“Well, this doesn’t surprise me,” my mother responds when I tell her the guest list for my inaugural attempt at hosting Passover dinner has grown to nearly 20 people, “you never do anything in moderation.” It was true, and I was about 15 people over capacity.
A few hours before my guests arrive, I furiously tear apart my living room and schlepp in three long banquet tables and a dozen chairs. I press vibrant clashing tablecloths and count out 18 mismatched sets of colorful plates and bowls. My holishkes, translucent fans of cabbage swaddling tender mouthfuls of chuck, simmer in a bath of tomato juice in the oven. Then in the final moments—a matchstick meets wick with a hiss and pop. Van Morrison pirouettes on the Crosley, crooning a texture that only comes through on vinyl. The doorbell rings.
My first guest arrives with four bottles of kosher wine. The second, a deep bowl of charoset. “I made this without a recipe,” he leans and tells me confidentially. “That’s the way my family does it.”
Soon, my apartment, normally fit for a dinner party of four, becomes a dining hall bustling with 17 people I adore. With them comes a pot of matzo ball soup, tender brisket, and kugel. One of my guests presents an Israeli spiced chicken, rubbed with aromatic handfuls of herbs. Its only remnants at the end of the evening are a platter of bones, picked clean.
My friend, Danielle, leads the ceremony and the rest of us take turns reading from the Haggadah.
“Next year in Jerusalem!” someone shouts at the end of the ceremony. Those words become our mantra for the evening.
This crowd of mine goes through two dozen bottles of wine, much of it spilled on silk shirts and tablecloths, and we laugh all the more for it. At the end of the evening, my friend Tim, who runs a gourmet espresso catering company, Brew Ha Ha, erects a coffee bar near my pool, and serves the best affogotos I’ve tasted—a hot river of espresso blanketing a chilled scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“I love Seder,” I say when the festivities have hushed to a 2 a.m. troop of five, playing a wayward game of Taboo while polishing off a pair of cabernets. “I know I’m not Jewish, but I love how inclusive this holiday is.”
Last year, Danielle, invited me to Seder a few days after I went through a wretched break-up, and I was pondering whether I had room to love again. It turns out, I did. And this year it only felt right to open my door to others. Perhaps we strayed from tradition, but I believe Seder is about openness and family. And this is my family. My Los Angeles family.
I’ve never been one for moderation. I live wholly. I love senselessly. And sometimes you need to host Seder to prove that when it comes to throwing dinner parties, a home, like a heart, can never be over capacity. Next year, Jerusalem.
Brew Ha Ha, firstname.lastname@example.org. (562) 277-3820.
Photography credit for all of the awesome shots goes to Matt Halvorson.