When I was growing up, every year my Aunt B would have a Seder (the traditional Jewish ritual meal that kicks off the celebration of Passover). It was the most tremendously exciting thing. Everything, from the tablecloths on the tables, to the little dishes of salt water, and the special foods like charoset and matzoh, seemed extra special. Plus, that was the one time of year that we had lamb, so succulent in its garlicky goodness, every part delectable from the crunchy, slightly charred bits on the outside to the tender pink meat in the center. (Even today, if we really want to celebrate something in my family, we have lamb.) There were all of these prayers with Hebrew words in them, and if you were lucky (or very good at the subtle pre-dinner maneuvering) you got to light the candle at your table. Everyone got to drink wine with their dinner (though the younger kids weren’t all that interested and tended to go for the Kool-aid). And at the end of the night, after we’d prayed and prayed, and eaten, and prayed some more, and eaten more things, we ended with, “Next year in Jerusalem! Next year in the city of God!” It was pretty awesome.
This year I decided that I wanted to have a Seder of my own. It’s been a while since Aunt B has been well enough to do the whole production (and God knows it is a lot of work), and Johnnycake’s girlfriend (who still doesn’t have a satisfactory nickname) is getting received in the Church as the Easter Vigil this year, and I wanted to meet AnniPott’s beau, and, well, I just wanted to. So I made my guest list, and realized that there was no way I could fit thirty or forty people around my table (or afford lamb enough for all of them).
So first I was cranky about the inherently exclusive nature of dinner parties for a bit (and also mourned my lack of an independent income which would allow for such little luxuries as dinner service for 30, dinner tables and chairs to seat them, and a room large enough to keep the tables and chairs in a house large enough that we didn’t need to use the room for anything else. Also, servants and a cook to help provide the dinner. And then I quit daydreaming about living in Downton Abbey, and texted the first fifteen people on the list while assuaging my guilt at not inviting the others by swearing that I’d invite them to another dinner party, really I would, just, you know, later.
Once I’d gotten the obligatory Guilt part of the way, I proceeded to the fun part: planning the menu. Which was really easy. You have to have lamb, of course, with rice and gravy made from the lamb drippings, plus salad and charoset and matzoh, plus a vegetable, usually broccoli. And then there came dessert, which I ignore because I don’t make sweet stuff anymore. Plus, usually there’s one or two people who want to bring something, so I tell them I’m not planning to make dessert, and then there’s more than enough sugar there for those who choose to partake. So once I’d decided between dolmades from the deli or stuffed eggs flavored with lemon, green onions and olive oil (I went with the eggs), I was pretty much done.
And then I started looking for the prayers and ceremony that you use, called the Haggadah. And my dears, you would not believe how much crazy stuff there is out there purporting to be instructions on how to have a Seder, particularly when it’s adapted for Christians. And, you know, butchering the prayers is one thing, but when you start telling people that Charoset is peanut butter mixed with raisins, I have to draw the line. That’s just not natural! Everybody knows that charoset is apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and wine (maybe grape juice if you’re an abstainer). That’s it. It is not applesauce mixed with walnuts (though that’s a step in the right direction), and it is definitely not peanut butter mixed with raisins! Lord.
I am also excited because Sae and Mr. T will be coming, and bringing the entertainment in the form of their daughters Sweet Pea and Fleu. So we’ll have Fleur to ask the Four Questions (she’s a little nervous about this), and Sweet Pea to pass around and enjoy. I won’t have room for a highchair at the table, but I don’t think that will be a problem – we’ll have plenty of laps for her to choose from!
Speaking of whom, last weekend we had Sweet Pea’s first birthday party. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I drove down to Cincinnati after work through a driving rainstorm to meet and instantly fall in love with a tiny little blanket bundle of sweetness. It was a lovely party, and towards the end, when people were chatting in the living room, Sweet Pea surprised us all by taking her very first steps right there in front of everybody. Well, everyone except her father, who was off attending to important Party Business. We tried to encourage her to reenact the historic performance, but she was worn out from her earlier exertions and did not cooperate. But maybe on Saturday…