It’s the night before the night before Passover, as I discussed in my previous journal post. I’ll spend most of tomorrow preparing the meal, so that I can be ready to actually cook it the following day.
My Passover menu is a little on the bland side, because I have fulfill a number of requirements:
– I’m a diabetic, so nothing with sugar. (Other folks get to eat the charoset, a traditional apple/nut/cinnamon mix served at Passover.)
– In a traditional Jewish household, the man might lead the Passover seder for the family while the woman is in the kitchen cooking. Since I’m both the cook and the facilitator of Passover for my guests, I can’t spend too much time in the kitchen. That means that I rely mostly on baked items that can be kept warm in the oven.
– Some of my friends are vegetarian, so I serve mostly vegetable baked dishes. Only one exception: a roast for those who feel that they must have meat during a meal.
– I can follow a recipe, but I’m not very knowledgeable about cooking. I only cook a major meal once a year, so I’m not motivated to spend hours watching the Food Network or take a cooking class. That means I’m an inefficient cook: I spend more time cutting vegetables and such than a trained chef would.
Well, cooking the seder meal may be a challenge for me, but I can get some perverse satisfaction that it’s a challenge for my guests as well.
How so? Let me tell you the story of the first seder I hosted.
I invited a bunch of friends to come; as it happens, for most of them it was their first seder. I warned them that it would be a long evening, but no one listened to me.
They’re sitting at the table, reading from the Haggadah. From the kitchen wafts the smell of my chicken soup and the pot roast. They’re getting hungrier and hungrier, but they’re trying to keep to the spirit of the occasion.
Me? Yes, I’m getting hungry too, but to me that’s part of Passover. I was raised Jewish; getting hungry as you go through the ceremony is part of the ritual. For the non-Jews, it was unexpected.
The only thing they can do is drink; at Passover you’re supposed to drink a minimum of four glasses of wine. So they begin to toast a lot: "To Passover! To the Exodus! To Moses! To… to… the Pharaoh!"
By the time the first of the traditional foods were served, they were both drunk and hungry. The charoset and matzoh disappeared almost at once, and they made a pretty good in-road on the horseradish. They continued to devour the hard-boiled eggs and the chicken soup with matzoh balls.
And of course, they were stuffed by the time I started serving the actual dinner.
That’s the reason why I serve only foods that I can eat at my seders: because I know I’ll have lots of leftovers. The goyim won’t be hungry when we get to the meal.