A couple of years ago, Robert Kysela a colleague at The Monitor, who is of Czech heritage, contributed a Holy Week recipe traditionally served in his home on Easter. This led me to researching customs connected to Holy Week in the Czech Republic.
It was then that I discovered “Zeleny ctvrtek” (Green Thursday) — the strict fast observed throughout the region on Holy Thursday. According to this tradition, only a single, meatless, complete meal — free of any food of animal origin — could be served. This translated to meals composed mainly of vegetables.
This tradition, it turns out, was part of the Holy Week heritage not only in Czech, but in many parts of Europe and event the United States.
Various explanations are given for this choice of food. Some theorize that the emphasis on green vegetables emerged because green vestments were used for Mass on Holy Thursday. Another is a reference to “the Green Ones” — penitents who, being re-admitted to the Sacraments after confessing their sins, wore sprigs of green herbs to express their joy.
The web site MyCzechRepublic relates that in German, the “grun” in the German name for the day — “Grundonnerstag” (literally Green Thursday) is a corruption of the word “weinen” — meaning to weep.
Yet another explanation for the green emphasis — the one that seems most meaningful to me — is that Jesus prayed on a green meadow in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his Passion and Death.
Since researching these customs, I prepare something with green ingredients for dinner on Holy Thursday. This year, with the timing of Easter so late (April 25 is the last possible day), the landscape of the Diocese of Trenton is green and flourishing.
In our backyard kitchen garden, the lettuces are table ready and so are some of the herbs. At the Trenton Farmer’s Market, dandelion greens are proliferating. It seems the world is green and that’s inspired the foodies to compose some green dishes for Holy Thursday and the other days of Holy Week as well. It seemed a lovely and inspired way to bring the prayerful momentum of Holy Week to the table.
The first recipe, aptly entitled Ensalada De Palmitos (hearts of palm salad) is adapted from recipes on the Internet.
This dish, a favorite in Latin American countries, would be a nice side dish to serve on Palm Sunday,
En Salada De Palmitos
two 14-ounce cans of hearts of palm, drained; two garlic cloves, crushed; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1/2 cup finely chopped whites of scallions.
Mash the garlic in a blender or food processor with a teaspoon of the oil; add the hearts of palm and blend to a rough puree; add the rest of the oil in a thin stream until it reaches the consistency of a smooth puree. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the scallions.