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[Desert Droppings] Another Desert – Another Passover

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Lucky for Moses, all he had to do was free the Israelites from Egypt, part the Red Sea, and listen to their kvetching for 40 years in the desert…oh, and get the Ten Commandments. Moses didn’t have to orchestrate a Passover Desert- 040115- mosescelebration for the “chosen people ” who turned out to be pretty choosy when it came to their desert lifestyle. “What?! Manna from Heaven, again!” “Oy, another day of hot, dry, and dusty!” “Who made Moses the boss, anyway?”
Although Moses was forced to re-check the Tablets in the hope of finding “Thou shalt not whine” on there somewhere, he didn’t have to meld centuries  of Passover tradition with modern mishagas.
It starts with cleaning. Spic n’ Span pales beside Spoon n’ Feather.  The Passover custom is to rid the whole house of every crumb of non- Passover food (called hametz), like bagels, Oreos, Cheerios, and Spaghetti Os. Before Passover can officially begin, we’re told to search the house for any leftover bits of chametz, poking about with the feather, sweeping stray crumbs onto the spoon, and burning them. And who is supposed to scour the house so that there’s hardly a chametz crumb to be found? Not the Rabbis who for centuries pondered and produced these customs, but the hapless, harried housewives of the Shtetl! As Tevye sang to Mrs. Tevye while she scuttled about checking that no piece of schmutz had been passed – over, “Tradition! Tradition!”

And then there’s the food. Those of you who live in east and west coast cities with pro sports teams and large Jewish populations can stop reading right now  and go back to scrubbing and Swiffering. You can find shelves of Passover food at your neighborhood supermarket – no problem!
But, here in ABQ, where a few descendants of those ancient Israelites have settled in another desert, rounding up the Passover staples  is a challenge that makes the Exodus look like a romp along the Nile. Although ABQ supermarkets have been awash in purple bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and spiral hams since Valentine’s Day, Passover items appear in tiny end-of-aisle displays of random Jewish fare assembled by some corporate intern in the product distribution department who vaguely recalls the Passover Seders she yawned through at Grandma’s house.
So, with Passover shopping list in hand, I went determinedly from store to store  – here a box, there a can, is that Cal Seething- 040115- gfreematzognarled thing a horseradish root? Oh look! Gluten free matza made from potato starch, tapioca starch, palm oil, vinegar, honey, and egg yolks. Ewww! Could the “Bread of Affliction” be any more afflicted? And potato pancake mix? What is this, Hanukkah?!

Suddenly, right in the middle of my marathon shopping schlep,what should arrive  in my mailbox, but a Wegman’s Passover Food Catalogue sent by a family member who lives outside of Boston. Now while Massachusetts may have winters that last from October to May with outrageous accumulations of snow that only a polar bear could love, it does have Wegman’s. Another family member from Metro DC describes Wegman’s as the Disney World of supermarkets (minus the measles, of course.) Although I’ve never set foot in Wegman’s, for a long time I’ve been following family members’ comments on Facebook.  “We grabbed Chinese from Wegman’s international buffet.” and “Wegman’s has the freshest baby octopus tentacles for sushi.” and “Who needs Whole Foods, when you have Wegman’s with its three aisles of gluten-free foods.”
And for Passover- don’t ask! The catalogue was bursting with such Seder ready selections as
whitefishsaladchoppedliverstuffedcabbagematzakugelknisheschickenfatherringblintzes&quinoa-
plus a recipe for Potato Latkes with Salmon and Cream Cheese!Desert- 040115- wegmans
But for me in the ABQ wilderness, Wegman’s is as distant as the Promised Land was for my Israelite cousins many times removed and I don’t have forty years to meander through ABQ supers searching in nooks and crannies for foods to fill the Seder table. I don’t even have  40 days! Passover guests are arriving…Soon!  Passover guests with wheat allergies, peanut allergies, extreme aversion to green veggies, gefilte fish phobia.
And remember the spoon and feather, clean – every- corner thing? Well, should I throw out this stack of newspapers dating from September or clear out that cupboard full of cottage cheese containers that just look sooooo potentially useful? Decisions! Decisions!
Did I mention that guests are coming SOON? Lots of  guests! Do you think I could throw a towel over this old shower bench and use it as a table for the vegetable kugel and salt water?
And what about dragging in the big table from the garage and putting it in the center of the living room, with the kitchen table in the hall, and then use the bookcase  for the brisket  and wine bottles?  Wine! Holy Moses! I still haven’t found any! Would Barefoot Chardonay….?
No! No! Gotta get the Manischewitz.
Ok, folks. Gotta run.
However you celebrate spring – with a roasted egg, a Cadbury cream egg, or some vegan vaguely egg- like substitute, Desert- 040115- wineenjoy!
If you are fortunate enough to live near Wegman’s, raise a glass of their Israeli Barkan Classic Pinot Noir to us desert dwellers.
L’Chaim!

