Shalom. I’m Martha Stewart, lifestyle expert and successful human woman. Spring is here, which means it’s time for one of my favorite religious gatherings, the Seder.
The Seder is a traditional meal served during the holiday of Passover, or, as I like to call it, the Jewish Easter.
Join me as I show you how to curate the Seder of my dreams, here on this episode of Martha Stewart’s Journey into Judaism.
You should start preparing your Seder several weeks in advance. You will need to be sure you have the supplies and space for them. Over here you can see this special wine cellar I built; it’s a scale replica of Goshen. This took several weeks of digging and then several more of découpaging the eastern Delta of the Nile, including drying time. You, of course, do not have to do this, but I find that homey touches like these give your meals a certain wow factor. You can find instructions for these available for sale on my website.
I recommend hiring an extra team of housekeepers to work the days before the Seder. A meticulously cleaned home both welcomes your guests and makes them too uncomfortable to touch anything. This makes clean up a breeze.
When Guests Arrive
Offer your guests one of my four signature theme cocktails: The Pillar of Fire, Manna-hattan From Heaven, Let Mi(mosa) People Go, or the Edward G. Robinson. I made these pyramid-shaped ice cubes out of well water from Vichy but the water from your own well works fine, too, as does fresh water from the babbling brook or waterfall in your backyard.
You’ll want your guests to be aware that the Seder has repeated patterns of four: Four questions. Four sons. My four-piece cocotte set available at Macy’s that’s perfect for serving up soups or stews at the Seder or any meal that can be enhanced by crockery.
To the Table
It’s time to lead your guests through your main house to one of your smaller party homes on the grounds. You may want to line up some of your seasonal staff members along the route and festoon them with garlands of fragrant flowers to invoke the theme of spring.
Once at the party home, stun your guests with a breathtaking tablescape that they’ll be talking about “next year in Jerusalem.” I prefer a simple, white, crisply-ironed tablecloth on which I showcase the elegant 25-piece place setting for each guest. Atop each place setting, I’ve put a hand-written Haggadah – these are the books read at the Seder. You can either personalize each book with their names written in gold ink or you can hire someone to do that for you. I’ve also placed bundles of straw under the table for guests to crush with their feet to really make the story come alive. Strategically place aloe plants around the room for spot-treatment of wounds.
Time for the Seder
Seder means “order” in Hebrew and refers to the 15 ritual steps of the evening. Ritual foods help punctuate the Story of Exodus, which is told several times throughout the meal – directly, through allegory, and through songs and games.
It can be a long evening, and sometimes children get a little wiggly. Here you see I’ve spread out all the supplies needed for young guests to craft Easter Baskets while adults engage in lighthearted debates about Talmudic tracts.
The meal is an essential part of your Seder. One of the ritual foods is something like a compote made of wine, apples, and walnuts called maror. You can make your own with crab apples. I prefer the ones found on the grounds at the federal prison camp in West Virginia. I think you’ll find these apples are also good for jams, savory dishes, or trading for cigarettes.
A potentially ruinous part of the meal is the traditional gefilte fish. I recommend a recipe redux wherein you replace the whitefish with a ground pork mixture that is both unexpected and flavorful.
Eggs are also often part of the Passover meal, and it’s wonderful to use eggs from your own chickens. If you don’t have chickens, you can certainly use the eggs laid by your ducks or your quails, or even your emus, but you’ll have to make adjustments to your Seder plate as emu eggs are rather large and can all-too-easily crowd your bitter herb. And crowded bitter herbs are not a good thing.
For the rest of the meal, I’ve made a simple make-ahead dinner consisting of: Country cottage canapes, Pot au Feu de fruits de la mer, Escargots à la Bourguignonne, a choice of pheasant, partridge, or capon (preferably your own after you’ve harvested their eggs – avoid the emu, it can be gamey), a mélange of ancient grains, and an array of pharaoh headpieces made of homemade marzipan.
It should be noted that this menu is not kosher for Passover. Or at all.
And that is all it takes to host the perfect Seder. Join me next week as I continue my Journey into Judaism with a look at creating a homemade advent calendar to help a special young man count down to his Bar Mitzvah. We’ll also visit a silversmith in Waco, Texas and watch as he creates a beautiful one-of-a-kind cheese slicer that would be the perfect gift to bring to a bris.
Until next time. Shalom.