Thursday, April 12, 2012
I bring you my Passover highlights, which will appeal mostly to those who have some experience with the Passover Seder or to those who like to read about strange customs and ancient rituals and thank their gods and goddesses of fate that these strange customs and ancient rituals are not their own.
The night before our Seder, Gabriella and I retired for the evening, blankets pulled high to our noses ready for sleep and in anticipation of a full day of Passover prep. Instead of saying, “Good night my most beautiful treasure,” I said, “I didn’t pick up gefilte fish. I’ll do it in the morning.”
*Gefilte fish is the Jewish fish hotdog made from a selection of ground, un-gourmet fishes and packed in jars of jellied fish stock. Doesn’t that sound appetizing?
Gabriella: Forget it. We’ll skip it.
Deborah: No, no, it’s ok. I have to pick up more snacks for the boys’ lunches. I’ll grab some jars of gefilte fish while I’m there.
Gabriella: I really don’t want that jarred gefilte fish in my house. Let’s not serve gefilte fish this year.
Deborah: No! We can’t not have gefilte fish at Seder!!
Gabriella: Why, because the Jews ate gefilte fish in the desert?
Deborah: Yes, Gabriella. Because the Jews ate gefilte fish in the desert. And because that’s how you start the Seder dinner. I’ll pick up some jars in the morning, and you don’t have to eat it.
Gabriella: I’ll make it.
Deborah: Make the gefilte fish? On top of everything else? Don’t be ridiculous.
Gabriella: I refuse to eat gefilte fish out of a jar.
Deborah: Well, as one doctor said to the other, suture-self.
And then she made the gefilte fish in the morning while the soup was simmering. And it was good.
My side of the family arrived first having left early in the morning from Boston. Gabriella’s side of the family arrived 2 hours late having left Queens. The Holland Tunnel was as backed up as a Jew’s colon on the 6th night of Passover.
While we were waiting for the Queens contingency, I pondered the Seder and how I might be able to make the Seder more accessible for the guests who do not know how to ask. The “she’aino yodea lishol” crew.
I commanded those of us in the room to think up a bunch of accents to write on pieces of paper and throw in a bowl. Everyone at the table would select an accent before reading from the Haggadah so that we could tell the story of the Exodus as it might be told around the world...though people in other countries would be telling it in another language entirely. Feh. Technicality. We included accents such as French, Irish, Israeli and Canadian (ay) and we threw in some not-exactly accents like Darth Vader and Pig Latin and Ye Old English. And because our guests came with their own accents, we threw in a couple “Imitate the person to your right (or left)” cards. We filled the bowl just as the remainder of our family walked through the door.
Those Who Do Not Know How to Ask (TWDNKHA for short) arrived bearing gifts for the boys. Enormous milk chocolate Easter bunnies, which are not kosher for Passover or kosher on any other day of the week in our house. But, Gabriella’s family is kind-hearted and generous, and I’m sure if chocolate Easter bunnies had fallen from the sky instead of manna, our ancestors would have eaten them-and quickly so they shouldn’t melt everywhere what with all the sand. So, we stored them away for the boys to devour after Passover. It’s good that they should have something to anticipate after a week of eggs, matzah and potato starch. Dayenu.
The accent game was a hit! Everyone participated and did a stonking job, and it is now, from this day forward, a family tradition.
Gabriella’s festive meal was a sacred experience in itself, and I am still in awe of her ability to cook many tasty dishes for many people in little time and without a drop of angst. She is a wonder to be sure. The Seder was a success. To be fair, its success was due not simply to the cooking or the leading but to the enthusiastic participation of everyone around the table. There was reading and singing and happy mingling between the families. Good stuff.
At 1:40AM, after cleaning the dining room of any evidence of dinner and loading the dishwasher to full capacity, Gabriella surveyed the hand-washed dishes airing out next to the sink and said to me, “Start drying.” “What?” I whined. “It’s so late..."
“I don’t want to come into this kitchen tomorrow and have to clean anything,” she said without apology. “It IS tomorrow,” I said and grabbed a dishtowel.
By 2AM, the kitchen was spotless, and there was absolutely no trace of a Seder anywhere other than the empty bottles of kosher for Passover wine in the recycling bin. My body ached the next day, but there were left overs in the refrigerator and wonderful memories of a truly special holiday.