The holy week is a week of rest for many of the local people, who take advantage of the vacation to visit some of Guatemala favorite visiting sites (we discovered later that Ricky Martin came to Guatemala to perform in Semana Santa).
During Semana Santa people hang ointments on their door, and everywhere you can buy sweet bread with special honey that all the grandmas make for the holiday. Semana Santa special honey is made of mango, papaya, pineapple, cinnamon and, believe it or not, humus. Yes, it turns out there are a lot of humus based plates in Guatemala, all of them sweet as hell… and all the chickpeas for the humus are peeled one by one by the grandmas.
In the central plaza of town, by the regular food carts (which includes tacos, churos etc.) popped up dozens of other carts, selling food, souvenirs and lots of sweets. Every evening we tried a different sweet – some were excellent and some were just slightly colored cubes of sugar.
We also found a great ice cream place which offered a selection of 20 flavors and was very cheap. Besides learning Spanish and how to dance the salsa, we took it upon ourselves to try each and every flavor. While writing these lines the count is up to six. And after choosing your flavor, you still have to choose a frosting – chocolate, white chocolate, mango, Chiclets or strawberry – and then one of the toppings, including nuts, ground coconut, Gummy bears etc. Delicious...
After leaving the orphan home around 18:00, we took a ten minute rest before we started to work on the Charoset and the Matzos. We even made a special Seder plate (as you can see above), and after fixing the table we called the whole family for the Seder. We tried to find a Haggadah in Spanish in order to read some selected parts, but had no such luck. So we just explained some of the holiday rituals, and I said the blessings from memory in stuttered Spanish. Well, they say it’s the thought that counts…
All and all it was a lot of fun. The Matzos came out pretty lame, but that’s the way Matzos are. The Charoset was excellent, and our Guatemalan family loved it. They are already planning how to incorporate the new dish in everyday meals. They say it will fit very nicely on some warm tasteful pancakes. I do believe they are right.
When I called my two (real) grandmas to say happy Passover, I asked each one what’s her recipe for Charoset. My polish grandma said “apples, English walnuts (Juglans regia) and wine”. My Yemenite grandma said “fresh dates, date dough, date honey, and if you want you can add raisins or ginger”.
We chose the Yemenite version, and for a lack of dates we decided to give it a Latin twist, using tamarind instead (also known as Indian dates; in Hebrew, one should note, a date is called “Tamar”). But after we discovered that the tamarind dough in the market is made with the tamarind seeds inside, we went back to the polish version, and though how we can improve it. We decided to add some raisins, honey and ginger. Instead of English walnuts (we couldn’t find any) we used almonds. For anyone who is interested in traditional Jewish Passover food (with a Guatemalan flavor), here is the recipe:
Just mix everything together in a fancy bowl.