It's one thing to declare "You are what you eat," and something very different to mean it, I thought, as I sat down to the worst meal I have ever cooked--but it was glatt kosher.
I was in the former East Berlin, shortly after the wall came down, at a Passover seder for 50 Jews, mainly German ex-Communists and Russian refugees. This was their first seder and they wanted it to be authentic--not just kosher but glatt kosher, the best, the most. So to supervise the ritual meal, they'd brought in a Hasid from London, a large and awkward young caterer who belonged to the missionary Lubavitcher sect. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that not only was I the only one besides him who knew anything about Jewish dietary law, but I was also the only one who had ever cooked for more than four people. He threw everybody else out of the kitchen, including some Russians wielding menacing cans of mayonnaise. The Russians couldn't understand what was wrong with their mayonnaise, and the Hasid had to admit there was nothing specifically unkosher in it. The problem was that mayonnaise has no meaning for Jews, and it was the meaning of food that mattered.
The diet of a religious Jew is a continuous edible metaphor, and of all the Jewish holidays, none is a greater pageant of symbolic food than Passover. I have always loved Passover, an eight-day holiday that commemorates the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Passover teaches children about championing the oppressed, fighting for freedom and even feeling compassion for enemies. And it is all done through ceremonial meals called seders, held on the first and sometimes the second night.