Last week was Pesach began. It is obviously already over.
Maybe because I’m getting older (I know I’m not old), but some of my memories are fading from the seder meals of my childhood. Nothing really stands out. It isn’t that seder growing up was bad or good it is just in the recess of my mind and I can’t find a clear memory of any of my childhood seders really.
Yet ever since I’ve reached adulthood I have developed a strong affinity for hosting a first night seder.
Maybe this is because I’m a bona fide Jewish professional. (Whoa. Don’t know if I’ve ever claimed that title with such authority before. That feels good.) Or maybe it’s because I’m far away from biological family and as a Jewish Professional it is a bit difficult to go home for the holidays.
(It’s a double-edged sword. I’m committed to making the Jewish community stronger but that means sometimes I’m unable to spend holidays with my family.) More likely this affinity comes from my mother who modeled hospitality and how to be a “hostess with the mostest” so well that I want to try and emulate that important skill.
It is a skill in development. Not mastered. Yet.
Yes, I really love hosting seder.
This year for the first time in a few years I hosted and I was definitely in my happy place.
(Cooking is my happy place so being able to create an entire meal for friends is like the Gan Eden for me.)
As always with the seders I host it’s a bit of a motley crew that I invite, but I like it that way. Variety!
This year my friend Naomi (who I used to live with and who together we hosted several seders together before I went to graduate school) and her husband (and friend) Joe attended. My good friend (through kickball, of course) Michelle was there for her first ever seder! And two of Zach’s oldest (possibly) friends in Portland also came — Mafe and Dave. (I think I can call them my friends too now!)
I made matzo ball soup (from the box. Judge if you must but there were some time constraints), a cauliflower kugel (it needed more spice), a matzo spinach pie (pretty yummy, though next year I may need to follow directions better when it comes to soaking the matzo), Naomi brought over a green salad. I baked (I am a much better cook than baker) apricot bars. They were tasty and moist (yuck, that word) but I’ll definitely need to practice more with that recipe. And gefilte fish from the jar. I’m not the biggest fan of gefilte fish but man it has to be at Pesach. And only from the jar!
Of course there was plenty of wine! (My neighborhood Trader Joe’s even had K for P wine — what?! Amazing!)
The hard-boiled eggs were on the table when everyone arrived. (Taunting.) They were placed in glass ramekins with salt water. The maybe first distinct memory I have from how my grandmother set the Pesach table.
So good. So Easy. And memorable.
Memorable not because it was so, so good but because I do actually have one (more) distinct memory of Pesach from my childhood. My mother making chopped liver.
(The real kind. I can’t obviously make the real kind because I’m a pescetarianism/vegetarian plus the fact that I think liver is kind of gross.)
I think she had a red meat grinder contraption thing. (Clearly I don’t eat meat.)
It took her a long time to make.
She wore an apron.
The endeavor took over the whole kitchen.
She would talk on the phone (anyone who knows my mom won’t think this is strange) while also lovingly and carefully making this family recipe.
(Apparently our family has the “best chopped liver” recipe ever! Though I’m sure many others also have “the best.”)
The entire house smelled. Not the best smell to me, but if I smelled that smell again it would immediately make me think:
It’s the smell of the holiday. It’s our Fleet Family Tradition.
My mom would bring over her vat of chopped liver to my grandparent’s house for seder. They’d have the tam-tams ready. Everyone would dig in and make all those yummy-this-is-the-most-delicious-thing-ever food noises.
So I made a mock chopped liver this year. It was my only appetizer. We all were a little late getting started. (I mean I did call for people to come over on a Monday at 6, not an ideal time) So the appetizer was a bit missed, but just having it there made me feel like I was bringing a bit of the Fleet Family Legacy to my own Trexler in Portland Diaspora Traditions.
Because so little was eaten during seder and because the recipe made so much Zach and I indulged in it later in the week. So good! So memorable. So Pesach. So Fleet. So 2014. So Portland. So LT. So Vegetarian.
Redefining traditions and trying to make new ones.
And here are a couple of pictures. Nothing so exciting, but I was proud of my festive spring table!
What are your distinct Pesach memories?