Tonight marks the beginning of Passover. As a child, it was my second-favorite holiday (no presents, so it couldn't be first). Today, with no family around, and being responsible for all the shopping, preparations and cooking (hubby is in charge of cleanup, thank goodness), it's not quite as exciting. However, skipping it just doesn't feel right. Given there will only be 4 of us—we always invite friends—I'll take advantage of convenience foods rather than doing a lot from scratch.
My daughter in Northern Ireland, on the other hand, even though she's even more removed from family, as her husband is in the British army and won't be home, is going so far as to make her own gefilte fish, something that comes out of a jar in my book. These fish 'croquettes' are probably the true test of 'company manners' when our guests, normally not Jewish, are faced with that course. A generous dollop of horseradish helps. It's definitely an acquired taste, although that and fish sticks were the only way one of my daughters would eat fish as a child.
At one point in the ceremony, someone opens the front door for the prophet Elijah. My mother tells of being a very young child, and when the door was opened, a black cat walked in. She always thought Elijah was a cat.
My fondest memory of early Seders was sitting next to my older cousin and sneaking the charoses (a mixture of apples and walnuts) when things dragged on. There were always 2 batches: one made with wine, and one with apple juice for the kids. It's a very simple dish to make, and I always wonder why I never make it at other times of the year.
So, yesterday, in addition to yet another trip to the store for last minute items, I set the table, (which included polishing the silver), made the charoses, prepped the radishes, made my mother's family citron crème dessert, and made a list so I don't forget anything, even though I think I could phone it in after all these years.
We gather to retell the story of the Exodus, and to eat ceremonial foods which are symbols of the struggle for freedom. And the message is that until all people are free, no one has freedom.
The ritual includes 4 glasses of wine (another reason hubby is responsible for cleanup), as well as ceremonial foods – the aforementioned charoses, as well as matzo, bitter herbs, and greens dipped in salt water. After that, dinner is served. We start with hard boiled eggs with salt water, which seems to be an Eastern European tradition, as it's not mentioned in the Haggadah as part of the ritual. It does tie in with spring and rebirth, which is the time of year of the holiday. From there, we'll have the gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, and my standard menu of Cornish game hens baked on a bed of farfel (crushed matzo) stuffing, with a red-currant raisin sauce. The vegetable varies, but tomorrow it'll be green beans. We used to have potatoes, but with the stuffing, plus the matzo, there are enough carbs on the table. Dessert will be the citron crème and macaroons. (I bow to my daughter who baked her own; mine come from the grocery store.)
So, for those of you celebrating, Happy Passover.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society