4.12.2006

Dayenu

Tonight is the first night of Passover. I don't sense I have a whole heck of a lot of Jewish readers (except you, Aunt Fredda! Hi! And hey, you too Hally!) in which case I'll elaborate a bit so that you don't log off in search of some knock-knock jokes or something a little more accessible.

For many families, Passover means an extensive Seder dinner where the family goes around the table reading aloud from the long, drawn-out story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt before getting to eat. My blood sugar is plummeting just thinking about it. Imagine going through this whole two-hour production, where food is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, but all you can eat of it is like a teaspoon of horseradish and a some parsley dipped in salt water, and a few pathetic crumbs of matzo. You do get to drain some wine in the process, but sadly it tastes like grape juice spiked with a dozen packets of Sweet n Low. And then, when you finally do get to pass some actual food around the table with whatever strength your weak, shaky arms can still muster, it doesn't look like anything you really want to put in your mouth.

We Semites may rule in some departments, but I concede cooking superiority to at least seventy-two other cultures. And that includes nomadic peoples with no access to fresh ingredients, cooking implements or fire.

Passover at my mother's house, however is one of my favorite holidays. We're not very...how do you say it...traditional. We're the family who skips right to the good parts of the Haggadah, which means reciting the four questions, drinking three glasses of non-Manischewitz wine, and singing Dayenu in a key definitely not intended by the songwriter. We put an orange on the seder plate, a new tradition inspired by an Orthodox rabbi who said something to the extent of, "we need women rabbis like we need an orange on the seder plate." Plus we open the door for Elijah on the outside chance that a prophet decides to show up at our doorstep. (Hey guys, I'm famished. It's been a long couple of millieniums getting here. Got any gefilte fish left?)

And we discuss.

Oh, there's lots of discussing.

From year to year, the conversation, at least with my mother at the table, is guaranteed to hit most if not all of the following topics:
-how the term The Chosen People is divisive and offensive to other cultures
-how history may be correcting the entire story of the exodus of the Jews
-how the patriarchy is responsible for the demeaning roles of women in the bible
-how the bible is just one guy's mythology anyway
-how George Bush is ruining the country
-how Karl Rove is gay
-how my mom and I attended a massive feminist reconstructionist hippie seder one year, and how it led us to conclude that an entire room full of Jews with no rhythm should never be allowed free access to tambourines
-how good the matzoh ball soup is
It is not a forgettable evening, I promise you this much.

But as the years have gone on, with cousins spread farther around the country, and more and more gentiles entering the fold, the Passover tradition has evolved. What we now have is Peaster, a Passover-Easter hybrid combining the best aspects of each. Expect further details about the Peaster egg-dying death match this weekend.

I was convinced we had the lock on make-your-own-Passover-tradition weirdness until yesterday when my mother forwarded me this.

I stand corrected.


49 Comments:

Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Evolved or Traditional, I admire your traditions. The Catholics give up food (or just meat, really), light a few candles, run around with palm fronds and then pig out on chocolate and ham. I'm simplifying but you get the idea.

Slightly off topic, I can't hear the words "gefilte fish" without remembering a story the Hubby told me about popular state fair he attended where every food item was served on a stick - one particularly intereting one was "gefilte-shtick".
No, I'm not making that up.

4/12/06, 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Kvetch Blogger said...

I'm not Aunt Fredda or Hally, but I am a loyal Jewish blogging reader (I thought Kvetch might be the clue)! Thanks for the reminder about the orange! My kids and I will go to a "real" Seder tonight, and then tomorrow night we'll have one here with two other single mom and kid families when we will have a ten-minute-seder-plate-intro-four-questions-afikomen Seder, so we can EAT. Passover is my favorite cooking holiday but it's a kosher-style catch-22. It also reminds me that I rarely have the occasion to cook for days food that will be eaten in 20 minutes. Ah, the good old days. DAYENU!!

4/12/06, 8:00 AM  
Blogger Mega Mom said...

I always considered myself an honorary Jew due to my many Jewish friends, my ability to recite "Baruch ata Adonoy, Eloheinu melech ha-olam" (yes, I had to Google that), and the fact that there is a fine line between Italian and Jewish grandmothers.

Your Passover sounds lovely. I love the blending of the traditions and religions. Enjoy your Matzoh Ball Hunt!

4/12/06, 8:02 AM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

Hey, bubbela, you forgot about me! 100% Jew here ... but sadly, NO seder for us tonight - I can't travel home and we don't have any jewish friends around here. :( I miss it, but you soooooo captured that whole "blood sugar plummeting" thing here. God that was fucking torture when I was a kid. And then we always had to have SALAD (which I didn't eat) BEFORE the soup, so I was forced to sit there for 20 minutes while everyone ate the salad. Gah!

