Artistically, The Last Supper grew larger than life

The Last Supper meal as portrayed by Mariotto di Nardo (CNS photo)

If you haven’t seen the flurry of stories about a study that shows artists have spent the last millennium supersizing The Last Supper, now’s your chance.

Check out this really inciteful story from the Times of London here 

It’s a fascinating take on the scholarly study of 52 of the most famous paintings of “The Last Supper” over the last 1,000 years which analyzed the size of the entrees, bread and plates relative to the average size of the average heads in the paintings.

The study, conducted by Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor, shows the entrees on the plates and the size of the plates both grew by about two-thirds. The bread expanded by about 23 percent over the same time period.

Wansink speculated that the artistic eyes may have recorded a slow trend toward over-eating.

Tracking down the paintings on the Internet this week revealed another interesting phenomenon about the subject: the foods depicted varied so widely down through the millennium it’s clear there was no such thing as a set menu for the Last Supper as far as the artists were concerned.

That’s not the case, of course, with the traditional seder meal which has come down since the second century in a definite order. The composition of the celebratory dinner that follows the ritual re-enactment of the Exodus may vary but the ingredients on the seder plate itself, are as fixed as the stars in the heavens.

 Find them a which will give you all the information you need if you want to make a “Christian” seder  in your own home over the coming week. This second site  offers a  “Passover Haggadah” – the book of prayers and re-tellings of the Passover created for Christian families to share in their homes.

One of those ingredients is charoset – also known as haroset or charoses. It’s a sweet paste-like concotion served at the Passover Seder.

As a guest at many actual Seders and “model” seders over the years and a chef of several variations in my own home, I have come to relish charoset whatever form it takes.

The paste-like consistency is intended to remind those participating in the culinary re-inactment of the Exodus of the bricks and mortar the Hebrews made as slaves in ancient Egypt.

There are as many recipes for charoset as there are Jewish families, but a typical recipe from the Eastern European (or Ashkenazi) tradition would include crushed nuts, apples, cinnamon, sweet wine, and honey. Recipes in the Sephardic tradition usually include raisins and may also include ingredients native to the Middle East, such as figs, dates, and sesame seeds.

Auntie Lo’s Charoset

Ingredients: a mix of 4 or 5 different apples, cored and chopped; 3/4 cup chopped walnuts;  2 tablespoons sweet red wine; 1 tsp. cinnamon; 2 tablespoons honey.

Directions: I use an old fashioned potato masher to mash the ingredients together. The consistency should remain rather lumpy. Refrigerate over night and adjust the seasonings if you find it necessary. For a family dinner, triple or quadruple this recipe.

At their heart, Seders are family meals which unite generations in sharing the journey of their ancestors from bondage in Egypt to the road to the promised land. A home-style variation on a seder meal would be a lovely family activity as Holy Week approaches.


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