Haggadah

The Venice Haggadah of 1609. The Haggadah is the book followed at the seder, or the Passover meal, to tell the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.

Passover is less than two weeks away, and if you celebrate the holiday at your house, you know what that means: it’s time to clean out the pantry, remember where you put the good china and bug all your friends to see if you can assemble eight days’ worth of palatable recipes.

(Also, for those of us living in certain parts of northern New England, we engage in the annual hunting ritual for Passover food in grocery stores, best if approached as a drinking game. Each inquiry about Passover products met with a blank stare requires one shot of Manischewitz wine; every “Pass-what?” equals two shots. Sorry, but you have to drink the bottle if you’re directed to matzoh that states on the box, “Not kosher for Passover,” or to the deli case featuring “Ham for your Passover table.”)

So wrong

So wrong

In years past, I’ve offered “A Passover Seder Survival Kit” for families with young kids, as well as some of my personal culinary tactics for getting through the holiday. (Nutella still figures prominently in my Passover diet.) If you’ve got small children, then please do click on that link above for some ideas on making it through the seder with your sanity intact.

We’re in a different place in my family now. I’ve got a newly minted teen and a tween. (It scares me every time I write that.) They don’t need plague bags at the seder anymore, or a Sesame Street video to entertain them if the discussion goes on too long.

In fact, my son, “Jack,” is now officially an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community. To my husband and I, that means he can make his own decisions about whether or not to follow the dietary laws of Passover when outside of our house. So although I communicated to Jack that of course, my preference is for him to keep Passover, I figure it can’t hurt to provide him with some tangible encouragement. (Because, yes, it’s all supposed to be about religion and the history of the Jewish people, but let’s face it: it won’t hurt if the food is good, right? Of course right.)

Here are my plans for Passover T(w)een.0, ending with my newest strategy for Pesach culinary happiness:

  • The seder table will still contain appetizers. The metabolisms of both kids right now run so fast and their transformations into proverbial Mr. Hydes are so striking if their fuel requirements are not met that I will not deprive them of calories for any length of time. I don’t need those monsters at the table. I’ll be glad if the afikomen survives long enough for someone to hide it.
  • We’ll be using a regular, adult-oriented Haggadah, but I will go through it first and highlight what we will use and what will skip. To be honest, this is as much for the adults at the table as it is for the kids.
  • There will be homework. The kids were as excited about this when I broke the news as you can imagine they would be, but that’s perfectly fine with me. In past years, I’ve brought to the table a modern story of servitude and/or oppression to relate the historical story of the Hebrew slaves to modern times. This year, I’ve asked the kids to find stories on their own to share. Look, they’re staring at screens all the time, anyway. They may as well contribute something to the seder while they’re at it.
  • The script (or Hagaddah) is a guide. I’m going to do my best to remember that the underlying point of the seder is to tell our children the story of the Jews’ journey from slavery to freedom. Yes, there are certain ritual aspects of the seder we need to include—the handwashing, the plagues, the four questions, etc.—but the story and its meaning is supreme. So if one of the kids raises a question or goes off on a tangent sparked by a genuine curiosity? Great. We go there. If such tangents lead us to a point where it’s getting late, we can speed up other parts of the seder. I’ll take genuine interest over rote ritual any day.
  • I have a sous-chef! Depending on her mood, almost ten-year-old “Emmie” likes to plan and cook with me, and she’s finally old enough actually to be helpful. Emmie, I hope you’re in the mood, because those three charoses aren’t going to make themselves. (Yum, Iranian charoset. And mango and pear charoset. And of course the traditional. We’ll eat the leftovers all week.)
  • Here’s my new culinary secret for Passover, discovered during last summer’s World Cup: Pao de Queijo, or Brazilian Cheese Bread. It’s made with tapioca, which is acceptable on Passover.* There are zillions of recipes out there; this is the one I used. I couldn’t stop eating them! Between this and the Nutella (don’t eat them together—ew), you won’t lose any weight during Passover, but you will be happy.

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*Please note that your standards on what is acceptable on Passover may differ from mine. Tapioca, or cassava, does not contain any chametz (leavened bread or anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye), and that is good enough for me. If you require your food products to be certified Kosher for Passover, you will have to look harder to find acceptable tapioca, but it is out there. The ingredient itself is the same.

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