Peaster ... eastover ... Hey, the last supper was a seder, anyway, so what does it matter what you call it?

4/12/06, 8:31 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

My husband's family is Jewish, so we're going to his step uncle's tonight for the Seder. Luckily, they tend to skip the boring parts, too, so it only takes about 45 min. before we can eat.

Funny story: my first Passover with them, I participated, but I didn't realize how strong horseradish was. They had the white pieces of it - the really strong stuff. When it came time, I put the entire piece in my mouth. A few seconds later, as my mouth caught fire, everyone started laughing at me as I grabbed my little cup of wine and downed it, then downed my husband's in an attempt to put out the fire.

Lesson learned.

4/12/06, 8:31 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Happy Passover! It sounds like you'll have a great time. I'm going to forward your post to a friend who I think will really appreciate it.

4/12/06, 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Mama C-ta said...

Happy Peaster! I love when traditions become all your own.

4/12/06, 9:08 AM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Your mother sounds fabulous. One of my best friends is Jewish and she's included me in passover before. I loved reading about your family's traditions. Sounds like fun. Though I don't know if my blood sugar could withstand it.

Oh and happy Peaster!

4/12/06, 9:23 AM  
Blogger Wendy Boucher said...

If I wasn't so content with my own family, I might seek adoption by yours. I love your mother sight-unseen. She sounds like my mother only without the weird Christian Science upbringing (my mom long since left that fold).

I'm not Jewish but I did send Girlie to a Jewish preschool for two years so she's got the holiday stuff down pat. Enjoy.

4/12/06, 9:33 AM  
Blogger landismom said...

Peaster-snicker-I love that.

What really drives me crazy about the traditional seder is that there is absolutely no way to make a kid under the age of 10 sit still for the entire thing. So I spend half of my time wandering into the living room to get my kids to stop jumping on someone else's couch ('save that behavior for home!').

4/12/06, 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Chase said...

Wow - that's a lot of stuff that I have never even heard of. It's much easier for us heathens, I think...though I do guess we have to wait 40-55 minutes for the pizza guy to arrive.

:) Happy Easter!

4/12/06, 9:43 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Hope you have a great time with your family and your traditions!

4/12/06, 9:46 AM  
Blogger zeldafitz said...

I LOVE THIS. Every single syllable of it. Because I am an ingnorant gentile and so it's lovely to hear of the traditions and how you have bent them in such a beautiful AND funny way.

I also LOVE the Karl Rove is gay part (I am a HUGE advocate of this theory/reality). And I love everything else your mom says.

Superb. Happy Peaster to you.

4/12/06, 10:26 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Sadly, that would be my family feeding the monkeys. And being chased down by security. Imagine being frisked because you brought in a banana! The sad part is, we are not Jewish. Just good ole fashion Christians. I just love being a redneck! (Hanging my head in shame.)

Have yourself a happy Peaster. Just think of the memories you are creating for Thalia! Have fun.

4/12/06, 10:29 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

I LOVE THIS TOOOOOOO! you've just given me the biggest frickin laugh--especially this bit:
"how my mom and I attended a massive feminist reconstructionist hippie seder one year, and how it led us to conclude that an entire room full of Jews with no rhythm should never be allowed free access to tambourines"

here here! (add to that, anglo protestant happy clappy types too, please).

am now circulating this to my jewish friends who have invited heathen like me to their seder. at least now i can introduce topics for conversation throughout the evening!

4/12/06, 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

While I was raised a Christian, my mom is a member of "Jews for Jesus," dated an 82 year old Jew who was on the 1924 Israeli Olympic Soccer team, and she makes Matzoh Ball Soup (yes, a 100% Chinese woman).

Maybe Jew by Proxy?

4/12/06, 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Happy Peaster. Hope you enjoy your Seder dinner -- can't wait to hear more about the Peaster egg-dying death match.

Interesting about the monkeys. There was just a news pic on Yahoo today about an elephant in Sri Lanka who has become ill from being fed cookies and other goodies, in celebration of the Buddhist New Year. Is this feeding of zoo animals a new epidemic? Film at 11.

4/12/06, 10:53 AM  
Blogger Tara's World said...

When I was young we had these huge seders with all the aunts uncles and cousins. Nowadays it seems noone does that anymore. I wonder why that is?

4/12/06, 10:59 AM  
Blogger Wendy O'Donnell said...

I so miss my family seders - since we are here in NC, I can't get home for it but those were some good times, rocking the Haggadah - lol - great post - Happy Pesach..

