The Fast Man's Seder

    April Passover 2004 Edition            
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The Fast Man's Seder


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From Zero to Seder, A Half Hour Later: A True Story

by Lee Ratzan

Our Seder night was not going to happen. Our college son could not come home. Our daughter was on duty. My wife was working late covering for her boss who had a family emergency. For the first time in a long time there would be no first night family Passover Seder.

I mused on Seders past while driving home through heavy traffic. The first Seder night is special. It proclaims itself a symbol of reunion, rebirth and renewal. And it was not going to happen tonight.

Then came an epiphany. Could I-me alone!-construct a Passover meal for my wife and myself using only what could be found around the house? And could I do it before she got home?

Impossible! A Seder meal requires planning and extensive preparation. But this is what I did and this is how I did it...

Matzoh: The unleavened bread. A unopened box lay on the counter. So far, so good.

Charoset: The symbolic mortar made from apples, nuts and wine. I had an uneaten apple from lunch and a sealed bag of pecans from a fast-food salad. I diced the apple, crushed the nuts, mixed them together and then not so delicately splattered the ingredients with a few drops of kosher wine found in back of the refrigerator.

Maror: The bitter herb. I rummaged through the cabinet and discovered a jar of fiery horseradish mustard. A quick taste brought tears to my eyes. A dollop would do nicely.

A Cup for Elijah and Miriam: According to Jewish folklore, Elijah partakes of the ceremonial wine at every family Seder. I grabbed two ornamental glasses filling one with wine (Elijah) and the other with water (Miriam). The cups mysteriously emptied during the meal [gulp] when my wife later left the room for just a moment.

Shank bone: Our dog Tobey offered his bone.

Eggs: I checked our cookbooks and found recipes for all kinds of eggs from Benedict to Fricassee, baked and stuffed every which way but none explained how to make simple hard-boiled eggs. Boil for five, ten or twenty minutes? Ours might have been overcooked because they bounced.

Karpas: The green vegetable. I found a can of spinach in the closet and a green pepper in the veggie bin.

The Orange: Some families follow a new custom of placing an orange on the Seder plate. I did not have an orange but I did have a grapefruit.

The Festive Meal: Gefilte fish followed by chicken soup? No. My wife is a vegetarian. Our main course would be mixed matzoh sandwiches made from butter, cheese, jelly, salsa and dips.

Desert: I sprinkled apple chunks with cinnamon, crushed maple sugar over it and then impaled the pieces with toothpicks for dramatic effect.

Festive Song: On the drive home I had heard a radio ad for a live Seder broadcast. A twist of the dial and we sang along, accompanied by full symphonic orchestration and cantorial chorus!

The Afikomen: I slipped a few shiny coins in my pocket beneath her plate.

Linen: We have lived in our house for twenty years and I still have no idea where we keep the fancy linens. It sort of appears somehow. No time to look. I grabbed some white paper towels that lay within reach.

And then my wife came home. She saw before her:

...A table draped in white...

...Four glasses of wine, for us and our Biblical companions

...A complete (albeit unusual) Seder plate...

...A festive (albeit unusual) holiday meal.

From Zero to Seder, a half-hour later! Frankly, I do not understand why it takes some people so long.

Dr. Lee Ratzan is a healthcare agency systems analyst in New Jersey. He teaches at the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies of Rutgers University. Contact the author at


from the April Passover 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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