It’s quite good when you’re grown up and have your own house. As long as your partner’s not too fussy, you can make it up as you go along. There is no finer festival for this than Passover.
As I mentioned in my earlier blog posts, I do try to keep the essence without getting too caught up in the minutiae. (Minutiae can be extremely expensive.)
So for Passover, I decided that we would eat as much of the hametz as we could beforehand and confine what was left to one drawer of the freezer and the garage. We had some pretty grim meals that last week, I can tell you. Wednesday night’s supper was so eclectic that it really should have been served in courses.
Not many families look forward to the food on Passover but I made sure that my lot were going to be gagging for it. On Thursday I cleaned out the cupboards and filled them with dry food. Very, very dry food. Food you would not dream of eating in real life.
My husband is not a big fan of eating out – why would he when he’s married to such an awesome cook? (I’m going to be told off by the kids for using that word.) However, when I suggested it as our last supper on Thursday night, he literally skipped out to the car.
He was closely followed by my teenage daughter, who doesn’t like to be seen with her parents in daylight, and who made herself comfortable in the back and didn’t complain about the Bruce Springsteen CD he plays in a loop.
As we approached the restaurant we noticed the most enormous shawarma imaginable, turning deliciously on the spit. “Let’s get this shawarma started,” chanted my son playfully. (He often goes into rapper mode, especially when he’s excited.) We are a family of meat lovers, I cannot deny it. I serve vegetarian fare too, and they eat it, but meat is our true love. The aforementioned shawarma was a little large, but I have been known to lose myself in a daydream of being handed the lovely roastiness whole and eating it like corn on the cob. But I settled for a pita-full and it was very nice, thank you.
We were interested to learn that the restaurant would be open for Passover and that the staff were going to work through the night to “kasher it up.” We casually asked the proprietor what would be served during the holiday and, of course, were presented with the menu. Gosh, 20 pounds for a grill and chips. Mind you, kosher meat ain’t cheap and there were all the extra overheads. But then my husband nearly choked on his laffa: “TEN QUID FOR MATZA BREI!?” I had to agree with his assessment of the price. This place was hardly The Ritz; in fact it bore quite a strong resemblance to the caff in Eastenders. I doubt we shall be dining out over Passover.
Moving on to the big night. Look up the meaning of the word “seder,” and you will find the explanation “order.” I have other suspicions. I think it comes from the word “sedrayt.” If you haven’t heard of this word, think meshuga. And to do the same meshugas two nights running… well they don’t do it in Israel. So we’re Israeli. (This may be stretching the truth a little, but we have visited Israel many times and we love falafel.)
It was up to me or my sister to prepare this family event. “I’ll do the seder, if you do the seder plate,” I offered. It seemed like a fair deal. Only after I’d made the deal did I see that they were selling ready-made seder plates in Golders Green for £7. (Surely this should be called a McSeder Plate.)
Now, it is our family tradition to have loopholes at Passover. My mum used to buy everything Kosher le Pesach except for Sweetex. I have a 100% cupboard and a cupboard that has stuff that is not technically hametz but “ech what could possibly be in it?”
My sister and brother-in-law are vegetarians and had shank bone issues. “I’ll just bend a piece of tinfoil in a bone shape; nobody has to know,” she asserted me. I do love her.
The preparations went well. My daughter decided that she wanted some Mummytime in the kitchen and we set about the menu. My tidy husband was at work and we lived the dream, sometimes putting on the dishwasher when it wasn’t even ¾ full. We listened to Oasis as a compromise and she even let me high-five her as we congratulated ourselves on our fantastic culinary skills.
We smoothly tackled that awkward not-quite-Passover lunch, where you can neither eat hametz nor matza, by making “Pesach Rolls.” (By the way, if anyone can explain why you can use matza meal but not matza, I’d be interested to hear.)
By six o’clock we were ready to receive our guests. The chicken was in the oven and the vegetable loaf was looking very green. (I was later told that it was delicious. Well it would be: I’d used as much margarine as all the other ingredients put together.) I’d forgotten to take the shankbone out of the freezer (yes I bought a real one) and so I took it out at the last minute, keeping it in the plastic wrap in respect of the vegetarians. It may not have been a textbook seder, but our hearts were in the right places.