It is the perfect resting place for an egg and charoset, but Debra Barnes found some seder plates that shouldn’t be hidden by bitter herbs
We live in an age when the seder plate come in all shapes, sizes, colours and materials and ranges from slick modern designs to handmade arts and crafts and traditional heirlooms – but it hasn’t always been that way.
The history behind the seder plate is an interesting one. The Passover meal evolved 2,000 years ago from an informal family dinner on 15th of Nisan, when children would ask spontaneous questions of their fathers, at a ritualised upper-class banquet typical of the Greco-Roman period, when diners would recline on low couches, or cushions.
In order to accommodate this style, the seder items were carried in and out of the dining room on low tables and placed in front of the head of the group at the appropriate times.
This tradition is still carried out by some Yemenites and Middle Eastern Jews. During medieval times (around 1,000 years ago), diners in Europe chose to eat around a large table while seated upright on chairs leaving the low tables unsuitable. Instead, the seder items were arranged in a large wicker basket and later on a large platter, subsequently evolving into a relatively small seder plate, which contained only a symbolic amount of each food item rather than the full amount used previously.
Artistic seder plates as we know them today date back to the 16th century and were made from brass, porcelain and wood, but these days the challenge to put a creative spin on a seder plate knows no bounds.
Edgware artist Eva Edery created her own seder plate from fused glass for her family to use. “This seder plate is special because it was inspired by my Sephardi traditions with the blues of the Mediterranean,” says Eva. “Surrounding yourself with meaningful pieces around the seder table makes the whole telling of the Haggadah more memorable. I hope this piece will be kept in the family for the next generation.”
Eva can make personalised plates from £65 or, as a really special experience, people can make their own at the workshops, which Eva runs. “The workshops are so popular now that they are fully booked until after Pesach, so any plate made would have to be for next year!” For more information, see Eva’s website www.crescendo-art.co.uk
Leslie Rose from Radlett treasures her Limoges seder plate so much that she doesn’t use it. “The plate belonged to my late father who bought it in a junk shop in the East End in the 1940s for a couple of pounds. He was looking through some old plates and came across it. We have it on display at home but don’t use it as it is too special to us.”
Karen Russell from Southgate uses her special seder plate every Pesach. “It was made by my ex-husband’s brother, Elad Persov, for us while he was studying ceramics at university in Israel. He then went on to become a ceramic designer in New York. It is quite beautiful and I am very happy that it is still in the family.”
For those not lucky enough to have a family heirloom there are some fantastic designer seder plates on offer. Gary Rosenthal is an American craftsman who creates one of the most popular and unique lines of Judaic art in the US by combining copper, brass and steel with brilliant fused glass.
Rosenthal is well-known for his vertical seder plates but his stand-out piece has to be the ‘Vertical Feminist seder Plate.
“Someone once said: “A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on a seder plate.” So what did I do? I made a seder plate with a special place to put an orange!” says Rosenthal.