Cokie Roberts Shares Personal Traditions From Her Interfaith Marriage


The meal has evolved over the years as the guest list has grown. The former children at our Seders are now parents, I'm happy to say, but the burgeoning families long ago outgrew the dining room. And it's such a special night, with such a fundamental connection to Judaism, that everyone wants to keep coming year after year, which makes the celebration even more meaningful, especially to me. On other holidays with big crowds—Hanukkah and Christmas—I set up tables all over the house. But you can't do that for Passover, when everyone needs to be in the same room to participate in the service. At first we added a table to the end of the dinner table and angled it out into the hallway in an L shape. But soon that also became too small. So now we empty the glassed-in porch of all the furniture and set up rented rectangular tables. I keep saying that it looks like a VFW hall, but Steve graciously insists it really doesn't—that the warmth we intend comes through, despite the somewhat institutional looking rows of tables. Moving all that furniture and finding a place for it can be challenging, but somehow we manage to pile pieces on top of each other and cram them into the basement. For several years I insisted that we could fit only thirty-six on the porch, and the children were exiled to another room—much to their delight. But I've decided that we can squeeze in (and I do mean squeeze) a couple of more at each table, so I've gone to forty-four. Some years that's more than enough places, if families are out of town for spring break or if some flu is raging through the elementary schools; other years, when friends bring family members or all our family shows up, it means setting up a separate kids' table in an adjoining room. I still serve what's essentially a Middle Eastern meal (and as we go along I'll include a few recipes), though I long ago jettisoned the Greek egg-lemon, or avgolemono, soup, which was an annual favorite. It's just too hard to have soup for that many people and then clear plates and serve a main course, but I highly recommend it to a smaller group. I now have hired waiters to help with the dinner service and cleaning up, but that wasn't always the case. When we were young, there was no way we could afford such luxuries, and it took a lot of goodwill from our guests to get it all done. The main thing to keep in mind about the menu: Don't worry about it. This is a spring celebration, just go with that thought and you'll be fine. You can be sure that Jews over the centuries and around the world have served just about anything they had available.

Don't worry about any of it. This might be our Haggadah but it's your Passover—a night different from all others, filled with joy. This year in your house!

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