Don’t Passover the Cocktails

For reasons I am not at liberty to share, I’m beginning to wonder whether vodka is kosher for Passover. Potatoes are cool, right?

For those of you less Jewish than I, it’s not just that you can’t eat bread on Passover. There are all sorts of rules about what qualifies as leavened and what doesn’t. It gets really complicated.

In fact, many Jews spend the days leading up to Passover finding, packaging up and getting rid of (or having a friend store) all the leavened food items in the house.

I spent the days leading up to Passover the way I spend the days leading up to any holiday: moving my piles from one Rubbermaid to the other and trying to make the uncontained piles look decorative — like they’re there on purpose.

“Wow,” Ray said this morning. “I wish Passover came every week.”

I did outdo myself by actually sweeping the porch and back patio. I even hosed some stuff off.

I think the dinner tonight will be nice, as long as some plague doesn’t befall my cleaning lady before she can get to my house this afternoon and scour the crap out of it.

But I’m not sure how much fun it will be.

Passover just isn’t that much fun. This was the subject of a spirited discussion at ballet last week. I don’t take ballet, but the girls do and now that Sophie takes a class, too (this was a long time coming; I’ve written about it before) we are at that damn studio from 9 am to 12:30 pm each Saturday. It’s a marathon.

Luckily the morning comes with coffee, shopping (there’s a great thrift store in between the coffee shop and the dance studio), and friends. I’ve known some of these moms and their girls since Annabelle was 3. We’re tight.

Over cofee last Saturday, my friend Betsy told us all about her Passover traditions. She’s a Tucson Jew. For some reason, I’ve always considered Tucson Jews to be more authentic than Phoenix Jews. There’s tightknit Jewish community down there. In Phoenix, everything’s far flung, including the Jews.

Betsy had us tittering with stories of her living room decorated with blue streamers and red Crayoned fish to symbolize the Red Sea. My mother, always one to try to make a holiday happier, chimed in with an idea she read somewhere. You’re supposed to take tiny marshmallows and put them on the blades of a ceiling fan, then turn it on.

“Locusts!” she announced. (My mom always wants to re-enact the plagues in creative ways.)

OK, if you tried to do that in my house, Ray would shit a brick and given my ability to clean up after such messes, I wouldn’t blame him.

I’ll have to frisk my mother for marshmallows tonight. I looked at the web site Betsy forwarded with the fun Passover ideas, and I just couldn’t get in the mood. And really, it’s okay with me if the whole thing isn’t outright raucous fun, but could it at least be a little festive?

Betsy mentioned that Sprinkles cupcakes (yes, designer cupcakes and we got the first outpost after the flagship in Beverly Hills — and they’re really good!) is having a special holiday promotion. They have Easter cupcakes that look like little bunnies, and Passover cupcakes with Jewish stars on them.

Now, Betsy was concerned that the cupcakes aren’t kosher for Passover (turns out they are) but that didn’t occur to me. I was too busy wondering why the Christians get bunny ears instead of crosses, if we Jews have to have big Stars of David atop our allegedly fun desserts.

It’s not fair. My friend Deborah maintains that the Christians steal all the Jews’ best magic and make it more fun. She’s right! Consider Passover. Partway through the seder, you are supposed to open the door for Elijah the Prophet, a mythical figure who sips from the wine you leave him. Is it just the wind? Who knows.

Who cares? Boooooooring. To Deborah’s way of thinking, the Christians took Elijah, put ears on him and gave him some chocolate. Instead of coming in your house and sipping your wine, this version brings you candy and hides eggs.

Much better magic. And with a better color palette.

All this is sacrilege, I know, but I just can’t help myself. Last night I made a list of all the things I thought about doing to make Passover more fun but didn’t have time to do, like making sangria (don’t call AA, it’s just that Passover wine is bad) or  making macaroons from scratch or making a mixed CD of mood music with copies for everyone to take home.

Then I thought maybe I’d make make those centerpieces where you fill a large glass container with candy (like candy corn for Halloween or candy hearts for Valentine’s Day) and then put a smaller container in it with flowers, but I couldn’t come up with a good idea for Passover candy.