[California Seething] Living La Vida Matzo

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I was watching half a rerun of Fargo last night when I saw a commercial for King’s Hawaiian Bakery. A mom put down a basket of sweet, soft, airy, fluffy, yummy delicious King’s Hawaiian rolls on the dinner table and the family literally inhaled them.

Now- I don’t know if the allegations about Russian militants forcing Jews to “register” in Ukraine are true, but frankly I’m not too concerned- cause the REAL anti-Semites are the ones who decided to air this commercial RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING PASSOVER. I mean, state sponsored systematic oppression is one thing- but King’s fucking  Hawaiian??? That’s just mean.

So- as you may have read in my last post, Passover is a holiday in which Jews celebrate their freedom by not eating bread for a week, which I think we can all agree is a terrible way to celebrate freedom, like celebrating the Fourth of July by punching yourself in the face. I got two words for you, people: “FIRE WORKS.” Would it kill us to celebrate freedom by blowing some stuff up? (according to my mother, yes, yes it would.) And we wonder why there aren’t more Jews. Why would anyone sign up for this crap? We’re supposed to have an international banking conspiracy that’s secretly running the world- how can we be this fucking useless at marketing ourselves? The Christians know what time it is- their Messiah gets crucified and they’re all “bust out the Cream EggsCal Seething- 042114- egg and Marshmallow Peeps” and we get liberated miraculously after 400 years of hard labor and the best thing we can think of is going Gluten Free for a week. Who is our target audience here- actresses? And….dudes that want to hook up with actresses? I know the whole point is that we’re celebrating our freedom by remembering the suffering our ancestors endured as slaves but that’s just dumb.  It’s like celebrating your birthday by passing a kidney stone to remember the suffering of childbirth and if you’re wondering you just heard- that was one million Jewish mothers yelling “Boo YA!” at once when they read that. Oh, who am I kidding? The only Jewish mothers reading this post are my mom and my sister- but they both thought that was a pretty bitchin’ idea.

Plus most people don’t remember the suffering endured by their ancestors in ancient Egypt when they give up bread, they remember the suffering they endured in 2004 when they dated that crazy chick on Atkins- which in many ways was worse- I mean, at least the Egyptians never made the Jews use low-carb Margarita mix. Shudder.

Even the way Passover is set up is backwards. Easter has a nice day-by-day build up to the big event- there’s Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, He Dead Saturday and finally Easter Sunday!!! Hurray! He’s back!! Tacky hats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs for everybody!!. Passover on the other hand starts off pretty well- you’ve got Day One- Seder- Food! Family! Tradition! Fun! And then, Day Two- Seder Two- More Food! More Family! More Tradition! Slightly less fun. And then- Day Three- Matzo. Day Four- Matzo. Day Five- Matzo. Day Six- Matzo. Day Seven- Matzo. Day Eight- Matzo. Day Nine- PIZZACAKEDINGDONGSBREADROLLSBAGELSDOUGHNUTSTHINMINTSPASTACALZONESTWINKIESHOHOSDIABETICCOMA.  I suppose it’s supposed to mirror the journey of the Israelites- big moment of liberation- dull protracted schelp through unleavened desert and finally…the Promised Land- the Land of Milk (Duds) and Honey (Nut Cheerios) – neither of which I particularly care for but THAT SHOULD SHOW YOU HOW DESPERATE I AM. I wonder if they also have King’s Hawaiian Rolls? mmmmmmmm…..King’s Hawaiian Rolls. I’ve never had them but they look soooo gooood. Cal Seething- 042114- kingrolls