4/12/06, 11:29 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

LOVE the orange on the seder plate tradition (and it's origins) and wanted to note that as in most things, when you say you've seen it all, heard the most, had to craziest, something always happens to show you how wrong you were. And usually fairly soon afterwards, too. Have fun at the zoo!

4/12/06, 11:49 AM  
Blogger Lola said...

Is "Why is George Bush ruining this country?" now the fourth question?

4/12/06, 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Maggie said...

I have to differ with you on the food on one account -- brisket. Your family's brisket recipe is to die for.
Watch out; this Eastover your mom put Jeff and me in charge of picking the seder. Maybe we'll go back to one of those 4 hour deals! :) Just kidding. That brisket is too good to let it get cold on the table while we try to fill ourselves up on parsley dipped in salt water.

4/12/06, 12:13 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

I'm Jewish, if you can reschedule Passover to fit your schedule and still claim that. (My parents are coming on friday, what was I supposed to do, leave them out?)

My non-Jewish husband makes a mean brisket. Better than my mom's, though don't tell her that (she'll find out on Friday).

An Israeli-American friend sent me a 2 minute Haggadah. Email me if you want a copy.

4/12/06, 12:16 PM  
Blogger J said...

LOVE IT. Can an athiest come to join you and talk about Karl Rove and drink wine? I'm in! Happy Passover!

4/12/06, 12:34 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I'm a Jew-Hag (var. fag-hag, yes, offensive, so sue me, can't come up with catchy PC alternative off the cuff), as many of my favorite and admired people are Jewish (most of my colleagues and students, for starters, as well as my doctoral supervisor and two of my very best friends.)

Gawd, though, listen to me - Some Of My Best Friends Are Jews! Said the Catholic! (Who totally forgot about Easter until she saw Creme Egg McFlurries at McDonalds.)(And who clearly was not observing Lent.) (And who would rather go to a fun seder than sit down in front of another freakin' ham.)(And who clearly has Religious Identification Issues.)

Happy Peaster!

4/12/06, 12:58 PM  
Anonymous madge said...

My MIL calls me Jewish by insemination. (Ewwww.) I actually think it's more because I grew up in a city with more Jews than Jerusalem.

Even though he's the Jew and I'm Presbyterian, I STILL know more about the Jewish faith than my husband. (And he's covered in tattoos.) (And he hasn't been to temple since his bar mitzvah.) (And he doesn't like pickles!)

4/12/06, 1:51 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Oh God, yes. We have our Seder Friday night and my grandfather always brings the phone-book sized Haggadah and makes us read with a straight face VERBATIM. It takes 18 hours.

We also have Easter this weekend as well where I am still considered one of the kids and have to hunt for eggs. I will be posting an Eastover post with the full story.

4/12/06, 2:07 PM  
Blogger Pattie said...

Peaster...that is priceless....I am not Jewish, but my brother married a Jewish woman...love her! She often tells a similar story to yours. Anyway, I love to hear about other people's traditions. Oh, and I know a few zoo animals around here that would gladly consume those bread products!

4/12/06, 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

We do something simualr to Peaster. Bascally it's a ton of good food, crap for the kids and great conversations. Not traditional in the least, but I love it.

4/12/06, 2:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Peaster. Awesome! I want to come to your house... The conversation sounds way better!

4/12/06, 2:45 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Well, Happy Peaster and congrats on being MOTW at CHBM!

4/12/06, 3:05 PM  
Blogger Binky said...

I like the revolutionary orange bit. I need to find something ridiculous that the pope said and incorporate that into the Easter dinner I'm hosting this year. My mother in law will probably feel the need to go straight from my house to the confessional just for having viewed whatever heresy I come up with, but she's too polite to say anything. Which is good. At least I have that going for me. Thanks for the inspiration!

4/12/06, 3:47 PM  
Blogger Carrcakes said...

Is there a spot for a lapsed Catholic at your Passover table? The conversation sounds almost as entertaining as your blog.

4/12/06, 4:00 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Happy Peaster from Orygun, as well...
Still trying to decide if the aig-hunt will go on at the grandpa's house or if the kids are both too old anymore...
C'mon, Plan B!!!
:)

4/12/06, 6:04 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Peaster! LOL We have a sort of "Bacchanaleaster," at which one aunt will blame various worldy injustices on the devil, another aunt (the 58 year old virgin) will get drunk on boxed wine, start crying, and ask if she should have joined a convent, and the rest of us will avoid any discussion of politics or religion as if there was a prize attached to the endeavor WHILE stuffing our face with egg-based potluck casseroles. And drinking boxed wine. There are usually 4 to choose from, all lined up in a row at the edge of the card table.

