Monday 14 September 2015

Chopped liver and the meaning of life

At our granddaughter’s recent Bat Mitzvah the rabbi passed the Torah from grandparent to grandparent and then to her parents and then to her to symbolise the passing of this knowledge and heritage through the generations for centuries and now to her.

We all have our religious rituals and family traditions. One of ours is chopped liver (this is not as trivial as it first sounds). My mother died over thirty years ago after a long and difficult illness.  She lived with us the last few years of her life and I greeted her death with very mixed emotions: sadness at our loss but relief that she was no longer in pain.

No matter how ill she was she always insisted on making the chopped liver for Passover and New Year and to break the Fast on the Day of Atonement.  There was no recipe – and although I helped her I never consciously took much notice. Even when we all knew that her life was limited I didn’t take notice – perhaps it was my form of denial. 

There are strange moments when grief strikes you unexpectedly.  The first Jewish holiday after her death was Passover. There is no thought that has to go into the menu planning– it is the same year after year and of course there is chopped liver. I suddenly realised that this now fell to me to make - would I be able to take over this minor task but somehow central role that my mother had played over many years? It is part of handing down traditions through the generations. I sat down and wept. 

Of course it isn’t difficult, especially with modern kitchen gadgets to do the chopping.  It is chicken or goose fat, chicken livers, onions and hard-boiled eggs.  Then decorated with more chopped hard boiled eggs, whites and yolks separated and put in stripes and garnished with parsley.

There is still no fixed recipe but the magic has been passed on.  My daughter made it for their New Year in Switzerland and here it is.