OK- so sure- celebrating Passover pretty much blows once you get past the first couple of day and yeah, sure, giving up bread is a dumb way to celebrate freedom and, yeah, chocolate bunnies are a much more effective marketing tool than unleavened bread. But for those of us that are stuck celebrating Passover- here are my Passover Do’s and Don’ts:

Do ask for matzo in restaurants even though none of them ever have it. Why? Because going to a restaurant when you’re keeping Kosher for Passover (KP or Kizzle to the Pizzle) sucks. It’s like being a recovering alcoholic at happy hour. Everyone’s laughing and carrying on and shamelessly sinking their teeth into burgers on huge brioche buns so fluffy and thick that the tooth fairy could be forgiven for leaving money under them; or shoveling cakes and cookies and pies down their carb holes not to mention brownies…mmmmmmm….brownies (Homer drooling sound) as rich as the Koch brothers and as dark as their souls. And meanwhile, in the midst of all this leavened decadence I sit with two  little heaps of chicken salad on my plate like boobs in search of a training bra, while I’m surrounded on all sides by temptation and red faced gluttons taking their lunch for granted. Like I said, it sucks. And I’m just a tourist in the land of deprivation- I don’t know how people with real food issues keep this up full time. And the only way I can make it fun for myself is to ask for matzo and then be lavishly and theatrically disappointed when they tell me they don’t have it.Cal-Seething--042114--norma

Now, if you’re gonna do this- you’ve got to do it right. You can’t be all Jerry Lewis nebbishy “Nice lady- do you please have any matzo?” about it. NO! you’ve got to be imperious, commanding. When you say “Do you have any Matzo?” they’ should hear Norma Desmond asking “Have you ever heard of Isotta-Fraschini?” and…ooh ooh ooh- here’s the best part- when they tell you they don’t have it and they’re all bowing and scraping before you- then you get to forgive them. Or, more to the point, bestow your forgiveness upon them- smile a little- say “it’s ok”- grace them with a sprinkling of noblisse oblige as they joyfully gobble up the crumbs of your beneficence. It’s a tricky move to pull off- think Lord Grantham sending Mrs. Patmore to the eye hospital. Oh yeah. That’s the stuff. It’s like heroin without the dead babies. Look, I get it- I know the Lord Grantham Dismount is a difficult move to master- but I also know that there’s a fine line between a turkey burger and a pile of shit on a plate- and if you must cross that line, you’d better have some way to amuse yourself.

 

Don’t Eat Dessert. OK, so you know that scene in Christmas Vacation where they’ve got that perfect-looking turkey on the table Cal Seething- 042114- turkeyand, as soon as Clark cuts into it, it explodes in a cloud of dust and reveals the desiccated atrocity within? Well- just swap out that turkey with a marble cake and you’ve got a classic Passover dessert.  Look – I get it- I love cake. I miss cake. I want cake. BUT PASSOVER CAKE’S NOT CAKE. It’s a sick joke- a grotesque and demented parody of cake. It’s Soylent Green, it’s Veganaise, it’s Stepford Cake. It’s crazy old Betty Davis singing I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy with ringlets and curls and a bow in her hair AFTER FEEDING HER SISTER A RAT.

Do you want to eat rat??? Do you????? Fuck no. And you don’t want Passover cake either.  So suck it up and skip dessert for a Cal Seething- 042114- cookiebutweek. Or if your sweet tooth really is so overwhelming and you just can’t resist than just do what I do and have a little TJ’s Cookie Butter on Matzo- delicious! Wait what? There’s cookies in that??? GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.  Crap. One more thing I can’t eat- thanks a lot honey. Yeah- that’s right- keep eating frozen waffles in front of me SEE IF I CARE (I do. sigh).

