Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to treif your Seder

Hi again,

I still owe you an email about our McFelafel, but it involves pix and I can't find a cord that will hook my phone to the computer.  In the meantime, you'll have to settle for our very exciting seder adventures.

For those of you who have been paying attention, you will recall that we had a seder here, with our good friends the Wines and the Richters.  We were a total of 7 adults and 11 children.  Our friends from across the way lent us their apt for some of our friends to sleep, and the rest were here.  

Seder preparations were fun.  The kids were really eager to have a car door, which has been our tradition since Ross brought a car door back from the dump a few years ago, to display in our living room ("so that if we get hot in the desert we can roll down the window...").  We told them in no uncertain terms that we were not going to bring a car door into our little apt, but tradition is tradition, so Abaye made one out of this big spongy gray foam thing.  It was better than having the really thing!  (Literally!) 

Once in the past we had bought a pinata for  seder (to smash the idols...).  We decided we would do that this year again.  The problem was, we couldn't find one for sale anywhere.  So I thought I would make one.  Now, the traditional way to make a pinata would be to cook up a flour and water paste for paper mache.  But the thought of cooking this up as I was cleaning the house from chametz seemed most unattractive, not to mention the question of having dried chametz fall all over the floor when we broke the thing, so I found a recipe that involved a lo-ho-hot of glue (so much that I had to send Ross out a second time for 2 more huge bottles).  Two nights before the seder I stayed up late glueing strips of newspaper to a balloon, while listening to late night radio with a psychaitrist interviewing a famous musician about why he doesn't have any friends.  The next day, the thing was still wet with glue, and the newspaper was cracking off the balloon.  I looked on line and discovered that I was supposed to actually dilute the glue, and then dip the newspaper into it (unlike what the lady in the store told me).  I piled layers upon layers, and left it to dry, not feeling too confident.  The next day it was still wet on the inside, but very firm on the outside.  We baked it all day in the sun, and it came out perfectly.  Rivital designed it into an adorable snail (I was going for a lamb or something when I arranged the smaller and larger balloons together, but she was totally right that it looked like a snail...).  She also stuffed it with candy and toys in a way that, as she explained to everyone, made sure each kid would get an exact even amount of everything.  Which did not at all inhibit their ability to scream and fight and grab for the booty....

The story telling part of the seder was great.  The kids were all so excited to participate.  They had words of Torah to share on different things they had learned, and they even listened respectfully to each other.  The highlight of the afikomen hunt was when someone hid the afikomen in the actual matza bag.  That was totally unfair.  And brilliant....

Dinner was delicious.  The highlight was the matza ball soup.  People couldn't get over how much it tasted like real chicken soup.  They wanted to know my secret, and I said it had to do with the very diverse and plentiful veggies (augmented by a bit of soup powder).  The soup was followed by what has become our traditional eggplant parmesan and mashed potatoes.

The next day people were still talking about the soup, and the kids were begging me to make some for lunch.  The pot was full of cooked veggies, but there was hardly any broth, so I figured I would just add some more soup powder and water to replenish it.  I pulled out the powder and noticed for the first time that it said across the front in the most enormous letters ever, in a size you could have read from across a highway, "REAL CHICKEN SOUP POWDER."  Oops.  Thank G-d we were with friends!!  After we finished throwing away the soup and all our dishes and pumping our stomachs, we had a delicious lunch of creamy orange soup and spinach patties (ala Debby-- you know Debby and her spinach!) and quinoa and fish ala the Richters.  And it was all kosher, as far as I know. 

Okay, okay.  We didn't really pump our stomachs, and it turns out that most of the dishes ended up being either fine or kasherable.  IN the end, I think all we really lost was a ladel, and trust in our friend Emily.  OK, okay, just the ladel.  I guess everyone still trusted me since they ate here again the next day (well, what choice did they have, the suckers?) and the Richters are letting us bring food to them tomorrow (mwa ha ha...)  

[Don't worry Camille-- I am not making fish.]

So that was exciting, and we get a breather for the next couple of years, as we will go the the Richters and then the Wines for seder.  And they won't ask me to bring the soup....