Screw it, I thought, I’ll use Easter candy. But I ran out of time.  Instead, last night I dug around in the bottom of the Easter/Passover Rubbermaid and found some dessert plates and napkins with Peeps on them, and some vintage cupcake picks with bunnies, flowers and chicks that will be perfect for the gefilte fish.

In another pile, I did find something really special, something I forgot we had: a matzoh cover that Annabelle made in pre-school. Thank God for the East Valley Jewish Community Center! So we’ll have that on the seder table along with the bunny picks, and I’ll be happy.

I also found some Haggadahs (the seder prayer book) my mom made a few years ago. She managed to pare the service down to about a 10 minute job, and that’s if you drag it out.

So really, I’m set. Sort of. I just need to figure out the cocktail thing. (“Hava tequila?” Deborah asked. “Then we can dance the let my people go go.”)

And tomorrow I can go back to decoupaging eggs.



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5 responses to “Don’t Passover the Cocktails

  1. deborah

    for the record, i firmly believe that i am allowed to say sacrilegious things about both christianity and judaism, because i am a product of both traditions, but i am no doubt going to hell in an easter basket regardless.

  2. elewinnek

    I always thought passover was fun. Bitter herbs to make faces at, that sweet apple-raisin thing to enjoy, drunken adults pretty quickly, a reallllly long meal, songs that you have to laugh at, the hide-the-matzoh-thing in some houses, some gross gefilte fish to make more faces at, otherwise fairly tasty food, a really bizarre story, and a ceremony that encourages kids to ask questions. And sometimes people sit tilted on their chairs, and that’s just weird.

    Clearly, this is the perspective of a goy child who felt privileged to go to other people’s seders. It’s also the perspective of someone who finds fun in odd places, and thinks it’s fun to tell history with food. I’m not sure a fan flinging marshmallows would have delighted me quite as much as just watching deep and odd traditions.

    In college, my friends and I even convinced the Mitzvah-Van people to give us their passover-in-a-box kit. It was a Jewish charity for college kids, so it contained grapejuice instead of passover wine, but it was still fun.

    Now I live only among other goys, there are no Mitzvah-Van-people accosting us every Friday afternoon, and I miss passover, but I don’t have the energy to pull it together for myself.

  3. Robert Polk

    If you were something else, say, Episcopalian, you’d be exempt from all these technicalities in the Law.

    Here, this should help keep things in compliance: 🙂

    Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

  4. One, Mr. Polk, I don’t know where these people got an idea of their “shack”, but it has NOTHING to do with Judaism. Wanted to be sure any readers here knew that.
    Passover is fun! (Don’t think I am typing this on the holiday, in Israel we keep only one day). Last night I sat like a queen at the table, surrounded by family. My granddaughter recited “Mah Nishtanah”, and we ignored the mistakes and enjoyed her efforts. The food was good (of course, I made it….), and the singing lively. We say the entire haggadah, but don’t drag it out TOO long. Two sons peppered the proceedings with nice stories, and another threw in a bad joke here and there. OK, one grandaughter snuck into the kitchen and broke a few eggs, but all in all, things were nice. No marshmellows on fans… traditions are built from year to year, and eventually you have family fun about them. (We even have a song we sing whenever my grown sons see an old baby bottle stashed away with the Passover dishes! And we laugh and laugh over it!)
    Passover has so much meaning. If you think about the importance of the issues of freedom.. both freedom as a people, and freedom from our own self-imposed limitations, there is a ton of material for thought and teaching.
    And maybe you should use wine for the four cups, and not grape juice. (’cause I find it hard to believe you didn’t have fun with a few cups of GOOD wine….LOL)
    No, I don’t think you are sacriligious… just missing out somehow on the beauty of the holiday. What a shame!

  5. Robert Polk

    The sacreligious folks of are parodying Leviticus, Chapter 15, with the “shack.”

    Leviticus has many extraordinary rules. Who upholds these laws today? I choose to question them. Many simply ignore them.

    I apologize if I have made you uncomfortable.

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