Do Accept Plausible Deniability. Donald Rumsfeld once divided up all human knowledge into a few categories- there were the “known knowns” the “unknown knowns” and the “unknown unknowns”. Of RUMSFELDcourse, Donald Rumsfeld is insane. Seriously, he’s out of his fucking mind. He once fed Colin Powell a rat. Nevertheless- when it comes to keeping Kosher for Passover- I prefer to focus just on the Known Knowns. Stuff I know I’m not supposed to eat- bread, cakes, doughnuts, pie, bagels, Snowballs, Combos, Girl Scout Cookies..mmmmmm….. sweet….sweet delicious Girl Scout Cookies (Homer drooling sounds- how do you write that?). Sorry. Sorry. I’m back. Now- a lot of people may say that I’m not really keeping Kosher for Passover if I’m not scrutinizing every ingredient list and sticking to strictly to designated items.  But I disagree- I think I’m actually acting in the true spirit of Passover. I mean, if you think about it- we eat matzo because our ancestors had to leave Egypt so quickly they didn’t have time to let the bread rise. Well- if they didn’t have to time to let their bread rise- do you think they had enough time to scrutinize the ingredients on their barbecue sauce to see if it has corn syrup? Hell, no. And you think they would have had time to go all the way down to Ralph’s to peruse what they have on the Passover end-cap?? Not on your life! They would have just grabbed whatever they could from the house and gotten the fuck out. And that’s why- to honor them- I too celebrate Passover in a half-assed and hurried way- just the way I honor them when doing the dishes, making the bed, picking out clothes and trimming my toe-nails. I don’t have time for you “roast beef”- the Egyptians are coming!

Plus, when you think about it, if we had just stuck to the “known knowns” we never would have gone to war with Iraq in the first place in search of non-existent yellow cake Uranium. Mmmmmmmmm…yellow cake Uranium.. ulggggggh (thanks Yahoo Answers! )

Do eat fiber

No seriously- DO EAT FIBER. God’s no dummy. He needed those Israelites out of Egypt fast and he knew, in his infinite Cal Seething- 042114- activiawisdom that a people only moves fast if their bowels don’t (Exodus 21:14- Parashat Nid Tapoop) So he gave them matzo, got them out of Egypt and now I’m slugging down Citrucel with an Activia chaser. HOW MUCH LONGER DOES THIS HOLIDAY GO ON??? Seriously- two more days of this, and I’ll be Jamie Lee Curtis- and I KNOW she doesn’t want to trade places. Not even if I go as her for Halloween. Ha! I’ve got a million of them. No, wait, just two.

Do stop and think about… stuff. Look- I’m lucky. In a couple of days, Passover will be over and I can go back to eating whatever I want. A lot of people aren’t so fortunate, though. They go to bed hungry night after night because they can’t even afford the bread of affliction. And whether they are victims of war, drought or Wal*Mart- they remind us that none of us are truly free while others suffer. Or something like that. I don’t know. Maybe they just remind us that the next time we’re checking out of the supermarket and have the option to add $5 to help feed a family in need, we should press “Yes”.  It won’t heal all the suffering in the world- but it may make someone’s day not suck.

Don’t Make Matzo Brei. I used to run a small theatre in Santa Monica near Venice Beach. Inevitably, during every closing partyCal Seething- 042114- phouse around 2 AM when everybody was at their most wasted some genius would yell out “HEY!!!!! LET’S GO TO THE BEACH!!!” and in that moment everyone would miraculously rouse themselves from their stupor and be like “Awesome” “The Beach!” “Woo-Hoo!” “I’ve got to vomit!” and like rats leaving Hamelin they would follow their Pied Piper down to the water for what they all believed to be a rollicking good time (getting rid of the real rats would sadly be much harder). And can you blame them? How amazing does that sound? Running down to the beach in the middle of the night? Splashing around by moonlight? Feeling the bracing chill of the mighty Pacific on your bare skin- reminding you that you’re alive- what could be more totally awesome than that???? Turns out- everything. Because Venice Beach sucks. Sucks like eating matzo sucks. Cops, homeless people, garbage, jellyfish stings- it’s just about the last place you want to be half naked and tripping your balls off at 2 AM. So, inevitably, these little escapades ended badly, everyone would come back to the theatre damp, cold and miserable and just sober enough to want to get fucked up all over again- which is probably why in the eight years I was there- no one ever showed up to strike on time. Except, of course, for the rats.

Anyhow –it’s the same thing with matzo brei. I was at my parents’ house for Seder when the subject of matzo brei came up and I thought- Fuck yeah!! I’ll make matzo brei!! How awesome would that be?? Because, in my mind, it was a delicious treat- something my grandmother would have made- all yummy and sweet served with sour cream and nostalgia. Clearly- this was the best idea anyone ever had. I copied the recipe from my mother’s Passover cookbook (1959 edition- it’s like one three recipes that doesn’t use Jello) and flew home excited to cook up this fluffy delicious treat.

