Vacation Seder

April 19, 2011


This week finds me and my darling family on vacation in Washington, DC, where we have the good fortune to have access to a lovely, unoccupied, one-bedroom apartment in Georgetown (it is the American pied-a-terre of a good friend’s Amsterdam-based parents). DC is a town I love, and I have been bursting with excitement to show it off to my boys, especially the elder who, at six, is highly interested in all things historical and especially in the civil rights movement (I am currently in the process of reading him Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, which is wholly inappropriate for a six-year-old, inasmuch as it contains the serpentine sentence structures that were typical of the nineteenth century, coiled around detailed scenes of gore and human cruelty best suited to the ouevre of Mr. Tarantino). As such, it was with some irritation that I confronted the necessary tasks of our first full day: instead of heading directly to the Mall, I was charged with taking both boys to the nearest grocery store, realizing a full shop in preparation for a Seder that we were to host (!), and preparing all of the food for said ceremonial meal.

I made the (rather long) walk up Wisconsin Ave. to Safeway tolerable by giving the boys free reign to play and dally (see above), with the understanding that the walk back would be a relentless, unforgiving march. They made remarkably good on their end of the bargain, although they proved useless in the carrying-groceries department. It was a schlep, but it was a fun schlep, and unlike Hartford, where Spring has staggered along in fits and torrentially rainy starts, Washington is floral and balmy, which buoys the hearts of New Englanders and makes heavy groceries seem lighter.

Upon our return, with Anna yet laboring to finish some still-pending academic endeavor, I put the boys to watch a movie and commenced cooking: charoseth, rack of lamb (breaded with crumbled matzoh, of course), sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccolini (’cause I’m gourmet like that).

About half way through the slog home from Safeway, when my fingers really felt as though they might start to bleed from the weight of those plastic bags laden with nearly $200 of groceries, I felt a little peeved. When I then got to the business of peeling, coring, and chopping apples, I was tending toward actual bitterness (and the charoseth, traditional off-setter of bitterness, was not even ready yet!).

But the charoseth recipe called for wine, and once the bottle was open and I’d poured myself a glass, and then another, I realized that it didn’t really matter if I hadn’t exactly signed up to cook Seder for eight, or to schlep groceries all over hell and gone, or any of that, because actually, I LOVE doing anything outdoors with my sons. And I LOVE cooking for people. And I LOVE Passover. And I LOVE my wife. And soon I was a little bit drunk and the charoseth was done so I could (and did) start gorging myself on Hillel’s sandwiches, and vacation felt like vacation once again.

And then people came and we had a Seder! I surprised myself by finishing all the food right on time, and Anna and I muddled happily through the ceremony, supplementing our overly progressive haggadahs with some of the mid-century reform Judaism essentials we know and love. (My favorite is the simple son, who looks around at the Seder and says, in earnest befuddlement, “What is all this?” That kid gives voice to so much of how I feel about the world.)

And the food was good and the company was great, and plagues, freedom, parting of the Red Sea, next year in Jerusalem, &c. It was so nice, and possibly the best way I have ever begun a vacation.

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2 Responses to “Vacation Seder”

  1. “And the food was good and the company was great, and plagues, freedom, parting of the Red Sea, next year in Jerusalem, &c. It was so nice, and possibly the best way I have ever begun a vacation.”

    And now you truly understand the wisdom of our ancestors: four glasses of wine.

  2. Your mother's ex's ex says said

    This is lovely and poetic and lyrical (which might all be the same thing) and funny. I loved reading it…

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