It’s gray and miserable and raining but all I am picturing is my lively outdoor dinner setting programmed for tomorrow night. I’m not sure how Mother Nature will respond; I, quite frankly, don’t care. With the bunch I have scheduled to come over for Passover dinner rain will stop, if it’s coming, of that I am sure. It is an eclectic crowd- the usual suspects who have slowly grown to become must-have attendees at the Martinez-Abbady Seder year after year after year. Most Jewish celebrations in this household really are all about the food with a sprinkling of Judaism for added decoration dusted on the guests without them even knowing about it. Pesach is no exception.
Passover in my childhood Venezuela was more or less flip-flopped on this principle: in a country with Roman Catholicism running steadily through its veins, my Israeli father saw it as principle to conduct an extremely rigorous and lengthy ceremonial rebuttal through the celebration of Passover. Every Israeli within a 200-mile radius seemed to be invited to our house for Passover. I was forced to wear a dress and gingerly placed between my mother and father where I pouted and longed to be in my regular hangout, the kitchen, with my beloved nanny Yolanda. And even though, I’ll admit so many years later, I always had fun (a combo of my charismatic father’s storytelling abilities and the endless supply of ridiculously sweet Manischewitz wine) those Seders where always long and the wait for food endless.
Fast forward to the Martinez clan circa 2003. With two young children in tow and an obsession with bright, silly cartoon characters, we found ourselves with the uncontrollable urge to purchase the 20-page Haggadah rendition of the annoying yet loveable television show “The Rugrats” popular at that time. We figured it would be good for a year or two- while the kids’ attention span with that of a hyperactive flea. What perfect way to retell the freedom of the Jews but with bright pictures detailing festive antics of siblings Tommie and Angelica hearing their grandpa Boris recount the story celebrating the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt ? The whole event took seven minutes, ten, tops, if we had everyone read a line or two. Guilt for not being Jewish enough dissolved as laughter took over and we realized that the adults where enjoying this more than the kids! In between we added our own personal touches: parting the Red Sea (just as the Haggadah tells us Moses did) was a mandatory event: everyone had to rise from their spot and run through the slivered sea life shower curtain that hung on the open front door.
While reading about how the Jews marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood so that God would pass over them when killing the Egyptian’s first-born sons, everyone put down their books and ran outside to mark the front of our house which waited covered in craft paper.
It ended up looking more like a Jackson Pollock study on the color red, but, the kids (and again, the adults) had loads of fun.
The ten plagues discussed in the Haggadah included infestation of locusts and frogs and we offered plenty plastic versions of those- all readily and stealthily tossed at each other throughout the night.
The event went off with nary a temper tantrum and the next year, the same cast of characters (the majority of them not even Jewish) eagerly volunteered to return.
There was the usual courteous questions of what to bring, what did I need, but each participant ended their niceties with the same quiet question brimming with anticipation:
“Will you be doing a Rugrats Seder again this year?”
And so I found myself unable to say no. And the kids kept getting older. And older. And now, for crying out loud, they are practically teenagers, which makes us, well, ridiculously old and certainly past the expiration date for Tommie and Angelica. But Rugrats holds to the Martinez clan just as steadfast as matzo-ball soup in our Seder tradition. I wonder how many more years we can get away with it? Then I think, if I have enough bottles of Manischewitz wine flowing, I can get away with anything.
Matzo Ball Magic
The best...the lightest...ever
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons chicken fat
¼ cup hot chicken broth
1 cup matzoh meal
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Mix eggs with a fork. Add chicken fat, broth, matzoh meal, parsley and salt and pepper and mix well.
Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or place in freezer for 15 minutes.
Dip your hands in cold water and make about 12 balls slightly smaller than ping pong balls.
Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until set.
Makes 12 large balls.