I hosted my first Seder this month, this is an act of insanity or love, I'm still not sure yet. Wake up early, fire up the oven, set the brisket out to come to temperature. Chop some aromatics: sweet and earthy parsnips, creamy carrots, nibs of dusty potato, crisp watery bits of celery, and weeping crescents of onions, all bound by the unifying forces of red wine and a muslin sack of bouquet garni. The smell of searing meat mingles with the aromas of stock coming to a simmer.
I know I can deal with the caramel coated onion kugel later, that won't take long; just thinking of the smell of them cooking down to a rich golden paste makes me giddy.
Our house is permeated with the scent of fresh cooked food, and slowly guests gather, some familiar others no so much. We are a house for people who have nowhere to go; an eclectic group of Jews with one thing in common, we had nowhere to be on the first night of Passover.
Glasses clink, the table is hushed as serving dishes scurry about finding their way to a new person; the food is too good for conversation. As the wine flows and the matzoh balls are doled out en masse, we start to talk. The conversation glows more lively as embarrassing stories pile up, old memories are dusted off, and a healthy dose of embellishment is served alongside the haroset, homemade gifilte fish, kugel, and everything else that makes a Seder wonderful.
Some of our guests are house regulars, others family of residents, some just didn't have a place to go - it doesn't matter we are all there for one reason.
With dishes piled up in the sink, and with everyone either gone home or asleep, I can breathe a sigh of relief, it's done. Preparing a Seder is a labor of love, and the clean up, that is the insane part.