I have been in charge of seders for my entire family for the past five years or so, and the guest list has ranged from a 20-person head count to a 50-person head count. I know some of you feel my pain! For those of you who have never had the privilege (ahem) of preparing a 50-person seder, here is a sneak peek at a typical shopping list:
- 27 pounds of chicken
- 30 pounds of brisket
- 75 eggs
- 20 onions
- 10 pounds of carrots
- 8 pounds of celery
- 4 pounds of walnuts
- 20 green apples
- 10 pounds of Matzo
- Maror (unless you plan on making it at home; I for one vow to never do that again!)
- 15 bottles of screw top Magen David wine (I did the fancy wine the first year and no one drank it – the only variety that was gone was the screw top wine, so cheap wine it is!)
Once I gather all of the ingredients at the grocery store (in Houston you had better be one of the first to get to Beldons, so you have everything you need), it’s back to work I go – in the kitchen, that is. The first thing on my list includes 10 gallons of chicken soup and 180 matzo balls. My chicken soup and matzo balls take SEVENTEEN woman hours to make.
Over the years, I have learned (the hard way) that you cannot take a one batch matzo ball recipe and multiply it by ten. Your matzo balls turn out to be cannon balls. It gets exponentially worse if you attempt this at midnight, like I did the very first time I prepared a Passover feast. Not only did I forget to use club soda instead of water (club soda is the key to light and fluffy matzo balls) but in my haste, I DID make one recipe X 10. Suffice it to say, no one in my entire family ate a matzo ball that year (except my cousin Marjorie who graciously said, “Well, I like them hard!”) and from then on everyone had something to say about Janice’s “cannon ball matzo balls.” One person’s matzo ball even jumped out of the soup bowl and flew across the room (luckily no one was hurt).
Preparing the chicken soup and the matzo balls is probably the hardest out of all of the preparations. However, they are not the only things that need to be prepared. Don’t forget that you will have also make 75 hard-boiled eggs (I am probably the only person on earth who has difficulty making hard boiled eggs and has to practice with a small group first) and gefilte fish (you must use your mother-in-law’s recipe… though I will tell you now that you will fail miserably every single time, guaranteed – never as good as Mom used to make). Make sure you cook as much as you can in advance so you can freeze and reheat. Not only does this save you time, but it will save your sanity as well! Of course, this means you might have to get a separate freezer… but take it from me when I say it is truly the lesser of two evils!
Once the food situation has been taken care of (well, as “taken care of” as any pre-Passover preparations can be), then comes a whole horde of additional tasks that must be done, including (but not limited to):
- Ironing 50 napkins and 10 table cloths
- Polishing the silver
- Dusting the glasses and crystal
- Borrowing all the tables and chairs and everything else you don’t have enough of
- Setting the table for 50 people (really 5 tables)
- Finding 30 Yarmulkes from weddings and bar mitzvahs for the men to wear
- Preparing 5 seder plates with everything on it – don’t forget the oranges
- Making 50 mini seder plates to put at each place
- Getting your husband on track and studying for the seder, so it runs smoothly (a gal can dream, can’t she?)
After my first 50-person seder, I was absolutely BEAT. I can’t even imagine what I would have done if I had to bake the dessert. Not having to bake was the only saving grace throughout this entire ordeal! Thank you to my amazing husband Bobby for bringing home whatever was leftover from the bakery for us.
Also, honey, thank you for going through the garbage every year to find that one tiny little piece of silver that was scraped into the garbage can and HAD to be found. I know you always find it in the last bag of the 5 bags of garbage, but you always find it and we’re proud of you for doing so. 😉
Hag Sameach to all
and let me know how your Seders turn out this year!