Now a little vacation update:

The day after the seder (count 'em-- ONE seder), we all (Wines, Richters and us) went to Rosh Hanikra.  The original plan was to buy a group ticket to three sites in the area, but in the end it is quite miraculous that we managed the one.  Next year we will be following the lead of our friends the Slotnicks, kashering our house early, and doing our vacation BEFORE the holiday starts (In Israel you get a week off before Passover for cleaning, etc).  The Slotnicks were there the week before, breezing through everywhere.  We spent half the day waiting on line for Space Mountain.  Er.... Rosh Hanikra.  It felt the same while we were on line for over two hours.  The only difference is there were no helpful guides in Disney suits to keep people from cutting in line, and if I were there by myself I would still be waiting in line as everyone would be pushing past me.  

The line was for a cable car that took us down (eventually) to one of the most stunning natural sites.  You walk into tunnels, and see more tunnels that have been carved over the millenia by the combination of water and salt in the white and blue crashing waves, creating the most beautiful rock formations.  Unfortunately, seeing the site on Passover is not enough different than going to the Museum of Natural History on winter break, and being swept by the crowd from one exhibit behind a rope to another.   Roni, who is an amateur photographer, was enjoying the scenes and capturing them with her phone camera (which is unfortunately all she had with her).  For me, I think to personally really enjoy the site I would need time to be alone with the scenes, and surrounded by the sounds of the waves instead of the sounds of the tourists.  But the kids were enjoying running from scene to scene, and that definitely made it worth it.

Unfortunately, Ross wasn't feeling great, and he stayed back at the car, but when we were came out, he was starting to feel better,  We decided to try to find a place to eat in Neharia (not simple on Passover).

As we were driving into the city, we saw the ocean, and the kids starting begging to go into the water.  My kids were somewhat prepared with changes of clothes (just because I always try to travel with changes of clothes), and the other guys all had their whole weekend's luggage with them, including bedding, and even a couple of towels.  So we let the kids go in, and they had the most thrilling unadulterated fun-- the kind you can't plan for because a plan would have involved 11 kids arguing about what they want to do, but this was just the spontaneous exhiliration of doing something unplanned, that felt maybe even a little wrong (indeed, some parents tried to forbid the kids going in past their knees in their clothes, but in the end everyone was soaking wet anyway), and would be highly inconvenient for the grownups (getting everyone dried up and dressed for dinner)..  It was just awesome!

As the kids were drying off and changing, we were asking all passersby if anyone knew of a place to get a kosher for Passover dinner.  We wanted a "shipudia" (a place where you choose what kind of meet you want grilled on a skewer, served with millions of beautiful salads).  We were not having much luck with finding any restaurant at all, and some guys were going to go to the supermarket to find something they could put on matza, when somehow I found someone who gave us great directions to an actual shipudia!!!  When we got there, we told the waitress we were 15 (a few had dropped out and gone home), and she ushered us straight into the back, where we had an enormous party room to ourselves.  The little guys could run around like crazy without bothering anyone, and we could have a nice hot and unbelievable delicious meal. 

 Halfway through dinner, the waitress came out with little toy trumpets which she proceeded to hand out to all the kids.  The kids started blasting the trupets, as Roni and Ross looked at each other and said in unison "There goes her tip!", but in fact, the trupets blasts were ever worth it, and we tipped them the great tip they deserved for being exactly what we needed, and for being really amazing hosts

If you still have patience for a bit more, I'll add that the next day, just our family went to a small hike down to a waterfall in the Golan.  It was stunningly beautiful, perfectly challenging, and we were amazed by many things.  First of all, it was just amazing how many families were out hiking.  Second, I love the hiking culture here.  In stark contrast to our wait in line for Space Mountain Rosh Hanikra, here, when we got to the hard part of the hike, when you had to climb down a particularly steep part by holding onto handles that had been put into the rocks, the people formed a line and everyone waited patiently.  Someone took it upon himself at the bottom of the line to help little guys down, and at the top someone was offering a hand to help people up.  One guy tried to push ahead of the line, and everyone appropriately rebuked him as he took his place and waited in line with everyone else.

The other amazing thing was that EVERYONE was eating matza.  I mean EVERYONE.  That goes for Rosh Hanikra and the waterfall.  In fact, it was really interesting to watch people comparing the different things they had prepared special for Passover.  One guy had corn and chumus, and another guy had rice, and this started them all on a discussion of where they were from.  

There were yeshiva guys swimming and singing with their tzitzit flowing in the water, and there were women in bikinis (though not at the same time), and everyone was out hiking on Passover.  And everyone was eating matza.  So cool!

Tomorrow we are off to spend the last day with the Richters (and to reunite with Rivital, who went home with Adiel on Thursday).  Hopefully we'll find some fun thing to do on the way.  Stay tuned!

Happy Holiday!!!



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