I think my stomach is hungover from Passover. Why is this night not like any other? Because the pendulum swings wildly from starvation to overindulgence. It feels like years since I last took part in some semblance of a service. As kids (and while we still had grandparents) my parents put some effort into engaging us with our cultural heritage. Once we were old enough for the afikomen to skew gimmicky (as much as a treasure hunt can be), our family experience evolved into something more along the lines of “Baruch atah Adonai. Let’s eat.” The horseradish, parsley and salty eggs ended up as dishes on the table rather than items of religious significance. Once my grandparents passed, the holiday sort of died out with them.
Here in Toronto, I have extended family, who invite me along to their gatherings. North America being significantly more Jew-esque than New Zealand, it’s a significant larger affair. It’s a full table and, now that there are younger kids, the family leans into the holiday with a tad more fervour. As with my family growing up, it’s more for the kids than anything else. We were seated with little booklets we could read along with. The songs all had transliterations and the “service” even had a simple ten minute play in the middle. It was kind of neat.
The other side of this was being bound from eating by tradition. Offerings during the service were piecemeal and followed ceremonial moments. A sliver of pickle here, a sprig of parsley there. The one-two punch of a potato chunk and half a hard boiled egg only whet the anticipation for the real meal to begin. I’m not implying we were hard done by, I’d just been deliberately under-eating all day. Anyway, you read the intro. You know I don’t starve. Also there were three occasions when we were supposed to down our wine glasses. I only counted three.
Once the meal came though, holy shit did they ever make it rain. Big fluffy matzoh balls in chicken soup. Maple pecan salmon and chunky lemon chicken. Sweet potato, spinach and quinoa casserole. Ratatouille and green beans with slivered almonds. I knew my stomach only had so much room and I ate twice that much. Then came the dessert. Cheesecake and decadent pavlova draped in berry sauce. Brownies and double chocolate meringues. A huge stack of fresh fruit and chocolate matzoh bark to top it off. The Jews may be experts in suffering, but they’re no slouches in making up for lost time.
I, of course, tried every single thing on the table. In direct violation of the holiday, there was not one dish I passed over.