A Witch Does Passover – 2019

This was the first year since 1995 that I did not cook the Passover seder.

The reason was that I’m still recovering (after four months!) from a medical problem I had just before Christmas 2018. I will get better, hopefully within another month, but I was not in position to do my usual annual shopping and schlepping and simmering.

Fortunately, a good friend of mine (and a veteran of my seders since 1995) took up the task of cooking. She made a grandmother-quality matzoh-ball soup; if you’ve ever had soup prepared by a Jewish grandmother, you know that’s high praise indeed. Instead of my usual roast she made a brisket; I may do that myself when I cook the Passover seder next year.

It was an unusually small seder for one held on a Friday night. Only three people could make it, including me and the cook. It resulted in something that hadn’t happened to me in decades: I was the youngest at the table. I therefore asked the Four Questions. At last, after fifty-something years, I know why this night is different from all other nights!

Though the attendants were few, the conversation was no less lively. “Game of Thrones” took up quite a bit of discussion time. We also discussed the Museum of Cairo’s Eqyptian exhibit, and speculated how Egyptian Jews react to the anti-Egyptian sentiment in the Haggadah.

One of us pointed out something she learned from the History Channel: the animal sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem were supposed to act as atonement for sins of the past year. Since the Temple was destroyed, how do Jews atone? As a lapsed Jew, I’m ashamed to admit that I did not immediately know the answer to that question. It’s especially sad because the answer is contained in one of my favorite jokes:

Moshe said, “My rabbi is so pious. The other day, when it was raining, on everyone else’s head there was rain. But in a little circle around my rabbi’s head, there was no rain.”

Shlomo replied, “My rabbi is also pious.”

Moshe exclaimed, “Are you kidding? Last Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Hebrew calendar, when all Jews are supposed to fast for their sins, your rabbi was seen in the corner deli eating a pastrami sandwich!”

Shlomo said, “You see? On everyone else’s head, it was Yom Kippur. But in a little circle around my rabbi’s head, it was the day after Yom Kippur.”

Next year the Passover seder will be on the night of Wednesday, April 8, 2020. My week-night seders are usually not well-attended. It’s nice to know that, even so, a seder is still a seder. Maybe I will see you there!

A Witch Does Passover – 2018

The seder on Friday night was grand. It had all the usual elements: Good food, good people, and everyone wincing at the sound of my singing voice. (I can’t sing, but I never let that stop me.)

One major topic of conversation at this seder focused on the Wicked Son: why do people make a forced distinction between themselves and the rest of the world.

My usual notes:

– There’s always a debate on how well-cooked people like their roasts. I’d prefer an internal temperature of 140 degrees; rare-meat lovers would prefer 125. We settled on 135 so everyone could complain.

– The supermarket butcher told me, “You don’t have to order the roast in advance; we’ll have it.” He was well-meaning, but he didn’t consider that I might come in to get the roast just after the start of the butchers’ lunch hour. I had to hang around the supermarket for 45 minutes on shopping day. Always ask them to prepare the order in advance.

– I’d planned the seder to server 9 people, though only 7 could make it. There were barely enough latkes for 7. For the next large seder, get two boxes of potato pancake mix, perhaps using three envelopes.

– While we’re on the subject of latkes: Don’t forget that the latkes will get darker when I heat them up in the oven. They don’t have to come out of the frying pan fully brown.

– There weren’t as many matzoh balls from one box of the matzoh-ball mix as I would have wanted. Next time consider getting two boxes of mix, again perhaps using three envelopes.

– Make sure the oven is turned on when you bake the apple kugel. We had to hang around for additional half-hour after I noticed that it wasn’t heating. We spent the extra time and chatted with each other, so the time wasn’t wasted, but it did make for very late evening.

– “Behold this matzoh. It’s a symbol of our land. You can eat it at a seder. You can hold it in your hand. Amen.”

A Witch Does Passover – 2017, part 2

After most of the day, I’ve finally recovered from last night’s Passover seder. I’m glad it’s my practice to take the day off following the seder. I didn’t get to sleep until about 3AM this morning, and the food coma lasted into this afternoon.

It was a small seder, only five people. Even so, the discussion was lively and engaging. The only topic I can remember today is us sharing our different experiences in strip clubs.

Food notes:

– Manishewitz knows what they’re doing. From now on, I’m going to use their matzoh-ball and potato-latke mixes. There was only one omission from the latke mix: no onions. Latkes without onions are an abomination unto the Lord, and are among the reasons why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. I added a shredded onion the latke batter, and it tasted great.

– I cooked a smaller roast than usual, and it was done more than hour before the seder meal started. I must remember a two-rib roast requires less cooking time than a three-rib roast. (Strictly speaking, at Passover you’re not supposed to serve roast beef at all. Such is my reward for not obeying all the Pesach rules.)

– The apple kugel was great… what there was of it. I had poured the mixture into two containers, but somehow I left one container behind. Next time do a more careful inventory of the food I’m bringing to the seder.

– I learned how to hard-boil an egg in a rice cooker. It takes longer than simply boiling them in water, but there’s less chance of the shell cracking.

A Witch Does Passover – 2015

This year I organized my Passover seder at the home of Sabrina and Michael. This year, Passover and Easter fell on the same weekend. We wound up blending those two and the pagan holiday of Ostara into PassEastara.

The seder went well. There were a total of 11 people there, making it one of the largest seders I’ve ever conducted. The crowd more boisterous than I’m used to. Still, the Haggadah was read and the food was served. That’s a good way to celebrate freedom!

My usual notes:

– Several people requested “finger-puppet plagues” for next year.

>– The recipe on the back of the Yehuda Matzo Meal can resulted in the best matzo balls I’ve ever made. Stick with that recipe. (Secret ingredient: baking soda; it turns out that this is kosher for passover!)

– A couple of latke notes: There was not quite enough egg in the latke mix; fortunately Michael was willing to make a special trip to the grocery store for more eggs. (They proved handy the next day for dyeing Easter eggs.) I originally had three eggs and three medium potatoes. An extra egg is better than not having enough, since I can always soak up excess liquid with matzo meal.

– Three potatoes made barely enough latkes for 11 people. (A couple of folks started eating the latkes before the meal was served, which may be throwing off my estimates.) Consider four potatoes if I’m serving ~12 people again.

– The roast came out a bit rare for my taste. I realized what went wrong a couple of days later: the temperature probe was close to a heating element in the oven, and so registered a higher temperature than the meat actually was. Next time make sure the probe is inserted into the side of the roast, not the top.

– Otherwise, there were plenty of leftovers, as usual. Four packages of spinach and four jars of pearl onions was plenty for 11 people.

Next year, Erev Pesach is on Friday, April 22. See you then!

A Witch Does Passover – 2014

The theme for the seder this year turned out to be “family.” Three guests, who dearly wanted to come, could not due to family obligations. Of the seven guests we had this year, six of them (once enough wine was consumed) shared trials and tribulations associated with their family. Yes, I was one of the six. The one who didn’t share a family story came to my seder for the first time, and didn’t know most of the people there; they may have kept quiet.

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