Tag Archives: seder

Setting My Seder Table is An Act of Love

22 May

Each year, on the morning of hosting a seder, I remove my Pesach dishes from the high cabinets where they sit away from life during the year. Many of these amber glass dishes have been in my family since the 1930s.

Once they were my grandmother’s dishes. She collected them during the Depression, as they were given away for free or a low cost. Sometimes they came in boxes of food or were prizes presented for going to the movies. I sometimes wonder if the fact they owned a bakery gave her more access to these dishes, as she had quite a collection of one pattern.

Grandma’s depression glass was produced by the Federal Glass Company.   Our pattern is called Patrician or Spoke. Many just call it Patrician spoke because of its center design. The color is amber, although this pattern came in several colors: pink, green, clear and amber.

When I first got these glass dishes, there was not a complete set at all. Many had chips along the edges. The collection included luncheon plates, a few dinner plates, a creamer, a sugar bowl without its lid, several coffee cups, more saucers, and two serving oval serving bowl and an oval dish.

Over the years, I have filled in the set. I now have dishes to serve 18 people at Pesach: dinner plates, soup bowls, bread/butter plates, dessert bowls, and multiple serving pieces. Many of the pieces I have repurposed, like the bread and butter dishes, now used for gefilte fish. The creamers and sugar bowls are used for charoset. Small bowls sometimes are filled with salt water or eggs. I have both cereal bowls and soup bowls…all are used for matzah ball soup to start the meal.

When I first used these dishes, I would change everything for the holiday. Pots, pans, two sets of utensils, everything in the house would change. But for Pesach I just used this one set of dishes, since glass dishes could be used for milk or meat. They just needed to be cleaned in between uses. This made Pesach a bit easier.

I have to admit, over the years, I have stopped changing everything for Pesach. I still clean out the cabinets and pantry. I still stop buying bread or any product with yeast. I still buy my Kosher for Pesach food. But I no longer switch all my pots, pans, utensils and more.

IMG_3209

My Patrician Spoke dishes, with my Rueben wine glasses and Lenox seder plate at seder.

But what I still do, and will always do, is take out my Depression glass dishes to be used for the seder. It is a minor ordeal. Someone, usually me, stands on a step stool to reach into these cabinets. Someone else, usually my son or daughter or husband stands below me as I count out the number of dishes I will need for the current seder.

They place the dishes on the clean counter.   There are many that have to be transferred. As I take out each dish, I run through the seder in my mind. What each dish will be used for; what time in the seder will it be used; what I need to still prepare for the meal.

Preparing for seder is a several day event. The foods, the dishes, the haggadah; each are planned according to the rituals and the group that is attending the seder. I have three sets of haggadahs. I switch depending on the mood and the attendees. But the one constant is my dishes.

Besides the dishes, we now bring out the seder plate.   My Lenox plate was my parents. When they stopped leading a seder, they gave me their original plate, and purchased another one for my sister. The special glasses from Murano, Italy, come out of the breakfront: one used for Elijah’s cup filled with wine; and now one for Miriam’s cup filled with water. These my husband and I took from my in-law’s home after his mother passed away when she was only 59. Each of these items bring memories as well as set our families who are gone at the table.

For many year’s I used a matzah cover created by my great grandmother in Europe in 1901.   Two years ago I donated it to a museum (see link to blog below). I now used a matzah cover I made as a teen.   But sometimes, I use one that my husband purchased for me in Cochin, India.

The small wine cups we use are Rueben glass from Israel.  One set was my parents,  I actually took all the Rueben glass when we cleaned their home for the first time.  The others were part of a wedding gift my husband and I received many years ago. We truly have a multinational seder with the items from throughout the world.

Even setting out kippot has a meaning. As we place the colorful kippot at the table, we read the names inside. Someone’s bar or bat mitzvah is remembered as well as weddings we attended. I always provide my husband the white kippah he wore at our wedding.

The napkins I use for seder are also special.  A friend made them years ago.  Twenty napkins, two sets of plagues.  Each napkin has a number, a design and a plague.

Setting the seder table is an act of love. Each dish, each ritual object carries memories.

When I put them away each year, the process reverses. I stand back on my stepstool and someone else hands me the dishes as I request.   We are done for another year. Except for one addition: I add one thing, a piece of the afikomen to keep us secure for the year until the next seder. This piece replaces the piece that I put away a year ago.

 

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/watching-antiques-roadshow-inspired-me-to-donate-my-great-grandmothers-matzah-cover/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_glass

Missing Mom’s Passover Recipes

13 Mar

The recipes filled a bag.

There were many little issues that appeared during the year that my parents died. Little things that you do not realize will cause distress. But for my sister and me, one of these issues was my Mom’s recipes. They were gone. We searched the house and could not find them. Most recipes we knew because we continued to make them.

But a few seemed lost forever, these included her Passover recipes. Since we used them only once a year, they were not etched into our memories. And so we had to use recipes from books or from others, or just not make that item. Without her recipes, we felt a bit lost.

