Many years ago, when my children sported diapers and an unhealthy obsession with Nickelodeon cartoons, I decided to just make it work and bought “A Rugrats Passover” Seder Haggadah. It came with a VHS of that same episode, aired in 1995.
Don’t judge me.
The food wasn’t going to prepare itself, and, you mothers out there know we all climbed off our self-righteous I-will-not-plop-my-child-in-front-of-the-television soapbox the minute that annoying whining TV character [insert any one of them here] tuned in, shut your screaming toddler up and, even better, kept him or her still for more than two minutes.
If you’d don’t know, the Haggadah is the book read during Passover recounting the story of the Israelites escape from slavery in Egypt. Usually, it’s a fancy hardback number with gold embroidering that your great-grandpa brought over from Poland or something along those lines, and when read, prayed, and sang properly, will run you about 2 to 3 hours.
The Haggadah I bought was a 15-page paperback glorified cartoon with Tommy and the gang parting the Red Sea and living out all the other Passover adventures, baby style.
It was, at best, unconventional.
My husband and I added some of our own touches to really bring the story to life: plastic frogs were thrown at guests reliving the ten plagues, red paint was used to mark the front door so God would know to pass over our home, and a shredded shower curtain tacked over the entrance of our home was mandatory issue when parting the Red Sea. After all, why should Charlton Heston have all the fun?
I remember my own childhood Passover celebrations vividly, and, although endless rounds of Manischewitz wine was pretty darn awesome, being trapped in interminable prayers while smelling my mother’s incomparable matzo ball soup was not. I vowed to make Passover different for my kids.
And it was! It was fun! Loads of fun!
So much so that we did “A Rugrats Seder” the next year. And the next. And the next.
And slowly but surely, the kids grew and grew and grew while the Rugrats remained the same tiny toddlers and babies kvetching about Pharaoh and how lame slavery was.
Passover is here again this Monday night and, aside from a new face or two at our table, our guest list is comprised of the die-hard folks who began sharing this story with us and the Rugrats when the kids were small and we all knew what a VHS was. At this point, it almost makes no sense to celebrate Passover any other way.
We still throw plastic frogs at each other.
We still cover our front door in red finger paint.
We still march through the shredded shower curtain to part the Red Sea like Moses did.
And while the smell of my simmering matzo ball soup will never quite live up to the memory of my mother’s, it’s pretty close, so we do all this in 30 minutes flat.
My daughter is now fifteen, which, if you’ve been living with your head in the sand or have been spared having a teen in your home, is code for I know everything and you are an idiot.
(I’d keep my head buried deep if I were you.)
She has become quite active in her Jewish Youth Group and so religion is a subject bedazzled in her teenage expertise. By default, I am reminded on a daily basis of how I have to get my Jewishness on.
“Gosh, Mom, you’re totally lame. We haven’t lit the Shabbat candles in, like, forever.”
“Really, dude, community outreach is, like, KEY to Judaism. I think THIS FAMILY needs to work on that a bit- we should go to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or something to help out, like NOW!”
Don’t get me wrong. I love that she is like this, really, I do. She’s actually speaking to me, albeit in between fervent texting, Instagramming, and comparing selfies with her BFF, but still, beggars can’t be choosers, and so I’m not.
Plus, her connection with her Jewish roots is inspiring and would make both my grandfather, who played a critical role in founding the state of Israel, and my husband’s father, a converted Jew who sent his sons to study in Israel, extremely proud. It even makes me, the one who is totally lame, very, very appreciative and will most likely land me in a soup kitchen and lighting the candles on Friday night.
But I love that there are still some moments you don’t mess with, where family traditions, as zany and outgrown as they may be, trumps all.
When I mentioned perhaps retiring Rugrats for a more age-appropriate version of the Haggadah, that tough grown-up demeanor my daughter works so hard to carry dissolved instantly into the panicked four-year old child who couldn’t find her blanky hidden under the bed.
“What? You’re kidding, right?”
And, of course, I was.
After all, how could I pass on flinging frogs, parting shower curtains shreds and making a mess out of my front door with my kids while Angelica, the horrible Pharaoh, is fast on our heels? No matter how old they get, the same rules apply: make it work, have fun along the way, and always eat good food.
I’ve given this recipe out before, but, like the Rugrats, some things are so good they’re worth repeating! The best...the lightest...ever!
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup hot chicken broth
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 3 tablespoons parsley, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix eggs with a fork. Add chicken fat, broth, matzo 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 in a a pot with only hot water (not your soup pot!) for 25 minutes.
- Makes 12 large matzo balls.