History Meets Horseradish With Passover’s Hillel Sandwich

By: Jeff Vogel, posted Apr 8, 2009 at 8:30 am

View Comments

hillelsandwich

Tonight begins Passover, the yearly ritual retelling of the Jewish story of Exodus.  But mostly, it’s about eating.

A central element of the traditional seder dinner is eating a Hillel sandwich: a scoop of fruity-nutty-chutney called charoset and a spoonful of horseradish between two pieces of matzoh (unleveaned flatbread.)  This sandwich, we believe, is the very first sandwich to be recorded and preserved through history.

Born in Babylonia but “the man” in Jerusalem, Rabbi Hillel was the preeminent figure of Jewish study in the 1st Century BC (BCE.)  As a centerpiece of the Passover seder, he thought to combine the three major symbols of the meal into one compact bite: matzoh, bitter herbs and roast lamb.

Wait.  What’s that about roast lamb?

The modern Hillel sandwich is a far cry from the sage Rabbi’s original creation.  Over time, charoset has taken the place of the roast lamb, likely out of necessity and availability.  Even matzoh, the iconic “bread” of Passover, has taken on a form that is likely quite different from the original Bedouin flatbread.

So tonight, as Jews eat their Hillel sandwiches, consider this: how badass could a real Hillel sandwich be — roast leg of lamb and chopped horseradish wrapped in a wood fired flatbread?

Tell us about your perfect Hillel sandwich in the comments.

Charoset Recipe:

Yield: 3 cups

* 6 peeled apples, coarsely chopped
* 2/3 c chopped almonds
* 3 tbsp sugar, or to taste
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* grated rind of 1 lemon
* 4 tbsp sweet red wine

Combine all, mixing thoroughly. Add wine as need. Blend to desired texture- some like it coarse and crunchy, others prefer it ground to a paste. Chill.

Source: “The Jewish Holiday Kitchen” by Joan Nathan 1988



Tags: , , ,

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or subscribe to the feed to get future articles delivered to your feed reader.

  • Ben Greenberg

    Matzoh blows. Ashkanazi passover traditions have become exercises in self-denial. Passover is supposed to be, overall, a celebratory holiday. Sure, we need to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made, but does that mean we really need to struggle to put a meal together that doesn't include the flour-and-water cardboard that is matzoh?

    Sephardic jews eat legumes and rice. These foods have noting to do with leavened bread in the least. Why is this not allowed in Ashkanazi tradition? Does it have something to do with the guilt complex that seems to be so common among Jews of Eastern European decent?

    I can understand not eating leavened bread. And what this really means is that, aside from the Hillel (a messy and overrated sandwich in my opinion, the choroset and horseradish combo works better as a spread), Passover is the anti-sandwich holiday.

    As good as the real Hillel sounds, it would suck on matzoh. It would, however, would be amazing on Zahav's laffa. Maybe you should drop a line to Solomonov.

  • Ben Greenberg

    Matzoh blows. Ashkanazi passover traditions have become exercises in self-denial. Passover is supposed to be, overall, a celebratory holiday. Sure, we need to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made, but does that mean we really need to struggle to put a meal together that doesn’t include the flour-and-water cardboard that is matzoh?rnrnSephardic jews eat legumes and rice. These foods have noting to do with leavened bread in the least. Why is this not allowed in Ashkanazi tradition? Does it have something to do with the guilt complex that seems to be so common among Jews of Eastern European decent?rnrnI can understand not eating leavened bread. And what this really means is that, aside from the Hillel (a messy and overrated sandwich in my opinion, the choroset and horseradish combo works better as a spread), Passover is the anti-sandwich holiday. rnrnAs good as the real Hillel sounds, it would suck on matzoh. It would, however, would be amazing on Zahav’s laffa. Maybe you should drop a line to Solomonov.

  • BobCosta

    Very interesting, never knew that. Happy Passover.

  • http://unbreaded.com/2009/11/03/happy-birthday-dear-earl-of-sandwich/ Happy Birthday, Dear Earl of Sandwich | Unbreaded

    [...] invention of the sandwich. This simple creation has been serving as a quick and satisfying meal for thousands of years. Still, to commemorate the anniversary of the great Earl of Sandwich’s birth, November 3rd is [...]

blog comments powered by Disqus