4/12/06, 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Lia said...

Feeling blue tonight cause all our friends are continents away and we had no one to share our normaly unorthodox seder dinner with. I'm the Greek one, he's the Jew and we are begining to morph the two traditions for our daughter too...

4/12/06, 7:02 PM  
Blogger stefanierj said...

Happy Peaster, baby! My friends had a kids' Seder where we got to drown plastic frogs in the water glasses. It ruuuuuled.

4/12/06, 7:48 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

I love hearing everyone's own spin on Easter/Passover traditions. So fantastic! There is may be hope for the future of religion after all.

4/12/06, 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

I commented above (from my other blog) but for Passover, I tag you - heehee...have fun!

4/12/06, 8:36 PM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

Not Jewish. Presbyterian. Otherwise known as God's Frozen People.

I love your description, especially the orange. You should suggest it to Lilith magazine.

And I take issue with the food criticism -- have you never sat through a latke-hamantash debate?

Enjoy your beautiful holiday. Hag Sameach.

4/12/06, 9:20 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

I will have to suggest Peaster to my friend Stacey, who attempts to educate her children about their heritage despite being the only Jew in the state of Colorado.

I've always FELT like an honorary Jew. Growing up, I devoured the "All of a Kind Family" series about a Jewish family living in New York in the early 20th century. I learned all about the many holidays and traditions, and then rehashed them years later with my sorority sisters (nationally-Jewish sorority, about half of my sisters were Jewish), some of whom had never even heard of holidays such as Succos.

Then in New York, of course, I learned all about the Orthodox and Hasidic cultures. I used to share an office with an Orthodox Jew (who was also lesbian) and an Irish Catholic (born there, has the accent, etc.), and we used to have a hell of a time deciding what to order for lunch. And when my mid-western cousin visited and saw a news story about a shopkeeper in Williamsburg named Yeedle, she decided that we should name our next baby Yeedle (assuming it was a boy).

But one of our favorite heathen traditions (which we will carry on here next weekend) was to go to the zoo on Easter. No one but Hasidic Jews as far as the eye could see.

Your Seder sounds great. Enjoy!

4/12/06, 10:03 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

I am not jewish, however I throughly enjoyed reading about your traditions...thanks for sharing! Happy Peaster!! (so never heard of that before!!) Congrats on being the mom of the week!

4/13/06, 12:01 AM  
Blogger something blue said...

Any tradition that brings family together is The Best! Hope your Seder dinner was memorable.

The feeding the monkeys side note was hilarious and it also lead me to an article comparing the Brangelina baby to Jesus. Stop the insanity.

4/13/06, 12:34 AM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Both my husband and I stabbed our selves in the hand trying to make it to a friend's Seder on time last night. DORKS UNITE!

4/13/06, 11:24 AM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

I grew up eating Matzo thins, for some reason. How they got into the cupboard of a Japanese American family I'll never know.

I had a boyfriend in college who was Jewish, and he caught me once eating one with peanut butter. He almost broke up with me right there.

4/13/06, 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Peaster! Brilliant! I may have to borrow that next year.

4/13/06, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

As a gentile gal who took two years of Hebrew - for the hell of it, I must admit to making a mean Matzoh ball soup.

4/13/06, 8:39 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Sweatpants mom: Matzo thins and pb ROCKS. I ate the same as the kid. He shouldn't have broken up with you, he should have married you. His loss.

4/13/06, 11:51 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Most O Jews burn their hametz, so I'm wondering how much of an issue this is, and how much of an urban legend.

Now, as to seder food, I beg to differ. Maybe in your house it's heavy and boring, but in my house it is excellent and delicious. Our first seder started out with a bit of gefilte fish, homemade with salmon and it was great. We moved on to chicken soup with matzoh balls, also all homemade. I use dill in my soup and in my matzoh balls, so they have a distinct flavor.

Next was the meal, consisting of herbed turkey, a potato kugel, an apple farfel kugel that tastes like pie, cranberry orange relish, grilled asparagus and a light cranberry granita to finish. We also had chocolate cake for dessert, and homemade macaroons.

Second seder was a brisket made with a fruit tsimmes, mashed sweet potatos, and fresh brussel sprouts pan fried in an onion garlic sauce. Dessert was a raspberry torte and a flourless lemon cake.

We don't drink concord grape wine (oh, the kids do, but adults had a shiraz the first night, and a cabernet the second night. Both were kosher wines, which are excellent these days.

So you CAN do it.

4/16/06, 2:40 AM  

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