Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why This Night Is Different From All Other Nights

I realized that I have a lot of goyim reading my blog. That means non-Jewish people. I thought I should give you a little primer on the holiday of Passover, which begins tonight and lasts for the next 8 days, so that you will know what I will be going through for the next eight days. Add to this that it’s also Finals Week and I have about 385 deadlines to meet, along with most of my distant family members visiting from out of town. It’s also my husband and sister’s birthday today, so we must wish them both a very Happy Cakeless Birthday!

Passover seems to cause mass hysteria both in South Florida and in my family. This is the holiday where Jewish people in this part of the world re-enact the biblical legend of Moses and the Israelites, by creating their own mass Exodus from New York to South Florida for the next week where they will make everything crowded, hectic, even more annoying than it already is, and not eat bread. That’s basically it. The kids are out of school, everyone has relatives visiting and everyone expects to be entertained. Passover is like a Jewish Atkins Diet and for the next eight days Jews are supposed to fast by abstaining from all foods containing wheat and grain. Instead they eat matzo which essentially is little more than a bland saltine. Saltines are already bland, you say. Yes, and matzo is even blander than that. It’s ok for a day or two but then you start to crave buttery crust and the moist, stretchy insides of good French bread. Then you want cupcakes and pancakes, paninis and brioche. By the end of eight days you never want to see another matzo again.

The first two nights of Passover we suffer through a very long ceremonial dinner called a Seder, in which we eat bad food and drink even worse wine. It seems to last 40 days and 40 nights though in reality the Seder is about four or five hours. When it ends everyone is drunk, in diabetic shock from the sweet wine and in a bad mood because they know they have to suffer the whole thing again the next day with the relatives from out of town who they have already fought with ten times since they arrived from LaGuardia Monday afternoon. This is a universal experience in all Jewish families in South Florida.

Most South Florida Jews are all in a frenzy this afternoon making their last minute holiday preparations. Passover is a big holiday for Jewish people, pretty much on par with Christmas or Easter for Christians. My Publix has been an absolute madhouse and I made the mistake of needing to go there at the last minute for some birthday supplies. First I couldn’t get a parking spot. Then inside the store geriatrics were practically falling over jars of gefilte fish and cardboard boxes of matzo, yet wondering where the Passover section was. Through the crowded aisles I heard frantic calls of "IRVING, IS THIS SOWA CREAM KOSHA Fuh PASSOVA?" and "Bernice, you didnt fuh-get the macaroons this yee-uh? Rememba last yee-uh you forgot the macaroons. You cant fuh-get the macaroons. My sista Phyllis will never fuh-give you if you fuh-get the macaroons again."

I was nearly assaulted in the parking lot as I made my way to my car. An old man in a gigantic Town Car nearly ran me down, and then shouted for me to get the hell out of his way because he needed the handicapped spot I was walking in front of. When I gave him a dirty look and moved, he proceeded to hit the Navigator next to the space he was trying to pull into, and then curse at me as if it were my fault.

Tonight to celebrate I will agonize through a Seder at my grandparents' temple. Everyone there will be a hundred years old and furious about something. Most will be hooked up to oxygen and blind and/or deaf. The dinner will be held in the rec-room of the Temple which was built in 1956 and is Pepto-Bismol pink. Everyone will complain that it’s too cold, it cost too much, was better last year, and that they can’t hear the ceremony. Our meal will be catered by a nearby convalescent home for aging Conservadox Jews. It costs $7.00 per person. We get hardboiled eggs that have turned green inside, mashed beets from a can, matzo ball soup from a powder mix which resembles salty piss water, with a matzo ball that reminds me of a wadded up ball of wet toilet paper soaking for hours in the salty piss water, gefilte fish from a jar wiggling in its own grey, slimy, fish flavored Jell-o (yum, fish jell-o), thin strips of roasted tongue, or a thigh of baked chicken (last year's still had clumps of feather attached), a few leaves of dry iceberg lettuce and canned carrot rounds suspended in a weirdly gelatinous goo, studded with a few soggy raisins. For dessert we get sawdust-like squares of Passover marble cake with a pink icing that contains no actual edible ingredients found in nature, but is instead a conglomeration of chemicals. It is of course, sugar-free because old people can’t eat sugar and because sugar free food tastes worse. Evidently the goal of this meal is for the food to be as bad as possible and the dessert must confirm this lest you might accidentally enjoy something on your way out. The meal is exactly the same every single year and I have endured it for the past eight years straight. This is what I have to look forward to this evening. Please pray for me dear readers.


