Hard-boiled eggs, bitter herbs, charoset, horseradish and matzah lined the Seder plates at UF Hillel’s celebration of Pesach, also known as Passover, on April 5. But the real fun started once attendants were greeted with bowls of hot matzah ball soup, plates of refreshing tomato basil salad and apple and spinach salad, thinly sliced potatoes and braised brisket with mushrooms.

History of Passover 

Passover commemorates the biblical tale of Moses freeing millions of Israeli slaves from Egypt after 400 years. A traditional Seder plate consists of six items:

1. Charoset: a mixture of diced apples, walnuts and honey, marinated in red wine. Its color and appearance symbolize the brick slaves used to build the Egyptian pyramids.

2. Karpas: a piece of parsley to dip in salt water, symbolizing the tears of the slaves.

3. Hazeret: romaine lettuce with bitter roots, symbolizing the bitter conditions of slavery.

4. Maror: horseradish, another bitter herb.

5. Zeroa: a shankbone, symbolizing the lamb sacrificed to free the slaves.

6. Beitzah: roasted egg, symbolizing rebirth, or life after slavery.

Matzah is a form of bread that is unleavened, consumed on the days of Passover in honor of the Hebrew slaves, who had only this flatbread to feed on in the hot, dry deserts of Egypt

The Apps

As the rabbi led us in prayer, we got our first taste of the feast with some traditional grape juice, karpas, hazaret, maror, beitzah, charoset and matzah. Of course, the romaine lettuce and saltwater-dipped parsley were nothing to be excited about, and neither was the matzah – until I dipped it in the charoset. The dry, unseasoned flatbread paired perfectly with moist, sweet apples.

The true appetizers began with matzah ball soup and two different types of salad.

Matzah balls are made by beating eggs with matzah meal, rolling the mixture into balls and then boiling them until a fluffy, smooth texture is achieved. The matzah balls are then added to chicken broth with vegetables like carrots, onion and parsley to complete the soup.

Also up for grabs was a salad of cherry tomatoes flavored with fresh basil and dressed in balsamic vinegar. Apples similar to those in the charoset were tossed in a bed of leafy, green spinach.

The Entrée

As soon as the main entrees were served, I rushed with everybody else to the chafing dishes serving platters of brisket, chicken or vegan meat, as well as side dishes of potatoes and green beans.

After getting a taste of the chicken at the last UF Hillel Passover, which was also my first, I knew I had to give the brisket a try this time around.

Brisket is cut from the breast of a cow or calf and is consumed on traditional Jewish holidays due to its accordance with kosher laws. All I can say is that after a bite of this, I definitely did not miss the chicken.

Can't Forget Dessert

It would not be a holiday celebration without ending the night with something sweet. Small plastic containers of rich and fluffy chocolate mousse were delivered to each table, topped with sweet chocolate shavings. This was one dessert I definitely could not get enough of.