At Passover, whatever’s on a Sephardic Seder plate makes its way into the meal, too, and onto the table throughout the entire week. In my family, harosi is one of the holiday’s most treasured extended pleasures.
Making the harosi each year was one of my grandpa’s favorite cooking projects, as far back as anyone could remember. He made huge batches of it – huge! – with real loving care for both the tradition and for the family. At the Seder we always placed several generous bowls of it around the table to enjoy through the meal, and afterwards, Papú would gift each of us a jar or two – labeled with our names, and swaddled lovingly in acres of paper towel and rubber bands – so we could each keep spreading the love throughout the weeklong holiday. We spread it on matza. We spread it on cake. On cheese. Over ice cream. On spoons – it’s great straight from the jar. Ottoman Sephardim eat spoon sweets, and harosi is one more.
Harosi represents the mortar used in building the Great Pyramids of Egypt, but please let any similarity end there! As a little girl raised on delicious Sephardic food, I was convinced that at the Ashkenazi religious school I attended, they took this mortar business a tad too literally. Each year as part of our Passover lesson, they’d break out the paper plates and serve us a nasty snack of soggy, grainy, grated apples, raw, wilted and brown from oxidation, with huge hunks of walnuts and waaay too much cinnamon. I wondered, were we supposed to be eating raw cement for real? It never held together in any sense, and I truly didn’t mind when the dubious treat invariably fell from the matza and onto the floor. Even at five, six, seven years of age, in those moments I took great, if quiet, pride in my culture’s culinary superiority. (To be fair, my Ashkenazi grandma was a sensational cook, and hardly alone at that among Ashkenazi cooks. But she wisely left the harosi-making to her Sephardic in-laws).
Granted, I don’t consider my family’s harosi to be easy on the eye. It’s an opaque, purplish-brown mush, frankly, and there’s no way around that. But it’s luscious and sweet, really one of the uniquely delicious treats of Passover. Savor it all week, with some cheese and a glass of chilled white, over ice cream or Greek yogurt, or straight from the spoon. If mortar really did taste like this, those Pyramids wouldn’t have stood a chance.
4 responses to “Harosi: For the Seder Plate and Then Some”
It’s Rochelle Amateau Mann from california i loved reading your wonderful and informative article love you
Hi, Rochelle! Thanks and love to you, too.
An Ashkenazi friend brought me her apple-and-walnut harosi when I was observing Pesach for the first time. She also brought me the Persian harosi, which she ordered by mail from Zabar’s in New York. I’m ashamed to say I gobbled the Persian variety, while I ate relatively little of her Ashkenazi version. And hers was homemade! But it’s just as you say- the Ashkenazi version was not to my taste, chunky and bland. Can I say that my Marrano ancestry prefers harosi like yours? LOL
Well now. Unless you mean to be derogatory, you shouldn’t call your ancestors Marranos, because it means swine. Converso works. Besides, a pig will eat anything you feed it!
As for the harosi, don’t apologize for your taste buds. My Ashkenazi grandma never made us harosi (she knew when she was licked 😉 ), but boy oh boy, did we look forward each year to her stellar matza balls! Maybe your friend brought two kinds because she knew hers wasn’t exciting, but it wouldn’t have felt like Passover without it. It’s hard to break with tradition!