary color)
  3. Pparsley (Karpas)
  4. Horseradish ("Chazeret" means horseradish in Hebrew)
  5. Chicken ("Zeroa" - means arm in Hebrew)
  6. Maror (means "bitter")
My Passover Plate - set of 7 magnets

This year (2009) Passover Dinner is on April 9! Enjoy!


Daniel said...


elsiee said...

matzah ball soup - mmmmm, my favorite!!

just discovered your blog on the etsy forum thread! so gald I did!

come on over and visit me sometime: