Passover reflections

Last Monday I attended my first Seder dinner. My friend, Dara, invited me to celebrate Passover at her family’s place upstate. I said yes–how could I not–but worried about it weeks beforehand. How would I look as a non-Jewish guest? Would people stare at me for butchering the Hebrew prayers? How long was this thing, anyway?

The day before Passover, I checked out my favorite NYC blog,, to see if they had any tips for the holiday. The first headline popped up: The Ultimate Passover Guide to Shake up your Seder. Bingo! I clicked on the link and found a recipe for Matzoh Crunch. Since I don’t have a fake ID, I figured making the Crunch would be easier than trying to bring a bottle of red wine.

I went into the project as a horrible cook. I can’t even bake cookies from the tube without burning them. The directions looked pretty straightforward, though, and I set out to the store. The recipe called for Kosher vanilla extract. Never in my life did I think that so many things could be Kosher. I scoured the aisles at the Stop and Shop, but could not for the life of me find any of the special extract. Thankfully, I ran into a friend at the store.

“Hey! Are you Jewish?” I asked desperately.

“Umm, yeah?”

“Oh great! Can you tell me why regular vanilla extract isn’t Kosher and where the hell I can find one that is?”

“It’s not Kosher?”

“No!” I said, shoving the recipe into his hands.

“Well, I have no clue.”

I ended up calling my friend to ask and she laughed telling me they weren’t that strict about keeping Kosher and by the way she was wearing jeans to the dinner. I sighed in relief, picking up a bottle of McCormick’s.

Long story short, I made a bomb Matzoh Crunch. I brought it to the house and after a slew of oh-really-you-shouldn’t-have’s, my friend’s mother, Vicki, tried a piece. Then, Grandma came in and stole a piece saying, “Dessert should always come first!” Her eyes got real big and for a second I thought she was going to spit out what I had spent hours toiling over.

“This is amazing!” Grandma said. “Vicki, sweetie, this really blows your chocolate covered matzoh out of the water.” My first success.

After helping to set the table, I sat down to the Seder, comforted by the reaction to my dessert. Now all I had to do was follow Dara’s every move. I was terrified that I’d go and eat the Kugel when really I should have been eating the parsley. Or worse, I would turn into the uncultured girl ruining someone else’s holiday.

Things went smoothly until the drinking of the wine part came. I took a sip of the grape Manischewitz that had been poured earlier. “Yum. Grape juice,” I thought, drinking the full glass in one gulp. A few seconds later I felt a little woozy.

“Um, Dara,” I elbowed my friend and whispered, “does that stuff have alcohol?”

“Of course!”

Great, I thought. Now everyone at the table is going to think I’m an alcoholic, throwing the Manischewitz back like that …

The rest of the meal passed without many bumps. I took a bit of everything that was passed around, although I only nibbled the tops of my parsley and pushed most of the horse radish around my plate. Dara wrinkled her nose at the boiled egg, so I figured it was ok for me to skip out on that as well.

Next came the real food, which was overwhelming. Matzoh soup followed by corned beef and fruit-laden chicken along with sweet potatoes and spinach puffs and quinoa. I politely declined the gefilte fish and instead took an extra helping of the Charoset to make up for it.

Over dessert I heard about a Bat Mitzvah that had taken place the month before. Grandma ended up grinding with the DJ who was actually a wrestler. The older cousins threw up after too many vodka shots while the Orthodox side of the family looked on in disgust.

By the end of the night, I had forgotten all about my earlier fears. My jeans weren’t too casual and I hadn’t butchered the prayers beyond recognition. In fact, thanks to my Matzoh Crunch, I was adopted by Dara’s family and invited back for next year. The commonalities between myself and the family were as abundant as the delicious food that was spread out before me. Sloppy drunk cousins? Women getting down with semi-pro meatheads? Sounds like one of my family parties.

hails from Austin, Texas and no she does not ride a horse to school. She studies Spanish, literature and writing at SLC and if her nose isn't buried in a book, she's either playing volleyball at Campbell, getting lost in the city or eating delicious food. She has trouble working at her desk most nights because of the NYLON magazines, chocolate, peacock feathers and photobooth snapshots that litter her desk.

1 Comment

  • Reply April 27, 2011

    Krisina Dagg

    I love this little ditty, and thankful that there wasn’t anything about meat eating sloppy drunk aunts!!! LOL Wonderful editorial Jillian!

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