Passover in Paris
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by Jennifer Korach
As you may know, France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest Jewish population in the world. The vast majority are Sephardi and came from North Africa and the Mediterranean region. There has been a Jewish presence in France since the beginning of the Middle Ages. In fact, France was the first country in Europe to emancipate the Jews during the French Revolution.
This year, my family and I will be celebrating Passover in Paris where we have been living since August. The French refer to Passover as Pâques Juive, Jewish Easter. What’s a French seder (a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner) like? Jewish, but with better wine? Well, it's more than just that.
Let's begin with the matzah (unleavened bread). I did not find the brands we use in the U.S., but here the brands are more plentiful with a diverse selection of shapes, sizes, and varieties. My son and I did a taste test and we are converts to its light, crispy, and flaky texture. I anticipate my hand vacuum will be working overtime to pick up all those crumbs.
Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian recipes dominate the Jewish culinary world of France and as a result they don't typically serve Ashkenazi food like matzah ball soup or gefilte fish for seder. Additionally, brisket is not available because there is no such cut in France. On our menu this year will be salmon and turkey, which we had to special order from the butcher since it is usually only served during Christmas.
Being amongst so many Sephardic Jews in France means that Passover dietary law allows for kitniyot (grains and legumes) during the holiday. At the market, I found kosher for Passover beans, chickpeas, seeds, corn, peas, lentils, soy and even rice. I am sure I can trace my roots to find some Sephardic blood.
Living overseas has been a great adventure. I am looking forward to the arrival of family who will be spending the holiday with us. Although, I am not ready to let go of the wonderful Ashkenazi recipes my Grandma Millie made for yountiff (the holiday) I am looking forward to pairing delicious matzah ball soup with a spoon full of rice to incorporate the best of both worlds.
Chag Sameach (happy holidays) Cleveland!
Snapshots of Jennifer's Passover shopping in Paris
Jennifer Korach is a Cleveland native who is having the adventure of a lifetime after she and her husband Randy decided to move to Paris, France for one year with their two children. She connects with us through her blog Bonjour, Cleveland.