So, I have a huge stack of eggplant slices salting, and it seemed a good time to sit down with an ice cold kosher-for-Passover diet Pepsi. Not that there's anything in a diet drink that should not be kosher for Passover; it's the corn syrup in regular drinks which is against the rules this time of year. Which is why we have 32, count 'em, 32 bottles of kosher-for-Passover Coke in the house. That should keep Mrs. Pornographer happy for the rest of the year. Debbie Friedman is singing in the background, reminding me of the melodies for tomorrow night's Seder.
I love to cook. Which is odd, because I am not very adventurous in cooking, at least not by the standards I see around me. If you are coming for dinner, you'll probably get my pasta with red meat sauce or skirt steak; easy things I can cook (and eat!) pretty much every day. I have decidedly pedestrian tastes, despite wanting to appreciate the "better" things with all my heart. I was devastated when I realized that deep down, I didn't like most sashimi; I'm a tuna and salmon and "is this one cooked?" philistine. I have to tread very carefully with curries; my mouth can't even interpret cilantro correctly, it tastes like nasty, dry soap. So Thai food is also tricky. I have learned what I can eat without seeming too picky in different sorts of restaurants, and every time I order an old standby, I feel like I have failed some sort of cultural taste test. When I discovered I didn't like fois gras I almost cried. I'm a peasant.
Yet when I get into the kitchen with my inadequate knives and cheap pots, I really have a good time. In the past few years, I have schooled myself to experiment more and accept an occasional "what was I thinking?" moment as part of the price of getting to something that makes dinner feel special. I have unearthed some nice childhood memories - not very easy - around food and brought my mother's side dishes to my own table with success. White beans dressed with fresh parsley, garlic and a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice makes people ask for "the recipe." But that's it.
Dinner for over a dozen, and a long dinner with the chance to run overtime, is a bit of a challenge. Pasta would be great if it wasn't for the fact that Passover pasta is sucky beyond belief. There's a reason why people have bad memories of the food at Passover dinners; roasts become overcooked, vegetables become limp and tasteless, and gefilte fish is...well. Chopped, bland fish mixed with bland filler in fish jelly with a slice of raw carrot. Blech.
So, my aversion to traditional (and Ashkenazi style) dinners led me to determine that when I converted to Judaism, I converted to be a Sephardic Jew. Middle Eastern versus Central and Eastern European. Thus, my Passover contains rice dishes, lamb, and instead of a brisket, I make the moussaka. (We did actually get a rolled lamb roast for the first Leather Seder. It was delicious, but wow...kosher lamb for so many people was...um...pricey.)
And I try, every time we do a Seder, to at least vary some of the recipes. I made a traditional tsimmes a couple of times, with carrots and apricots, but this year I roasted sweet potatoes with carrots in date syrup and cayenne. I did make a traditional charoset with apples and walnuts and honey, plus a Moroccan one with dates, figs and almonds.
Next week, I'll probably broil a nice skirt steak, toss some pears and nuts into a green salad and when the holiday is over make a rich, thick red sauce to have over penne. But this week, I am giving my spice rack a work out and pondering, as I do every year, whether I should actually get decent knives or a cast iron pan or one of those fancy stewpots. Or a food processor with more than one blade?
Time to rinse the eggplant and make more charoset.