Monday, April 23, 2012

Over the Passover Hump 2012

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The first seder was on Friday, April 6, this year. After much going back and forth about the venue, we belatedly decided that both sedarim would take place at Jess and Alex’s home in New Jersey. Alex would prepare the bulk of the meal, and I would supply my usual assortment of desserts. It all worked out very beautifully. I was especially pleased because Jess sent Inky to visit with Elaine and Shayna the week before the sedarim, before the house was cleaned from top to bottom, so I was able to spend hours at their home during the seder with nary a sneeze or touch of asthma. Saul and I kashered our kitchen beginning the Saturday night and part of Sunday before the sedarim, and, after a bit more kitchen prep on Monday morning, I was able to get started with my cooking and baking. Saul and I stopped at Simon’s Kosher Meat in Northeast Philadelphia to pick up the meat order on our way to have lunch with Jessica and our granddaughters after Hebrew School. Alex stayed behind to begin his kashering.

We had planned to lunch at Cheesecake Factory in Cherry Hill, but it was so crowded (45 minute wait), that we decided to go next door to McCormick and Schmick’s, which was just about empty. The three girls were ravenous by 2:00 p.m., so we were pleased at the accommodating, quick and pleasant service. The prices for lunch, however, were astronomical. The food was delicious, but the bill for three adults, two children and a two-year-old came to almost $100 with the tip. Needless to say, we won’t be going back anytime soon. There are so many wonderful places to eat in New Jersey without breaking the bank.

My weekdays were spent preparing dishes to feed dessert to almost 40 people during the two sedarim. With the second seder falling on Shabbat, all the cooking for both days had to be finished by sundown on Friday. As usual, Alex outdid himself with the array of dishes for the sedarim—two soups, matzoh balls, pepper salad, guacamole, grilled salmon with horseradish sauce, three different salsas, crudité trays, prime rib, smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes, tossed salad with homemade dressing, pickled beets and turnips, quinoa pilaf, roasted lamb chops with cherry sauce, short ribs, etc., etc. On the first night, Sami led the seder with Saul’s help, and did a masterful job which made us all kvell. On the second night, we were 23 people and had a very lively seder using Alex’s custom-prepared family Haggadah. Cousin Bob called in sick the day before with a bad cold. In attendance were: Alex, Jess, Sami, Izzy, and Yona, Ari, Elaine W., Saul and me, Aaron, Stacey, Jacob, Lilly and Zach, Naomi, Matt and Talia, Larry, Beth, Elaine S., Aunt Ruth, Anne, and Ben, and Rifka.

Ari stayed with us for a few days, and needed food to take back to DC during his work week. All three girls were off from school for spring break and would be staying with me during Passover while Saul went to teach during chol hamoed. On Tuesday, his short day, he took Izzy along with him to her delight. I made a few batches of Chocolate Almond Bars; about six dozen Mocha Mousse Crepes with Raspberry sauce; eight flavors of fresh sorbet, including strawberry, orange, Meyer lemon, pineapple, grapefruit, banana, mango, and white nectarine; six dozen Passover Potato Knishes; two dozen whole wheat matzoh rolls; 100 whole wheat matzoh balls; Passover egg noodles; a Passover apple pie and strawberry rhubarb pie made with the Passover apple pie crust and topping. I reveled in the preparation, especially because I was caught up with all my computer work and could concentrate on the cooking with a clear head and without having to run into the office every so often to put in a few hours. I also decided to prepare a big Shabbat meal at home on the Friday after the sedarim, so I needed to prepare a few things for that as well. I invited Ken and Randi, Jamie and Andy and kids, Haley and Erik, Faith, Beth, Brenna, Larry, and my kids. We would have been 18 for dinner, but Jamie called about an hour before dinner to say that Presley was running a high fever and Erica called to say that Brenna was being punished for bad behavior. In the afternoon, Beth called to say that Paul had surprised her and flown in from Oklahoma, so he joined us and took up some of the slack (or snack?). Jess came to help ready dinner and take the girls home after dinner. The meal was delicious! We had crispy, honey/lemon steelhead trout with horseradish/dill sauce, a wildly successful recipe that the girls and I had invented for a dinner during the week, and which we decided we should repeat. This was followed by Alex’s chicken soup with his gigantic matzoh balls for which Haley was up to the challenge. I think she ate three of them. We had Passover potato knishes, Chicken Paprikash, Israeli salad, glazed Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pomegranate seeds, orange-glazed roasted beets, and steamed broccoli. For dessert, we had all of the above-mentioned desserts.

On the Monday after the sedarim, between hours of working remotely, Ari helped Sami put together the Lego White House, which turned out to be the most difficult of the three architectural kits (Falling Water and the Guggenheim Museum). Saul was home that Monday also, and we all enjoyed hanging out together for the day. The girls watched movies, shopped, and helped prepare meals most days during the week. We found that our public library in Blue Bell had dubbed versions of Miyazaki’s animations for loan, and we borrowed and watched My Neighbor Totoro, which I had recorded from television in 2005, but was not able to show the girls because I only had the subtitled version, which they were too young to read at the time. Evidently all the Miyazaki movies have been dubbed by the voices of big name movie stars since Disney acquired the rights. We all loved it.

Worse than the preparations for Passover is the cleaning up and putting away aspect of the holiday. Each year as I stow the special pots, pans, dishes and utensils, I wonder where we will all be next year at this time. I have begun getting the house ready to go up for sale again and that is a bittersweet activity. Camp Bubbie and Saba will not be taking place this year as Sami is off to Camp Ramah and Izzy and Yona will be going to different day camps in New Jersey. I am excited to get on with my life—the possibility of more freedom and travel, but apprehensive about what is to come, also. We have had such a wonderful time here for the last 19 years.

Last Wednesday was Ken’s 60th birthday and his girls had a surprise for him. They met him for lunch and presented him with a scavenger hunt they had concocted, which required him to follow rhymed clues and visit various friends and relatives. Our part was to prepare his favorite blueberry pie, which I decorated with his initials in honor of the day.

As the school year winds down and that big bump in my year which is Passover has passed, I look forward to new beginnings and a relaxing summer filled with fun with all the people I hold dear.