Passover wrap-up: 2009

I don't have any great Passover sagas to report this year.  The seder was successful: this year I did not make too much food, and most of what I made turned out well.

This year, I had a vegan guest.  My Passover seders are normally vegetarian-friendly, with the exception of the matzoh-ball soup and the roast.  When a vegan attends, it's my custom to make the meal vegan-friendly, and to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for the soup.

Why go to this extra effort?  After all, every time a vegetarian or vegan has attended one of my seders, they've always offered to prepare something for themselves.  They come for the entire seder, not just for the meal.

I have my reasons:

– I like to cook, but I don't cook often.  I don't have the time.  I take an entire day off to cook the Passover seder meal (and the following day off to recover).  If I'm going to put in that kind of effort to prepare a meal, I'd like all my guests to be able to share in it.

– It fits my notions of hospitality.  In terms of relative values, it's easier for me to leave meat and eggs out of a meal than it is for a vegetarian or vegan to force themselves to eat them, no matter what their reasons are for their diet.

– A Passover seder is a big meal, and I eat it too.  Frankly, I don't mind seizing on a excuse to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol present on the table.  Sure, I could just use more self-control about what and how much I eat… but take a look at my userpic; if I had total dietary self-control, I'd be a thinner man.

To be blunt about it, if it were up to me alone I would not even serve a meat dish with the meal.  I've omitted it before, which allowed me to include a cheese-base casserole in one of my early seders.  The only reason I serve a roast is to accomodate the wishes of B, for whom a formal meal is not complete unless meat is served.  Over the course of the years, it's proven easier to serve a beef roast than to argue the point.

And I must admit, the taste of roast beef with horseradish is quite tantalizing.

Every year, I think I make my seder a little better.  I keep notes on past seders; I have records of Passovers going back to 1999. Were I to be overly critical of my own cooking for this year's seder, I would note:

– At the suggestion of one of my guests, I tried a vegan matzoh-ball recipe.  It didn't quite work; about 2/3rds of the matzoh-balls disintegrated during the cooking process.  I think the reason was that even though I let the mix sit overnight in the refrigerator, I left the matzoh "dough" sitting on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours before shaping it into balls, then let the balls sit for another hour or so; it's better to keep them cold.  I may have also used too little vegetable broth in the dough, and perhaps that led to the matzoh meal not being sticky enough.  For next time: I've made matzoh balls in the past using Ener-G, and that's what I'll try in the future.

– I should try to find smaller onions for baking.  I like baked onions, but most folks don't want to mess with them; unlike baked potatoes, the skins aren't edible.  Or maybe I should do what most people do, and bake and serve peeled onions.

The vegetable broth for the matzoh-ball soup came out better than I've ever made it.  Leeks and bok choy made the difference.

Next year, the Passover seder will be held on March 29, 2010.  I'm looking forward to it!