My parents would come to me each year for the second night of Pesach.   They did the first Seder in New Jersey with my siblings and their families. Mom would cook her share of the meal, and leave all the leftovers for my brother and sister’s families. Because the next morning, bright and early, my parents would fly out to stay with me for second Seder and the rest of the holiday.

My children went to the Jewish Day School, so they were off that week. It was a perfect time for my parents to have grandparent adventures with the children.

Mom would arrive and join me in cooking. We always spent the first seder with other families at friends. But I alternated second night seder with another friend, and so often it would be at my house. Eventually, second night became my domain.

Whatever the case, there were certain foods I did not make until Mom got here. She knew exactly what to do, even though she might have had the recipes written down. After making seders for so many years, she knew her recipes. Whereas, my sister and I depended on her memory to help us.

So I should have known what happened to the recipes. But it never occurred to me.

About a year or so after both my parents passed away, they did so quickly and within nine months of each other, I finally cleaned out the bedroom in my house where they always stayed. We had already cleaned out their condo apartment in New Jersey; had told the managers of the apartment they rented in Florida to take what they wanted and donate the rest, and we had mostly cleaned out the house in the Catskill. So now it was time for me to do the final cleaning and pack up and donate what they had left behind in my house.

They had their own space, and I had avoided going into it, but my son wanted to move into this larger room, with its own separated entrance.

I finally opened the closet and packed my dad’s jeans and shirts and jackets. I started cleaning out the drawers. Putting tops and items into bags to donate.

There in the bottom drawer, covered by tops, was a small, stuffed plastic bag filled with papers. Recipes. Lots and lots of recipes. She was in the process of rewriting in her beautiful teacher’s handwriting. Passover was back: Vegetarian Chopped Liver, Matzah balls for 10-12 people, Farfel pudding from Sylvia, Baked Gifilte Fish from Lola, Potato Kugel, Stuffed cabbage.

Mixed in were many other recipes, including Hamantasch from Phyllis and my Uncle Stanley’s cookie recipe, which she called Cookies by Stanley. (He was baker and passed away in January 2017, a week before his 90th birthday, on my Mother’s sixth Yahrzeit.)

I would like to say I used these recipes. But I did not.  I put them in my room, in a box, waiting to be used.  I did not share them.  I did not look at them.  I just could not.  Now, I know I need to scan the recipes and send them to my brother and sister. I know that. But for four years they have sat in their bag while I have looked at it as a locked time chest, unable to really sort through the notes left by my Mom.

I decided this year was the time. I was ready.   We are done missing my Mom’s recipes.

Am I A Passover Slacker?

14 Apr

I am feeling like a slacker. I was at a meeting recently with several other Jewish women. One said “I made my chicken soup today. ”

We all knew what she meant. She was getting her food ready for Pesach. Wow. I am always amazed at those who start cooking over a week in advance.

I have not even started cooking. I have started cleaning. And I did start buying matzah and other staples. But cooking. No!

I really felt badly when the numbers started coming. 30, 25, 24. I am only having 14 and only second night. First night I am going to a friend who is hosting 45 people. All of these women either empty their family rooms of all furniture or set the Seder up in their basements. With just 14, I can use my dining room. I am a Pesach slacker!

Seder Table

2014 Passover Seder. 

However we all agreed that under 25 is the best number for Seder. Large enough to be inclusive but not so big you feel overwhelmed.

There is a definite learning experience that comes with making a Seder. I think it is Passover Seder that creates the ability for most Jewish mothers to easily have extra people for dinner. After preparing a Seder any other meal is simply a breeze.  After cleaning, chopping, cooking and creating the festive Seder meal, nothing can faze me.

We learn so young. I cannot remember the first time I helped prepare for a Seder. I learned to make charosets as a small child. I loved sprinkling the cinnamon into the mixture. There are a few recipes that were only pulled out for Pesach. Most we could just cook as we went along. It was a brain memory. But at the time for the Seder all was in order.

We always did one Seder with my Dad’s family when I was little.  It was at my Uncle Bernie and Aunt Mickey’s house after my grandmother could no longer fit us all in.  And we did the second seder at my Mother’s family.  Sometimes Mom made it, sometimes my Aunt Paula and Uncle Stanley.  But we all knew the routine. And everyone brought something to the table.

I have friends who ask me how I can make a party or dinner without days of planning?  And I am surprised. Without the need to make charosets, Maror, five courses and all the other special  foods demanded for the Seder meal,  any other dinner creates no anxiety. It just easily occurs.

Like so many, I always prepare more food than we need. I never want anyone to go hungry and there always has to be enough for one more, or two, if needed.

Preparing the Pesach Seders taught me how to organize, use my time wisely, plan for the future and make my guests comfortable while running an extraordinary busy meal. We learn to have everything set to go and how to effectively clean between courses and after the meal.

I have a special scrapper just to get the matzah crumbs off the table!

Perhaps I am not a Passover slacker!  My Seder meal will be ready when we need it as it has been in the past and will be in the future.