While my mother was living, it was tradition to have her over for dinner each year at this time, for which I'd make the same traditional menu. (When we met to dine on other occasions, we usually went out.) Now that she's gone, we're transferring the tradition to B's sister G. and her husband M. Except that, instead of their coming here, we went to their house. Less cleaning up for us, less cat allergy for G.
But I still cooked, and made the same traditional meal. I e-mailed G. a complete list of all the pots and pans and measuring tools and utensils and all that I'd need for cooking and serving, and she laid them all out on the counter so that I wouldn't have to go hunting for them in unfamiliar cabinets, and I introduced my gentile relatives to gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, and latkes, none of which they'd ever encountered before. I had to explain what they all were (the explanation of matzo balls began with a reference to the Exodus ...), and, surprise, they liked them. M., a true trencherman, was particularly taken with the latkes, though to him fried potato evokes breakfast, and even the gefilte fish, if it had enough horseradish on it. Although I'd wanted to try this experiment, I would have expected that non-Jews would be as repulsed by gefilte fish as non-Americans usually are by root beer.
Cooking on somebody else's stove is like driving somebody else's car. It can be disconcertingly different, even if the rules are the same. This was the first time I'd used a gas stove that took longer to boil a pot of water than an electric stove does, though I may be biased by having a very fast stove at home (and an even faster oven, which requires great caution and vigilance).
After dinner (which also included steamed broccoli, our favorite veggie) came the exchange of presents - B's from me was the new Brocelïande album, a Christmasy item, but by that token one best enjoyed during the season, before Christmas arrives - and then playing dreidel with chocolate gelt. Now, it is a strange thing, but though dreidels were a frequent decoration of my childhood Hanukkahs, and I knew the rules for the game, I cannot recall ever having actually played it before. Of this game I will note only two things: 1) Some dreidels are designed to be spun easily and some are not; 2) Somebody should really conduct an "honest dreidel" test the way they've done honest coin tests, to see if coins really do come out 50% heads and 50% tails.
We'll do this again next year, and see if we can get any of G. and M.'s offspring to come.