Passover is the re-telling of the Jew’s exit from Egypt after being enslaved by Pharaoh. We hold two Seders (the word means ‘order’, as the evening’s proceedings follow a certain order), and we read from the Hagaddah,which means ‘to tell’, since we tell the story of our ancestor’s delivery from slavery in the land of Egypt.
In a nutshell, Moses, acting on behalf of the Big Kahuna himself, is sent to convince his people to follow him right out of slavery, and hopefully to the Promised Land. Ever polite, Moses asks the Pharaoh several times to ‘Let my people go.’ Helping out in the background is G-d, who sends any manner of what should be convincing messages (the plagues) to Pharaoh to try to convince him to release the Jewish people from slavery. Pharaoh is a stubborn monarch, and holds his ground until the last plague-the smiting of the first born. After that, he tells Moses to take his people and get the heck out. And to do it fast, before he changes his mind.
Enter the Passover Seder, an in-the-home service and meal where we re-tell the story of the Exodus and eat ourselves silly. Stretchy pants are de-riguer.
We are not very religious. Or Seders take about 30 minutes (in other homes they can be up to two hours), and they are a bit chaotic, involving a lot of screaming, matzo throwing, and my older brother screaming out ‘Where’s Elijah’ in a Deep South accent. But, we love our version of Passover. To me and my siblings, tossed around in our childhoods by divorce, tradition means everything. That means that we serve the EXACT same meal, year-over-year. We use the same recipes, even though my mother tries to suggest, delicately, that we try something new. But, in this we children hold firm.
So, back to the beginning and the moot debate about meat or chicken. I say moot because even though we discuss it, the menu does not change. We serve both, and the meat’s always brisket, and the chicken is always Lemon Chicken.
I have to say, I’m like a Passover dictator. I make almost all the food myself (Matzo ball soup, meat, vegetables, sides, even the desserts). I carefully parcel out contributions to my family-I let someone bring the Gefilte fish, and my brother makes the chicken. My sister rocks the Charoset, and I’ll let just about anyone boil and peel the eggs to be served in salt water.
But, other than that, its all me. It’s truly a challenge to make amazing food when you follow the restrictions imposed by the Passover ban on anything leavened or that expands (you can’t even eat mustard). But, I do believe that I’m the master. Especially, when it comes to Brisket. Everyone says theirs is the best, but mine truly is. And, I don’t even have to brag about my frozen lemon meringue cake. The fact that it always gets finished, even after a 5000 calorie meal speaks for itself. Here’s a post with the recipes for both.
If you can wrangle an invite to a Seder, you should do it. According to tradition, we’re supposed to have someone there who has no better place to be, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find yourself a seat at a Passover table.
Oh, did I mention that we are REQUIRED to drink four glasses of wine during the Seder?
For more Passover posts: