April 25, 2008


I love Passover!," I told Jeff's tutor when I saw her a week ago. She sighed and I immediately regretted my words. For Orthodox Jewish women, Passover is an enormous undertaking, requiring weeks of house-cleaning and shopping, not to mention the onerous task of changing over every single utensil, dish, cup and cooking surface from those used the rest of the year.

I did not always love, or even like, Passover. The Passover week of my childhood was fairly tortuous. In the small Midwestern city where we lived, there was minimum of Passover goods available and even had there been more, my mother would not have purchased them. We bought a box of matzah, a can of macaroons, hard-boiled a few eggs and called it a day, or rather, a long week.

It occurred to me that this attitude is completely contrary to the spirit of the holiday. While everyone does a fair amount of complaining after a few steady days of matzah-eating, this week is about freedom and redemption, and not at all about deprivation. There are vegetarian seders, feminist seders and chocolate seders. It's humbling to imagine historical seders of American abolitionists, Spanish conversos (Jews "passing" as Christians to avoid the Inquisition), World War II gatherings and so on.

This year, Jeff and I were at my youngest brother's house. He cooked up a magnificent feast. As the big sister, I could only marvel, "Who knew?" Upon our return, I renewed my intention to fend off incessant complaining from the boys with special Passover-only goodies. So far, it has worked. I hauled out a number of Passover cookbooks and have whipped up a number of well-received dishes, none of which I have ever made before. The fritatta has been such a success that I have made one every day with a different vegetable. I made soup from scratch and matzah balls (from a mix). Hart requested what I assume to be mushroom farfel and I dutifully whipped up a batch which met his approval. Even the roasted potatoes and asparagus passed muster, although I did not tell the boys that it isn't strictly a Passover dish.

The result is that our week without restaurants, breakfast cereal, sandwiches, cookies and pasta has been, dare I say? enjoyable. The downside has been lots and lots of pots, pans, mixing bowls and utensils called into service. A small price to pay. Still, it beats the lone box of fruit slices of my childhood--then the only culinary highlight of the week.

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