Green said...

Happy Passover, my fellow MOT!

the Bag Lady said...

Gosh, makes me almost want to be Jewish.
Mazel Tov. (Hey, I played Yente in "Fiddler on the Roof", does that mean I qualify?)

Anonymous said...

Sweet Jayzuz, that makes the Nasty Ass Easter Recipe Hall of Fame sound delicious.

basteine said...

Is that meal worse for you than jello salad? I can't figure out from your descriptions which you like less. I will pray for a fresh fruit plate to fall from the sky and save you from your kosher" atkins experience".

misha said...

I figured out that it was passover yesterday but for days had been wondering why the hotel next door had their pool deck set up like a cruise ship - bumper to bumper chairs. It also explains the delicious smells in the hallway the past couple of days. I could swear I was smelling latkas! I live in an orthodox part of the beach and walking my dog was scary last night. Most everyone was scared of him and I guess i feed off that. Not jewish, but would love some latkas. Also, as soon as I thought no flour - I thought torte! A chocolate torte for their birthdays. That should be, its not i think but do you need to be kosher?

Anonymous said...

But oh, Passover Coca-Cola! Sweet, sweet sucrose instead of high-fructose corn syrup!
It's like the taste of my childhood. For anyone born after 1984, this is a taste of what you missed.
Hurry, they will yank it from the grocery shelves in a week. Wouldn't want anyone getting used to such things. Look for the yellow cap.

rosie-b said...

Hey it's my birthday too!
Happy Passover! Good luck with the food. :)

Hilary said...

Sweet memories of childhood.. 'tis universal.

noble pig said...

Thanks for the story.

JoeinVegas said...

Well, you've been doing it long enough. Sorry, I don't know any Jewish prayers. Good luck anyway. Hope you at least get a cooked piece of chicken.

an avid reader said...

Its been a pleasure to read your archives, like you know how when your favourite show (u mentioned lost) reels you in and there's nothing else you want to do besides sit in front and watch (or in this case read), thats your blog for me. I love it!

Although, I've been curious, esp since the food poisoning on engagement episode is how you met your husband. Care to share sometime?

muddleman said...

You forgot the part about where an eight-day diet of matzoh causes your gastrointestinal tract to shut down, essentially meaning that it . . . err . . . won't 'let my people go', so to speak.

Tzvi said...

As far as Kosher Wine goes, there's no excuse to have to drink the stuff that's thick and sweet like cough syrup. You can almost any type of Wine out there in a Kosher for passover variety, from dry reds to blush on out

NeekoalinAZ said...

God speed my friend..... how appropriate! lol

Your descriptions of the food make me appreciate my Christian heritage...although I grew up Seventh Day Adventist so I shared the no ham/pork and no shellfish sections.

Hope you enjoy the Fam!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your very funny description of South Florida during Passover. I think of it as mass panic like in War of the Worlds. Except as you said, everyone goes to Publix and leave their shopping carts to roam the earth. Why are the oldsters so cranky! The weather is awesome!

onthegomom said...

OMG... I think I threw up in my mouth a little... I've never heard of such things. I am not Jewish and do not live in an area that is heavily populated with that faith. So, oh my Lord, that was my first real 'taste' of the Jewish Passover life. I agree with anonymous... that makes the Nasty Ass Easter Dinner sound YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!

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