Monday, April 18, 2011

unclear on the Pesach concept

Well ouch! A wonderful friend who's put together his first Pesach posted his pics on fb, oh my. And his seder plate is lovely. Oops, he says, he forgot to cook the shank — but a beet apparently's kosher l'Pesach. Learn something new every day.

James Frazier would have approved. Is that imitative magic or sympathetic magic in which, he says, the visual similarity can stand in magically for the object itself? The beet becomes the shank.

And my friend's soup looked great, if a little California. For the matzah balls were made from whole wheat matzahs. Kol ha-kavod, I say! Who says he should go only for the pale, off-white balls?

But the pi├Ęce de resistance — the thing that cracked me up no end, and gets filed under the 'unclear on the concept' heading — was the main dish. I could feel my father rolling nauseously in his grave. And then magnanimously letting it go.

Okay, there was a baked potato. I've never seen one at Pesach before, but I've seen plenty of roasted potatoes — so okay, fine.

There was a brisket. Looks great. I think that was brisket.

But then. I mean, no way! Creamed green vegetable thing. No f—ing way!

It just hadn't occurred to him that you couldn't do creamed veggies with brisket, let alone do them together for Pesach.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the biggest no-no in the Bible. The idea that you might by accident cook, say, a lamb in its mother's milk — is the most revolting idea possible. And so here's one kashrut law that's got my vote. Not that it would or could happen these days — but Stroganoff seems to me a terrible sin.

And I was reminded of the numerous potluck Seders I've had, and some of the strangest things that people brought.

—Noodle dishes, with actual noodles. As opposed to fake noodley things made from matzas or matza meal.

—Salad with bacon bits (I think this was in Detroit).

—Apple pie and ice cream for dessert. An absolute crossing-the-desert must.

—Bread pudding!

—etc etc.

And I've done my little holier-than-thou trip on them. How could they?? And my Sephardi chauvinism on them. And turned up my nose at that Ashkenazi charoset glop. Things like that. I've always been terribly intolerant and ungracious in this way. With no tact at all.

In other words, I've been more Pharaoh than I've been Moses.

And looking at my friend's photo of his proud first Pesach seder meal — I have to let it go. All the rules of doing it this way over that way. Of my charoset's better than your charoset...

It's at the Seder that we ask, year after year:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

And the answer could be about reclining, and leavening, and dipping twice, and four cups, and getting through the Haggadah.

But what it's really about is freedom, isn't it.

And so, for once, I'm letting go my sense of outrage and my tyrannical notion of proper Pesadich cooking. And I'm saying, go for it! Milk that sense freedom for all it's worth. And I mean it. I approve.

But I'm still shuddering.

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