Now- for those that don’t know – Matzo Brei is a traditional Passover breakfast treat. You break up a couple of matzos- soak them in a mixture of egg & milk, add some cinnamon and fry it all up. Sounds great, right?? Well? Doesn’t it? No. It’s OK. It doesn’t. I agree. Clearly “Brei” is Yiddish for “Slop”. Still – I had hope – maybe this was one of those situations where the whole would be Cal Seething- 042114- breigreater than the sum of its parts. Maybe, once everything was put together and cooked up just right – it would turn out waaaay better than expected. It could happen! This, btw, is known as Magical Thinking and it is a phenomenon I am no stranger to. Time and time again, I’ve thought- well, ok- sure the script makes no sense and the music is droning and the main actress can’t sing and the director is paralyzed by doubt and the stage manager can’t get through rehearsal without half a bottle of vodka- but maybe- just maybe – once the set is built and the lights are hung and the costumes are on- maybe it’ll all come together and be much better than we could possibly expect!

It doesn’t. It never does. Magical thinking may keep you sane, but it can’t save a bad show and it can’t save a bad breakfast. Supposedly, matzo brei tastes like French Toast. In actuality- it’s a semi-sweet egg-lump chock-full chewy matzo bits- like a series of tragic decisions made at the omelet bar of the King David Hotel by world’s stonedest Jew “dude- put some matzo and cinnamon up in there….this is gonna be EPIC!”

Alright- there you have it- my Passover Do’s and Don’ts- just in time for the end of Passover. Be sure to read my 2014 Holiday Shopping Guide coming in January 2015. Wow. I suck at this.

Anyhow- maybe it’s not so bad that we celebrate freedom with matzo. I mean, after all freedom doesn’t come without struggle and sacrifice and it’s important we remember that- otherwise- what would we have to feel guilty thankful for. And as far as the marketing angle- well, maybe it’s best that we don’t misrepresent ourselves as more, you know, “fun” then we are. We’re not a chocolate bunny religion – so why pretend? After all- if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you can’t make French toast using the bread of affliction. I mean – you could – but for the love of God I’m begging you- DON’T. Anyhow- gotta run- the sun’s coming down and I’ve got to track down my motherfucking King’s Hawaiian Rolls! Woo-Hoo- Praise the Lord- it is good to be free!!Cal Seething- 042114- obama

[California Seething] Passover – I Hardly Know Her

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Back when we used to have Seders at my grandparents’ apartment- there were four things we could always count on:

  1. Uncontrollable, inter-generational giggling at the words “House of Bondage”
  2. My grandfather replacing “Month of Nisan” with “Month of Datsun” still chasing the glory of the courtesy chuckle he got Cal Seething- 040714- Nisanfor that joke in ’86. Livin’ the dream- Pop-Pop!
  3. My grandfather reaching into his wallet to pull out $1 for the Afikoman winner with the effortless joy of a man giving bone marrow.
  4. My grandmother demonstrating her uncanny ability to know exactly how much each person in the family was supposed to eat and what they should have. For example- my mother never ate enough, my uncle ate too much, my sister had to have special food prepared for her because she is deathly allergic to not being the center of attention, and my grandfather was diabetic.

As a result – at each Seder, we were subjected to two sets of food directives- one from my Grandmother and one from God or, G-D as the Jews refer to him (G-Dizzie to his homies).

G-D:       The Passover lamb is a Passover-offering to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians with a plague, and He saved our houses.Cal Seething- 040714- god

Grandma: Ronni- eat something- you never eat anything.

G-D:       They baked Matzah-cakes from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it was not leavened; for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had also not prepared any other provisions.

Grandma: Peter- that’s enough. You don’t need any more.

G-D: The marror you shall eat because the Egyptians embittered the lives of your ancestors with hard labor.

Grandma: Here, Heather- I made these brownies for you.Cal Seething- 040714- violet

G-D: Thus did Hilel do at the time of the Bet HaMikdash: He would combine Passover — lamb, Matzah and Maror and eat them together, as it said: “They shall eat it with matzah and bitter herbs.”

Grandma: Ralph- put that brownie back. He knows he can’t have that.

G-D: One is not to eat any dessert after the Passover-lamb.

Grandma: Peter! Stop that! Those brownies are for Heather.

And this is actually quite appropriate, because Passover is the ultimate expression of Jewish Food Mishigos (“mishigos” is a Yiddish word for craziness- or, not so much craziness- maybe hang-ups- or ,no, that’s not quite right- idiosyncrasies? Obsessions? Quirks? Fixations? Aaaaarrggh!! This semantic mishigos is making me cray-cray.). I mean, every Tom, Dick and Shaniqua will tell you that their ethnic group expresses love through food, hell that’s easy- just throw down some collard greens and lasagne, but weCal Seething- 040714- meryl Jews can use food to express so many more complicated emotions  like shame, guilt, smug self righteousness, subversive glee and punishing self-loathing- there’s no end to our versatility! Hell, we’re the Meryl Streep of fucked up food feelings and everyone else is, like…Scarlett Johansson.  And we only have G-Diddy to thank for giving us the stringent, baffling and totally random dietary laws that made us completely insane- whether we actually still follow them or not! What, you think Vegans and Gluten Free-kazoids invented “making yourself feel morally superior by flaunting your self-imposed, arbitrary, medically unnecessary dietary restrictions?” Hell no! Trust me- if you want to punch the d-bag at Taco Bell ordering a vegan Waffle Taco, then you should have seen that first a-hole Israelite who walked into a Philistine restaurant and loudly ordered “kid boiled in it’s mother’s milk” with the mother’s milk on the side.

I should add, by the way, that even though I’m talking about G-Dubs a lot, I’ve always had trouble believing in him. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that the Lord God Almighty- Creator of the Universe would personally give a crap if I ate a cheeseburger. And if it is true-why would I worship a micromanager like that? I mean, seriously dude, learn to delegate- don’t you have angels for this stuff??  I’m sorry, I know you got my people out of Egypt and everything, but I’m simply not gonna validate your crappy leadership style. It’s bad enough I’ve got a First Lady who won’t let me eat French fries, I don’t need some bacon hating deity getting all up in my business. What’s the matter, G-D- Ray Lewis has retired and you need shit to do? Go work in Cal Seething- 040714- raymysterious ways or take up macrame or play pull my finger with your hippie son – just get off my ass.

Also- let’s be clear- I don’t actually keep Kosher (that’s what we call following the Jewish dietary laws, for those of you that have never actually met a Jew but for some baffling reason are still reading this?? Maybe on a dare?) Most Jews don’t. It doesn’t matter. Jews have the same relationship to food that Catholics have to birth control- it doesn’t matter whether you actually follow the rules- what maters is that you know there are rules you are supposed to be following and that you have complicated emotions about not following them.

Anyhow- as if the whole Jewish food situation wasn’t complicated enough- on Passover it gets way more complicated- because on Passover, we’re not supposed to eat any leavened bread or bread products because when our forefathers fled from Egypt so quickly they didn’t have time to let their bread rise- which, I think takes like 5 minutes, and realistically, there’s no way any group of Jews ever moved fast enough so that they couldn’t wait 5 measly little minutes for the fucking bread to rise. I mean you could make an entire three tiered wedding cake AND decorate with motherfucking buttercream roses in the time in the time it takes my family to leave the house for Olive Garden and THAT’S if no one has to pee. If we were leaving slavery? Forget about it- bagels, cookies, goddamn chocolate souffle – it would be the best Passover ever. But, OK, whatever, the ancient Jews moved a lot faster than we did, so as punishment for their efficiency we can’t eat bread or anything else that gets puffy when it’s wet cause- I guess it’s…sort of like bread? So- no corn. And no beans- unless you really, really like beans in which case beans are ok- but no rice. Unless you really, really like rice in which rice is ok- but no beans. Definitely no rice & beans together- YOU HEAR THAT ZATARAIN’S?? WHY WON’T YOU LEAVE ME ALONE??? And no corn syrup cause it’s got the word “corn” in it. And beer, cause God’s kind of a G-Dick. But if you were to look it up in the Bible- the only thing you’d see was the requirement to eat matzah. The rest is commentary upon commentary from generations of Rabbis who were clearly being paid by the hour.

This is typical of Jewish law- like, let’s say there was a rule in the Bible that said “Thou shalt not juggle chainsaws on Cal-Seething--040714--chainTuesdays.” OK, great- no problem. But then…the rabbis come along and say….”well….what if your calendar is out of date, or you forget what day of the week it is- you could end up juggling chainsaws on a Tuesday- so- it’s probably best to avoid juggling chainsaws altogether.” OK, great, so no chainsaw juggling, fine.

But then…another rabbi comes along and says “Well….what if you’re juggling clubs and somebody throws you a chainsaw? You’re going to have to catch it and juggle it and then if your calendar is out of date or you forget what day of the week it is then you could end up juggling chainsaws on a Tuesday. So…to be on the safe side….it’s probably best to avoid juggling altogether.” OK, great, so no juggling, fine.

Cal Seething- 040714- nojuggling
But then…another rabbi comes along and says “well…what if you’re picking up a bunch of clubs to move them from one place to another, and you start to drop one so you end up accidentally juggling and then somebody throws you a chainsaw so you end up juggling it and then your calendar is out of date or you forget what day it is you could end up up juggling chainsaws on Tuesday.” OK, great, so no handling juggling implements of any kind ever, fine.

And it goes on and on and on like this until the rabbis decide that it’s really best if we just cut off our hands completely because if you have hands you might see a bunch of juggling implements on the ground and then you might be tempted to pick them up to move them out of the way and then you might start to drop one of the clubs so we’d accidentally start juggling and then someone would throw a chainsaw at you so you would have to catch it and juggle it as well and then your calendar might be out of date or you forget what day of the week it is THEN YOU COULD END UP JUGGLING CHAINSAWS ON A TUESDAY! And Cal Seething- 040714- monkeychainsawTHAT’S why you can’t eat corn syrup during Passover. Makes sense? Great! Mazal Tov on your Bar Mitzvah- have an Israel Bond and a Tallis clip. Today you are a Jewish man.

Now most normal Jews wouldn’t go so far as to cut their hands off- especially cause that’s why there was a rule against juggling chainsaws in the first place, but there would be some hard core followers of Reb Schtumpy who would proudly walk with their stumps in a custom made fur muff, just like the rebbe used to (of course he lived in Poland and they live in Los Angeles, but never mind) confident in their moral superiority. Then again it’s pretty impractical to have your hands cut off- so most Schtumper Hassidim would get fancy, high tech prosthetic hands which they could use to do everything – including juggle chainsaws- which is technically permissible because they aren’t using their real hands! Don’t you see? It makes total sense! Just like the way hardcore Jews will spend days before Passover purging every single crumb of bread and cake and cookies from their homes and then go out of their way to make fake bread and cake and cookies that taste just like the real thing. Because, clearly, our ancestors didn’t haveCal Seething- 040714- marble time to let the bread rise- but Kosher for Passover marble cake? Sure! No problem! Plenty of time. Can I get you some disturbing gummy fruit with that?

Anyhow- my point here is that being Jewish is complicated, nobody knows how to do it right so we all pick and choose the stuff we want to do and so if you see me at a diner next week having eggs and bacon and matzah DON’T FUCKING JUDGE ME.

And, of course, I’m totally exaggerating with this chainsaw example. I mean- there’s no way Jews would ever use elective surgery as an expression of faith. Just ask my penis.

But what’s this Passover thing all about anyhow? Well, it’s about remembering how we Jews were slaves in Egypt and then G-Diddy set us free. That’s the story that we tell when we gather for the Seder, the big ritual dinner on the first & second nights of the holiday. Well, it’s the story we try to tell- I mean, good luck actually following it if you go to a Seder. Cause the way the Seder is set up, it’s like the worst committee meeting you could possibly imagine where everyone just keeps going off on tangents and nothing can ever get done:

“OK, everybody- we’re going to tell the story of Passover. First we were slaves in the land of Egypt…”

“Wait- I’ve got four questions”

“OK- well, we’ll be answering those as we go along- but, first, we were slaves in the land of Egypt and we’ve gotta tell the story all Cal Seething- 040714- meetingthe days of our lives.”

“Wait- just the days or also the nights?”

“Uhm- I guess the days and the nights.”

“And does this include the days now or the days after the messiah comes?”

