Food is my life and cooking my favorite pastime. I look forward to hosting dinner parties, making waffles on Sunday morning, baking Christmas cookies and, best of all, Thanksgiving, as it is the one time of the year when I get to go absolutely insane in the kitchen, pull out all the stops and no one can say anything about it because they know they are gonna get a crazy good meal in the end. But this year was different, as I hosted my first meal that I would consider as crazy-making as Thanksgiving: a Passover Seder.
I’m not Jewish, but my boyfriend’s family is and he grew up with a family who loved cooking up a frenzy during the holidays. As a once food studies major who took many a class about food and culture, I have questioned him and his family members many times about their relationships with Jewish food. So they have taken me to their favorite Jewish delis and Ethan even gave me some of his grandmother’s old cookbooks to peruse.
Last year – our first year in Los Angeles – when we were living with Ethan’s dad, the three of us simply took in some food from Canter’s (amazing Jewish deli by the way) for the Passover Seder. And I really enjoyed the ceremony and everything the meal represented (beyond being tasty).
So after that experience, and upon Ethan and I receiving a family heirloom Seder plate and Kiddush cup from his family, I who will never turn down a challenge, asked Ethan’s dad if we could host a 10 person Passover Seder at his home. And, as he is already crazy enough to let me take over his kitchen at Thanksgiving, he said yes.
We invited our close friends (the kind who always bring wine) and I scoured Ethan’s grandmother’s cookbooks, as well as the blogosphere, for the absolute best recipes for the seder.
The day of the Seder I started cooking around 11 a.m. By the time the guests arrived at 7 p.m. I had made slow roasted brisket with carrots and onions, matzo ball soup and a flourless chocolate cake for our company (all of which you can find the recipes for at the bottom of this post). And as this was my first Seder and Ethan’s dad didn’t want me to, you know, die, we supplemented my homemade dishes with pre-made latkes and pastrami from Canter’s, kugel from Costco and some kosher for Passover cookies & cake.
As for the actual Seder part (during which we used our lovely Seder plate), we did a modified version, as we wanted to respect the holiday and tradition, while not alienating our non-Jewish guests. But I have to say, they all seemed to have an amazing time wearing yarmulke, reading from the Haggadah and, oh ya, drinking all the wine.
In the end I was satisfied with how things turned out, not because of the praise I received from all our guests, but because Ethan’s dad told me I had done Ethan’s grandmother proud; and that was the highest compliment I could have hoped for.
But I’m already thinking about next year, when I will go for the gold by trying to make EVERYTHING.