I know Passover isn’t for another month; Purim only just passed! And yet, I am struggling with what to prepare for my seder meal. A little background – this is the first time we’re hosting, and the crowd that will come to my apartment is, to say the least, a mixed bag. Invitations have been extended to my parents and brother, my husband’s dad who was brought up Catholic but is now “nothing”, my Indian friend, a Jewish ex-coworker of my husband’s and my Catholic friend and his fiancee. Talk about biting off more than you can chew!
The challenge is to keep the seder authentic for those (my family and husband’s colleague) who are used to the hour-and-a-half plus reading of the Haggadah, interwoven with songs, commentaries and a plague or ten, while still making the service and dinner accessible (and delicious) to those who may not be as well-versed in the Passover tradition. I’ve carefully chosen excerpts from five different haggadot so I think I’m all set with the readings, but now we need to focus on the food.
I put “delicious” in parenthesis, but it is by no means a parenthetical statement. My husband and I are serious about our food. No, I mean it. He’s concentrating more on the execution of the meal (and I will lead the seder), but together, we are trying to come up with appetizers, mains, sides and desserts that evoke the feelings of Passover. That is to say – slavery, oppression, survival, freedom. The question remains: how do we make those palatable? What tastes like slavery? And for that matter, what tastes like freedom? Have you ever bitten into a morsel of something and said, “mmm, this tastes like freedom…”? As I write this, I wonder it might be a good idea to find someone who’s been held captive and ask them what tastes like freedom to them. Not a bad idea. Although it might be a better and faster solution to do a Google search…results: Soviet soup and hemp foods taste like freedom…groovy.
I am personally against anything having to do with matzah – so we are trying our best to stay away from it. It does, however, taste like hardship – difficult to digest, tough to keep down and move past. Symbols on the seder plate speak for themselves, but there’s little culinary nuance in spooning horseradish onto your plate to remember the bitter times that have been endured. A little creativity, please. I’ve done the obligatory online searches, but have not come up with much that thrills me. Oh, and did I forget to mention that three of the guests are mostly non-meat eaters so that throws a wrench into my plan of serving a roasted lamb.
Thankfully, I have a very supportive spouse, who is not Jewish, but will read up for hours on preparing a true Passover meal. He’ll experiment in the kitchen, emerging with matzo meal dust (or our recent discovery of coconut flour) on his jeans, with a “Eureka, I’ve got it!” expression when he knows something tastes good.
Hosting the seder for the first time appears to be just as important to him as it is to me. We want to start our own family traditions. I’d rather try to create my own haggadah which reflects an actual equality- men/women, vegetarians/meat-eaters, LGBT/straight, Jews/non-Jews. The pressure I’m feeling is that I know people connect through food. How then do we please everyone, offend no one, keep the tradition and also have the reading of the Haggadah and enduring the seder end up worth it – all culminating in a scrumptious meal? Is this too tall an order to fill? I’m seriously asking.