We got the invite to our annual Passover gathering from host/friends Mark and Debbi Berenberg the other day.
Passover has become, over the years, a wondrous event: easily our favorite holiday.
My celebrating of Pesach with Mark and Debbi, and Richard and Barbara Kweller, along with David and Lynn Shussett, began in 1978, when the seven of us (plus my girlfriend at the time) gathered at the Berenberg house, eating a killer meal which featured great brisket from Debbi, and Matzoh Ball Soup (best on the planet) from Barbara.
We were young then, and it was the bay area in the 70’s, so we smoked four joints instead of drinking the traditional four glasses of wine (symbolizing the pleasures god bestows upon us). We had no Haggadah, the book that tells the story of the Exodus, so it was up to me to relate that Charlton Heston is found by Anne Baxter in the bullrushes and comes to live with Yul Brynner, and so on.
At the time, Lynne was pregnant, so that meant the first of the next generation from this core was on its way. In fact, we had a baby naming contest which I won easily with the name “Tennis” (couple it with Shussett).
Jesse was the actual moniker said child received, though she is known as “Tennis” by the originals who were there, but now, there are children and grandchildren and the table includes roughly 46, and that includes Jesse, her husband Mike, their oldest, Lucas, and their baby, Liv (this year will be Liv’s first with us) .
The dinner, which does include a traditional Seder, and goes through the story of the Exodus, is presided over by Mark, and he keeps things mostly in control, but with so many personalities, of so many ages, and so many margaritas (Mark has a special blend, which I refer to as “Markaritas”) and bottles of wine, it is a challenge.
Add in that wonderful brisket and Matzoh Ball Soup (it really is the best on the planet) and rosemary chicken and salads: enough food to feed a small battalion.
Of course there is desert, and at this point in our somewhat comfortable lives, we are all pretty serious foodies.
A few years back, I made up a sort of hybrid cheesecake that I bring as a desert item. The crust is those great Nabisco chocolate wafers, pulverized, and the body of the cake is half cream cheese and half mascarpone, and then I drizzle chocolate/hazelnut over the top.
Whenever it is time to prepare for the making this cake, I immediately think of Satchmo, also known as Louis Armstrong.
Armstrong’s influence over jazz might not be so well known to the masses, but let’s just say that starting with his real professional debut with King Oliver and the Red Onion Jazz Babies, in New Orleans, to his iconic hits like Hello Dolly and Wonderful World recorded late during his career, Satchmo ranks among the greats and most influential to modern music.
His live recordings with Ella Fitzgerald are a regular on my CD rotation, and I say this, with everyone knowing, I am a total rocker at heart. It is just that shit is so good (there is also something wonderful in hearing Armstrong, Yo La Tengo, The Clash, Jason Isabell, and the Guess Who shuffling).
I do love this song, which is stupid, simple, and simply wonderful. It is like my desert: have two slices!