Passover

Apr. 8th, 2015 11:39 am
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
I'm having a really good Passover this year. I want to write it up so I can look back on this week, but it's mostly just boring to people who are not me diary stuff.

I finished listening to and marking about 20 first year students' presentations lunchtime on Thursday, and decided to hurry home early so I could get the off-peak train and avoid the pre bank holiday rush. So I got to enjoy a relaxedw evening before we met [personal profile] wildeabandon coming out of church in order to go out to dinner together We ended up at The Plough, very much one of my favourite pubs, and they served a vegetarian equivalent of fish and chips but with big chunks of halloumi instead of fish, just amazing. Nobody had room for pudding at all, and we had some excellent conversation including a fair bit of comparing what's going on liturgically with Passover and Easter completely coinciding this year. (That's also why I'm not at Eastercon; hearing about the con from friends is great for vicarious enjoyment.)

[personal profile] jack came with me to spend Friday preparing food for the first seder meal. It was remarkably calm, in fact; my family have pretty much got seder prep down to a fine art and with P'tite Soeur in charge, applying her experience from commercial kitchens, everything goes pretty smoothly. All three sibs arrived with through the course of the day, and it was mostly me and P'tite Soeur helping in the kitchen while everybody else socialized, with [personal profile] jack and my sister's long-term partner drifting between the two groups. So we had two new partners-of-siblings and two established partners who are regulars at seder by now, and a couple of friends of Granny's from synagogue, and that was it; in my family a "small" seder is 15 people, and this was a small one. Screwy did a great job of leading the service, getting through the formal liturgy briskly so we didn't end up eating too late for the two nonagenarians present but did have some time for actual interesting discussion. And then we had eggs and salt water, and butternut squash soup, and salmon and veggie moussaka and stuffed courgettes and half a dozen salads, and about half as many different puddings as there were people, a layered meringue, a caramel and nut tart, mango sorbet, fruit salad, orange and almond cake, and a slightly amazing matza and charoset pudding that Thuggish Poet's gf brought from a kosher bakery in Hungary. And both brothers gave out books as afikomen presents, and P'tite Soeur made up little packets of different kinds of Passover cakes. It was just lovely; I would have liked more time with my scattered family and I am really hoping that we'll have some actual children at the seder next year, but just everything went right.

I left earlyish on Saturday to return to Stoke and run the communal seder there. That went well too; we were full to capacity, which is 40 people (it's a physically tiny shul), including most of the community as well as a lot of interfaith guests. As well as leading the ceremony I ended up on a table with a lot of Christian priests who insisted on asking me questions about Christianity instead of more usefully asking about Judaism, but I did my best. Again, everything went well, people seemed to be engaged in the discussion and enjoyed themselves. [personal profile] adam_in_rabbinical_school was the wise son and asked me technical halachic questions in public, and his mother asked me about women's participation, and other people usefully poked at inconsistencies, and the visitors more than the literal children asked fairly simple questions about the symbolism of ceremony. (The actual kids cheated at hunting the afikomen, mind you, but I think they had fun at least.) I think I managed to talk through the bits of liturgy that pertain to Mediaeval persecution of Jews by Christians without offending the Christian guests too much. It was hard work; 40 is about the upper limit of how many people I can keep mental and emotional track of (more than that it's just a performance and I lose the interactive bits, basically), and an hour and a half of doing that plus circulating and answering people's questions during the meal left me fairly exhausted.

And Sunday there were basically no sensible trains back to Cambridge, but I really wanted to come back home anyway since the alternative was to be stuck on campus over the Easter bank holiday which would have been pretty miserable. So I caught the long-distance coach, changing at Milton Keynes like I used to do when I was living in Scotland and dating people in the south of England. I did a lot of whining to my friends about having to spend most of Thursday and Saturday and all of Sunday travelling, and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti did the most amazing thing: she offered to make dinner so that I could come straight home and have food on the table. I warned her that it's Passover and I'm difficult to feed this week, but she was undaunted and asked sensible questions about the food rules and bought many dozens of eggs and looked up recipes on the internet. I mean, I'm keeping a fairly basic level of observance this year, not worrying about kitniyot (pulses and rice) or the location where food is prepared being completely free of chametz, but even so, I'm extremely impressed that a non-Jewish friend was willing to deal with Passover restrictions at all.

I can not tell you how lovely it was to come home and find the house full of friends and have nothing to do except eat dinner that somebody else had prepared! I feel really really spoiled. [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's family even indulged me by having my family's quasi-ritual argument about whether Jewish children should have Easter eggs on Passover. And the food was amazing, various kinds of curry with eggs, tofu or potatoes, and cheesecake with a kfp base and actual real authentic plava with lemon curd. [personal profile] wildeabandon and [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller joined us after dinner, having spent the afternoon at [personal profile] emperor and [livejournal.com profile] atreic's Easter feast.

I've taken a couple of days off work to recover from all that, and we're enjoying getting a bit more chance than usual to see friends. Mostly inviting people here because going out to eat during Passover is a bit of a pain, but that's really really nice. So Monday we had a relaxing day just pottering about and clearing up Sunday's dinner and spending some time with [personal profile] wildeabandon and [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller. And I went running with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and her daughter who is a very good running coach, first time it's been warm enough to run outside this year, and I really enjoyed it. In the evening [personal profile] cjwatson came over for dinner and I made MK's Thai curry and it was ever so ever so companionable.

And yesterday I spent most of the day hanging out with him and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and the children, including watching Howl's moving castle. [personal profile] emperor and [livejournal.com profile] atreic came over for dinner; I made another moussaka which worked pretty well, I think. We've been trying to arrange time with the two of them for ages and we're all just that bit too busy, so I was especially pleased we finally found a date. It was just one of those lovely grown-up dinner-party evenings where the whole point was to talk to excellent people. Also it turns out that I'm still entirely confused about Trinitarian theology, particularly in the case of how it works with Jesus being dead for three days.

One of the topics of conversation was what drinks we ought to have available to offer guests, because [personal profile] jack and I basically just drink beer and wine and haven't got organized to have much else in our drinks cabinet. Between us we came up with a list of: whisky, brandy, gin, sherry, port, maybe some sweet liqueur eg Baileys. Do people have any opinions about that list, and specifically what representatives of each class we should have? Port we can manage, but if we're going to have just one gin, one whisky and one brandy, what are sensible brands / varieties to choose? It makes sense not to buy anything super-fancy because we won't be able to keep it well enough to justify that, but we'd obviously prefer to get something decently drinkable to offer guests.

Tonight [livejournal.com profile] ghoti is coming over so it can be my turn to cook for her. And tomorrow [personal profile] jack and I are looking forward to an evening to ourselves cos it's not very clever to be so busy socializing that we ignore eachother! And I am hoping to see my parents not in the middle of Passover panic at the weekend, and maybe [personal profile] doseybat and [personal profile] highlyeccentric too, but I will email you both rather than trying to arrange things through DW.

I'm a bit scared of getting back to work cos I have a lot of stuff that I've been slightly avoiding in favour of even more urgent things. But at least I'm working from home this week and a few uninterrupted days should help a lot.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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