From Zero to Seder, A Half Hour Later: A True
by Lee Ratzan
Our Seder night was not going to happen. Our college son could not come
Our daughter was on duty. My wife was working late covering for her boss
had a family emergency. For the first time in a long time there would be
first night family Passover Seder.
I mused on Seders past while driving home through heavy traffic. The
Seder night is special. It proclaims itself a symbol of reunion, rebirth
renewal. And it was not going to happen tonight.
Then came an epiphany. Could I-me alone!-construct a Passover meal for
wife and myself using only what could be found around the house? And could
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,
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
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
in back of the refrigerator.
Maror: The bitter herb. I rummaged through the cabinet and discovered a
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
of the ceremonial wine at every family Seder. I grabbed two ornamental
glasses filling one with wine (Elijah) and the other with water
The cups mysteriously emptied during the meal [gulp] when my wife later
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
Benedict to Fricassee, baked and stuffed every which way but none
how to make simple hard-boiled eggs. Boil for five, ten or twenty
Ours might have been overcooked because they bounced.
Karpas: The green vegetable. I found a can of spinach in the closet and
green pepper in the veggie bin.
The Orange: Some families follow a new custom of placing an orange on
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
Our main course would be mixed matzoh sandwiches made from butter,
jelly, salsa and dips.
Desert: I sprinkled apple chunks with cinnamon, crushed maple sugar over
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
where we keep the fancy linens. It sort of appears somehow. No time to
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
...A complete (albeit unusual) Seder
...A festive (albeit unusual)
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
He teaches at the School of Communication, Information and Library
of Rutgers University. Contact the author at
from the April Passover 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine