Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Awesome Weekend Part 3: The Dinner

Note: This post is out of chronological order. There may be more recent post hidden below. (e.g. Day 4 of the Awesome Weekend)

1) For breakfast Stephanie and I met Tiffany and Krista and Seth at Valois. If you don't know, Valois is this cafeteria style restaurant, where you can see your food made extremely fast. They've got a team of chefs making breakfast food at breakneck speed. It's one of those places where you have to know what you're doing or you might slow things down. I got pancakes.

2) Over breakfast the subject of taxidermy came up so naturally I mentioned the taxidermied owls in the Lenape "art museum" and about my crazy reading teacher Ms Goodrich who was the creative force behind the owls and also happens to have a prosthetic leg and one time she read us a poem about finding a dead dolphin beached on the shore and burning it and dancing around with her leg off and she also passed around a vertebra she had kept from the dolphin. Oh 7th grade.

3) Then we played more Okami. We played through the windmill dungeon where we got the power to draw wind and we fought a flaming boar. Then we watched a bunch of cutsceens leading up to the first major confrontation with the main enemy, but we didn't have any time to play that dungeon.

4) Mom sent out pictures from their latest trip to Ithaca today, here are my favorites:

5) Then we made some green beans for Dana's Seder. They were tasty and simple.

6) Then we took the 6 and the blue line to get out to the west side side of Chicago. We reminisced about the party we had gone to at Dana's house back in February and how incredibly cold it had been. It was much nicer on this trip. Yay Spring!

7) We arrived right on time and were the first ones there except Dana and her mom. As always it was great to see Dana. We talked and laughed while we waited for everyone else to arrive. Stephanie and I sat on the couch while Dana and her mom finished up preparing things in the kitchen. It's always very interesting to see someone interacting with their parents. Dana's mom is not at all what I expected just from knowing Dana, but at the same time I now don't know how I could have imagined her any other way than she is, if that makes sense.

8) After a few more people showed up Dana put on a video featuring muppet like characters celebrating Passover. And of course, crazy hijinks ensued (they are transported back to Egypt, there are singing inanimate objects, etc.) We didn't watch the whole thing, but we saw enough to get the idea.

9) Then the Seder commenced. The only ever "Seder" I had ever been to was back in Catholic school. I think it was sometime in the year leading up to Confirmation. We did it because Passover plays a small part in Christian mythology, namely the Last Supper was supposedly a Seder. Also because, as Dana put it, "Christians think they share a God with us." Anyway, that "Seder" was mostly about the symbolism of the different foods and such.

Dana's Seder was much more about the relevance of the story and symbols to everyday life, or at least life today. She put together the Haggadah herself using pieces of a couple other ones, some parts were more traditional and others more modern and social justice oriented. There was a little Hebrew sprinkled through out, but also English transliteration for us gentiles. The main gist of it was "this is not (just) the story of Jewish liberation from Egypt, this is the story of all liberation everywhere and a time to remember that this is an ongoing struggle."

We all took turns reading from the Haggadah. And we performed the necessary actions (dipping herbs, removing 10 drops of wine for the 10 plagues, breaking matzah, hiding the afikoman (Stephanie did this and did it very well), finding the afikomen (Paul did this, the rest of us were clueless), drinking 4 cups of wine, opening the door for Elijah, etc.) As we went along the meaning and importance of each step was explained in the Haggadah and we were encouraged to ask questions. Most of the questions actually came from the other Jews (or atheist ex-Jews) who were learning new things about the Seder. It was very different from Catholic holidays which are not nearly as transparent or welcoming to outsiders. (Although Stephanie also said it was very different from Seder's at her Orthodox grandfather's house.) I felt very welcome (and not just because of the orange.)

10) When I was reading the part about combining the bitter maror and the sweet haroset I accidentally coined a new word: switterness. It was a big hit and used profusely throughout the rest of the meal.

11) I've transcribed my favorite part from Dana's Haggadah. I think it resonates with the idea behind this blog

Dayenu - "it would have sufficed" -- A Jewish philosopher was once asked, "what is the opposite of hopelessness?" And he said, "Dayenu," the ability to be thankful for what we have received, for what we are -- Dayenu means to celebrate each step toward freedom as if it were enough, then to start out on the next step. It means that if we reject each step because it is not the whole liberation, we will never be able to achieve the whole liberation. It means to sing each verse as if it were the whole song -- and then sing the next verse.

12) And I would be remiss if I didn't mention all the wonderful foods that we had for the meal portion of the Seder. Highlights include a delicious spinach and walnut salad (it also had craisins, but I mostly avoided those), our green beans, a roast, two different harosets and the desserts included chocolate chip meringues and a wonderful fruit plate.

13) The matzo ball soup gets special mention because I've only had it twice in my life. The first time was at Talya's house, Thursday February 10th 2005, a few days after Dom died. In a week where my world was turned upside down, this soup was one of the few things that made sense, I can remember the way it looked and smelt, the texture of the matzo ball. It was almost magical, and "comfort food" doesn't really do it justice. Eating the matzo ball soup took me back there if only for a moment. It was also pretty tasty in it's own right.

14) After the meal we concluded the Seder and then hung around for a while just talking and drinking and eating dessert. It was truly a wonderful evening and one I'll always remember.

15) I stayed at Stephanie and Paul's house that night because I had taken the next day off and a ~2 hour CTA trek home at the end of the night is never fun. Before we went to bed Stephanie and I had a good talk. <3

1 comment:

concretesphinx said...

Did you know that if you google "switterness" the only result in the ENTIRE INTERNET is this blog? I mean not to say that the word isn't amazing and a great portmanteau but every time anything is the only thing in the entire internet i think it's somehow implausible. You created something that no one has ever made before!