“I guess it includes all of them. Look, the point I’m making here is that we’ve gotta tell the story about how we were slaves in the land of Egypt.”

“Wait- how would we tell this story to a wise child?”

“Uhm- I guess that with the wise child we would say that….”

“And don’t forget about the Wicked Child- it’s critical that we address the needs of the Wicked Child!”

“Well for the Wicked Child….”

“And I’m very concerned that we haven’t discussed the  Simple Child?”

“And I see nobody’s even mentioning the Child Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask- I guess the Child Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask is getting marginalized AGAIN.”

“ALRIGHT.  I get it! Nobody is trying to marginalize the Child Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask. We’re gonna tell each child the version of the story they can best understand. The point is that Lord, our G-d freed us from the land of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and brought ten plagues upon the people of Egypt.”

“Uhm- excuse me. I there were actually fifty plagues- ten for each finger in G-d’s hand.”

“50- you’re smoking crack- there were 200 – 40 for each finger.”

“Uhm…gon’t you mean 250? 40 for each finger plus another 50 for his outstretched arm? Plus- I think your use of ‘smoking crack’ is racist and inappropriate”

“ENOUGH! There were 10 Plagues. 10. Just 10. That’s it! Is nothing ever enough for you people?”

“Of course”

“Yeah”

“Who are you calling ‘you people’?”

“I mean- if he had just brought us out of the land of Egypt and not carried out judgments against them- that would have been enough”

“Well- I don’t know about that- but certainly if he had carried about judgments against them and not against their idols- that would have been enough”

“Oh- I don’t know about that- but I do think that if he had destroyed their idols and not smitten their first born- now THAT would have been enough.”

“ALRIGHT. Enough already. Let’s eat.”

“Hurray!”

“Food!”

“Wait- can you explain why eat matzah again?”

“AAARRGGGGGHH!! At this rate we’re going to be telling this fucking story all the days of our lives!”

“All the days- or the nights too?”

So there you have it- absurd dietary requirements, a baffling ritual dinner and a story that we try to tell every year and never succeed- and I haven’t even mentioned the constipation. I can’t wait! No, really, that’s not sarcasm, I actually can’t wait. I love Passover. Why do you ask? Well, in typical elliptical Jewish fashion- I’m gonna answer with a story.

Every year I go to Albuquerque for Passover to have the Seder with my parents. Some times the whole family is there, sometimes lots of friends, other times- it’s just me and them. One year my dad broke his hip right before Passover and was in a rehabilitation facility. There was no way he was going to be out in time for the Seder, so we had no choice. We packed up the wine, matzah and bitter herbs and told the story of Passover in a lounge at the rehab facility. And as we went through the Seder, various nurses and attendants would pop their heads in to ask us, nicely, what the hell it was exactly we were doing. When we told them- they would immediately rattle off a list of all the Jews they’ve met- making sure to reassure us repeatedly that they were all just lovely, and they would all sample matzah- which they invariably enjoyed. Goyim love matzah-WHY???? Was this our best Seder ever? FUCK NO. Seriously- have you been to one of these rehab facilities? Fucking depressing. It’s all linoleum tile, hospital smell and old people on recumbent bikes trying to pedal to freedom (of course most of them don’t know their kids have sold their house out from under them while they were in there and they haven’t told their parents cause they’re afraid they’ll give up on life). Still- we did it. We giggled at “house of bondage”, I said “month of Datsun” and, even though my Grandmother couldn’t make the trip out there- I’m pretty sure we all figured out how much to eat. And if not…she’ll never know the difference. We couldn’t open the door for Elijah cause too many people would have escaped (Kidding! Kidding! There was no one there mobile enough to run away) but we did everything else. And when we said “this year we are slaves, but next year we are free” – well, I think that meant a little something extra to my Dad.

So- there. Now do you see what’s so great about Passover? No. Well, frankly me neither. I mean, I could have told the same story about Thanksgiving and the food would have been a lot better. But that’s not the point. The point is that Passover is coming whether we like it or not so we might as well make the most of it. Huh. That’s terrible. That’s like the least inspiring thing I’ve ever read. OK- well, maybe something better will come to me in Albuquerque. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hit Taco Bell next week for a Matzah Waffle Taco. Just don’t tell my grandmother. Cal Seething- 040714- maggie2