After an event, it’s always good to look back and critique what worked well and what went wrong. In business, it’s called strategic planning. After a holiday dinner, we call it kvelling and kvetching.
In honor of Passover, here are our Four (postmortem) Questions.
1. What was up with her haroset?
Haroset has a place of honor at the seder table. It’s the traditional mixture of chopped apples, nuts and wine that represents the bricks and mortar the Israelite slaves used in ancient Egypt. While there are many variations in the recipe – apricots, pistachios, and dates can all sub in — according to our family, there’s no substitute for old school, sweet, Manischewitz wine.
So what was up the year we went to a friend’s house and instead of the dark purple, mushy haroset our children had grown up with — hers was pasty white. She had skimped on the wine.
The kids were disappointed. They needed their family recipe to feel that the night was complete. So when we came home at 11 pm, they grabbed spoons, opened the fridge and started eating our haroset straight from the bowl – after they opened and poured in a slug of Manischewitz for good measure.
2. Who thought that whole wheat matzah was a good idea?
We’ve converted to buying whole grain English muffins and 12-grain bagels, so we jumped on the bandwagon and bought whole wheat matzah for the week of Passover. Big mistake. Regular matzah tastes like cardboard. Whole wheat matzah tastes like a brown cardboard box. Even loading it up with salty butter or haroset didn’t help us choke it down.
We had half a box left over at the end of the week and were tempted to throw the whole thing, contents included, in the recycle bin.
3. Do we really have to sing that frog song every year?
Yes, because the preschoolers love it.
Everyone has their favorite part of the seder, the traditional meal that includes prayers, songs and retells the story of the Exodus from Egypt. If you read and sang every page in the haggadah (the special prayer book for the seder), you wouldn’t eat dinner until midnight, so most people charged with leading the seder edit out at least a few things.
An easy way to do this editing is to go around the table and ask each guest to name their favorite part. Joyce’s husband did that this year. Naming the 10 plagues was popular, because everyone loves dipping their finger in their wine glass. Singing Dayenu brought back fond memories of Ted’s mom. There were votes for the Four Questions from those who had crammed in Hebrew school, a request to sing Had Gadya, the never-ending song about the animals that beat each other up and chase each other, and a unanimous call to drink all four glasses of wine. By the time we had noted everyone’s favorite, most of the essential elements of the seder had been covered.
4. What ocean do gefilte fish swim in?
Every culture has its unique foods that make an appearance at holidays year after year – and gefilte fish, served cold with horseradish, is one of them.
Gefilte fish will never be found swimming in the ocean. Its native habitat is nestled in goo in a glass jar on a supermarket shelf. Made of a ground up mixture of carp, pike and whitefish, it’s combined with eggs and matzah meal and shaped into small patties.
Gefilte fish will never swim its way onto an Italian family’s dining room table to take part in the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes. Some families insist on eel sautéed in garlic and baccala fritters, others have swordfish Siciliana, anchovy linguine and steamed mussels. But among all the recipes we investigated, no one included a cold boiled ball of whitefish and pike.
No matter how tempted we are to change it up and try a new recipe at the holidays, we don’t, because our families look forward to the traditional tastes they’ve grown up with. The only change we plan to make for next year? We’re going to ask Aunt Linda to bring flowers, not dessert.