Order and Chaos
Happy Passover! Actually, it hasn’t started yet. I know you are all excited, but you will have to wait for sundown tonight before you can start celebrating in earnest. During the daylight hours of Monday it’s still technically fine to put granola on your yogurt, enjoy some avocado toast, and knock back a beer or glass of whiskey.
The forbidden grains during the holiday are wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and oats. There are some people who will give up corn, rice, and legumes. In the past, I used to be one of those people. But no longer. It’s a boring story, that I’ve discussed in the past.
Today, more than anything else, I’m excited by the festival meal. It’s kind of like Jewish Thanksgiving, and this year I get to have the meal twice. Once tonight here in Albany with Raf and his brood, and tomorrow I’ll be off to Connecticut to celebrate with my mother’s side of the family.
In theory, you would think hosting an elaborate multi-course feast would require a fair bit of preparation. But as of right now, the only thing I’ve made is a salad.
Perhaps I’ve picked up on some of the tropes of our chief executive. I keep hearing in my head, “This is going to be so easy.” The good news is that even if the seder is a catastrophic failure, no lives will be lost. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
The salad I’ve made is hardly even a salad. It’s something called charoset, and it’s a symbolic part of the festivities that comes before the meal. My eastern-european version is made from apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and kosher wine. When I was a much younger kid, I remember my even younger sister getting tipsy off the stuff.
Yesterday, Little Miss Fussy helped with the proportions, and supervised its assembly. There was a lot of tasting. And the process was more difficult than in past years because my replacement Cuisinart blade *still* is not here.
But Raf brought the brisket, and that’s a huge contribution. I can’t wait to try it. He’s a much better cook than I am.
I’m on the hook for the chicken soup. My secret is that the chicken soup is already made. I’ve got a raw chicken carcass, and I’m going to simmer that with the stock I have on hand and some more aromatic veggies. It’s going to be delicious.
Matzoh balls are relatively painless. They come from a mix. All the sensible Jewish grandmothers use a mix. There is no shame in it.
Eggs need to be hard boiled. Raf will do that, because he’s even fussier than I am about eggs. And he’s also going to make the mashed potatoes.
The lamb shank is a funny story. At this time of year, every Jewish family that’s hosting a seder is supposed to have a roasted lamb shank bone on their table for symbolic purposes. That’s a lot of shank bones. And the butchers are often out of them. So I did what any sensible person in my situation might have done. I bought a whole leg of lamb, deboned it, and cleaved off the shank bone at the joint.
Man, I love working with meat. As a bonus, now I have a boneless leg of lamb that I’m going to marinate and then slow roast Greek style. I can’t wait.
It’s entirely possible that I went a little overboard in the matzoh buying department. What can I tell you, I went to the market too late for matzoh this year and all my favorite brands were cleared out. So I pretty much bought a box of each of the remaining options across several different stores, in the hopes that some of it sucks less.
Don’t worry, you’ll get a full report at the end of the holiday. And I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about matzoh as the week wears on. The thing is that Passover always starts with a bang, and ends with bitter pleas begging for it to end.
Which is why I know I won’t forget the salt water. It’s supposed to represent the tears of slavery.
The other components have been secured. We have parsley, horseradish root, jars of gefilte fish, and shockingly sweet kosher wine. Last night, I even found an adaptable haggadah online, that was available via Google Docs so you could edit out the long boring parts of the evening.
Now I’ve just got to run down to Kinko’s, make a few copies, and figure out how we’re going to arrange the tables to fit eight people around a table where even six chairs is tight. Heck, maybe it will be nice enough to have the meal outside where I can bust open the folding table.
That would be sweet. Especially since the first seder that Raf and I shared as adults in a new state far away from the rest of our families, was outside under the California stars. It’s almost too much to ask the weather to hold out. Anyhow, the Jewish festival for eating outside is Sukkot, and that’s not for another few months.
I’m sure, no matter what happens, it will be lovely. The important part isn’t the food, or the flow of the rituals. The important part is being together with family and friends who are old enough to be indistinguishable from relatives.
Now, I’ve got to run and eat as much bread as I can until sundown. There may even be a daytime beer or two while I’m finishing the preparations for tonight. It’s going to be a hard week without many of my favorite foods, but I always get through it.