Candy canes are breath mints, the ones that stack up untouched in the bowl by a diner’s cash register.
Turkey’s a sandwich meat noted for being drier than chicken.
Who the hell likes candy corn anyway?
And, until a few days in spring every year, matzo is a dry cracker.
Holidays are magic, mainly for their transubstantiative powers. Ritualized communal meals with preset foodstuffs you never eat the rest of the year and certain speeches, chants and drinking games in between seem a little suspect on the surface.
But they’re magic. They’re lovely and wonderful and the brisket is delicious and I was sent off with a Tupperware full of kugel that I’ve already dipped into because I couldn’t wait for lunch.
Let me take a step back. Not all the way back to ancient Egypt and Jews and Charlton Heston parting seas, but to last night, at a Passover Seder with friends and loved ones.
There’s not much to say about the dinner, at least not much that makes a good story. The best memories are really terrible anecdotes. No one wants to hear about that time things went perfectly.
The food was wonderful. Everyone laughed and got along. It got political enough to be interesting, but not enough to get argue-y. New friendships were formed, old alliances strengthened and I cannot get over how good the soup was.
It was still a Passover dinner with that holiday magic that turns odd habits into beloved memories. We ate the cracker, dipped parsley in salt water, divvied the egg, mumbled the Hebrew and did everything you do at a Seder to tell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.
On the surface, odd and scripted. This night is different from all other nights because most nights don’t come with an instruction manual.
But in practice, heartwarming. Strong. Human and loving. The smell of chicken soup bobbing with kneydlekh. The simmering brisket cut 12 hours in the slow cooker. Wine and apples, stories and community to remind us who we are.
To call something a tradition is to say there’s not a reason to do it in a practical, Machiavellian, cause-and-effect sort of way. You brush your teeth on a stricter schedule than you bake pumpkin pie, but you wouldn’t call hygiene a tradition. It’s something you’ve got to do to get a certain result.
Traditions, then, and holidays and love and meals with friends are impractical needs, vital not to life but to a happy one.
You can continue existing if you never have a Tupperware full of leftover kugel to take to work. But what’s the fun of that?