Seder Failure

One semi-self-contained breakdown in the meat aisle of the local Stop & Shop later, and I am not hosting the Seder. I got through the produce section OK, and managed to create a salad that I thought we could eat, and enough tomatoes and celery and endive and suchlike to make some veggie-type things for dinner. Well enough.

Then I got to the meat department.

No lamb. It’s the Tuesday after Easter and Passover. Of course there’s no lamb. Can I serve chicken? I don’t know. Do I have a pan large enough to cook a chicken large enough to feed twelve people? I don’t know. I had to borrow a pan to cook a turkey large enough to feed eight people. I’ll probably have to cook two birds. Do I have two dishes the right size? Can the main meat at a Seder even be chicken?

The beef liver for chopped liver is sitting next to the pork.

The fish counter is closed. This is just as well, because I am feeling some serious trepidation about making gefelte fish (and it says something about my dictionary program that it’s not raising so much as a peep of a redline about gefelte’s spelling).

The matzoh left over in the Jewish section of the International Foods aisle are all clearly labeled: “Not kosherfor Passover.”

It’s all very well to talk about non-traditional Passovers, but many of these students are hundreds of miles from home, and what they want is comfort food. They want holiday treats that are as familiar to them as Christmas cookies were to me and my family.

But here I am, a goy trying to make Seder. It’s the wrong day — Passover ends on Thursday at sundown, after my meal should start. It’s in a treifkitchen. I have a set recipe list, but no way to enact substitutions; I lack the cultural background that says, “Oh, well, they don’t have lamb so I’ll have to use this brisket instead.”

When I prepare Thanksgiving for my family, I know that I can substitute yams with turnips, but I can’t replace potatoes with onions. I know that green beans and brussels sprouts are interchangeable, as are cranberry pies and mince pies and pumpkin pies. But if I mess with the basics like turkey and stuffing, I may be disowned.

I am skating on thin ice here.

A woman from the school’s daycare program finds me ten inarticulate minutes later, putting groceries back. She looks at me as if I’m weird. I explain, “I was trying to figure out how to host a Seder.” She laughs, and says, “you could prepare for two weeks for one of those, and not be ready.”

I could prepare a whole lifetime for this, and not be ready. That’s finally sinking in. Twenty-four hours notice for a sacred meal that consists largely of a story in the right culinary context… no can do.

Upon coming home, and explaining my dilemma, a Jewish student points out that there’s a kosher deli not far from here. Why don’t I just make a reservation, and take them there? It’s a whole lot easier, and you can tell the story over a pastrami and rye sandwich.

And next year in my apartment!

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8 comments

  1. Wow… cool student suggestion.

    Yeah… trying on another culture can be a daunting task. Thanksgiving in my parents’ home was roast duck, thin pancakes, hoisin, nine treasure rice, Chinese broccoli, three other dishes, and all the “fixings” so making Thanksgiving for 12 at college for the first time was the memories your entry evoked. 🙂

    Sounds like you have a great solution for this year and help for next. Very cool. I admire your courage.

  2. Wow… cool student suggestion.

    Yeah… trying on another culture can be a daunting task. Thanksgiving in my parents’ home was roast duck, thin pancakes, hoisin, nine treasure rice, Chinese broccoli, three other dishes, and all the “fixings” so making Thanksgiving for 12 at college for the first time was the memories your entry evoked. 🙂

    Sounds like you have a great solution for this year and help for next. Very cool. I admire your courage.

  3. Re: Next Year in Your Apartment

    you rock, Isaac – are you secretly the Super Mensch?

    ps – we’ve decided that it’s going to be too much to try & seder at our place this week — just lettin’ ya know. we should catch up soon, tho’. i mean, seeing as you live around the corner & all =)

    xoxoxox

  4. next year – & we’ll plan ahead together – sound good?

    oh, Andrew – we’re Jewish, & we’re not even going to do it this year, ‘cos it’s too much of a hassle. no worries – with two weeks lead-time, it can be done, & i’m committing right now to helping you =)

    Can I serve chicken? I don’t know. Do I have a pan large enough to cook a chicken large enough to feed twelve people? I don’t know. I had to borrow a pan to cook a turkey large enough to feed eight people.

    yup, chicken is ok. in fact, chicken is my choice for family gatherings, ‘cos it’s relatively easy – just baste & leave in the oven under foil, at the end, remove foil, right? but chicken for 12 is a lot of chicken to cook all at once in one oven. usually what i do is a series of courses, so that i don’t have to cook that much chicken: matzoh ball soup (top of stove, prepared early), gefilte fish (top of stove, prepared early, but after the soup), 2 side veggies (top of stove, at end of food prep), latkes (top of stove, while veggies are cooking), noodle-less potato/onion kugel if you want (in-oven prepare earlier). also, you’ll have charoset, & people will eat that as well, with matzo during the meal. all in all, it’s about a day & a half of cooking, & if you can get someone to make part of it at their house to bring it, it makes it easier.

    …because I am feeling some serious trepidation about making gefelte fish…
    don’t ever make the gefilte fish from scratch! you don’t want that fish in your bathtub, believe me! you can re-prepare the jarred fish, & it tastes mighty great =)

    next year – we’ll do it together – i can even furnish the young man to ask the questions, & find the hidden afikomen =) how’s that sound?

  5. next year – & we’ll plan ahead together – sound good?

    oh, Andrew – we’re Jewish, & we’re not even going to do it this year, ‘cos it’s too much of a hassle. no worries – with two weeks lead-time, it can be done, & i’m committing right now to helping you =)

    Can I serve chicken? I don’t know. Do I have a pan large enough to cook a chicken large enough to feed twelve people? I don’t know. I had to borrow a pan to cook a turkey large enough to feed eight people.

    yup, chicken is ok. in fact, chicken is my choice for family gatherings, ‘cos it’s relatively easy – just baste & leave in the oven under foil, at the end, remove foil, right? but chicken for 12 is a lot of chicken to cook all at once in one oven. usually what i do is a series of courses, so that i don’t have to cook that much chicken: matzoh ball soup (top of stove, prepared early), gefilte fish (top of stove, prepared early, but after the soup), 2 side veggies (top of stove, at end of food prep), latkes (top of stove, while veggies are cooking), noodle-less potato/onion kugel if you want (in-oven prepare earlier). also, you’ll have charoset, & people will eat that as well, with matzo during the meal. all in all, it’s about a day & a half of cooking, & if you can get someone to make part of it at their house to bring it, it makes it easier.

    …because I am feeling some serious trepidation about making gefelte fish…
    don’t ever make the gefilte fish from scratch! you don’t want that fish in your bathtub, believe me! you can re-prepare the jarred fish, & it tastes mighty great =)

    next year – we’ll do it together – i can even furnish the young man to ask the questions, & find the hidden afikomen =) how’s that sound?

  6. Next Year in Your Apartment

    Next year, as long as I am in this neck of the woods, and, of course, if you are doing one, count me in to assist in your seder.

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Passover Baby

  7. Next Year in Your Apartment

    Next year, as long as I am in this neck of the woods, and, of course, if you are doing one, count me in to assist in your seder.

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Passover Baby

    • Re: Next Year in Your Apartment

      you rock, Isaac – are you secretly the Super Mensch?

      ps – we’ve decided that it’s going to be too much to try & seder at our place this week — just lettin’ ya know. we should catch up soon, tho’. i mean, seeing as you live around the corner & all =)

      xoxoxox

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