Tag Archives: passover

Pesach 2010

Well, for the first time in a long time, I was really sad to put away the Pesach dishes. We had the most awesome holiday E V E R!! I had been so nervous prior to my trip down. Worrying about getting the house ready for Pesach in time, and concerned about how all seven kids in our blended family would get along.

Turns out I was worrying for naught. Everything went swimmingly well. The house got ready in time – KoD and I worked so very hard to clean and shop. The first couple of days of Pesach (when it was still just the two of us) we were invited out to the sedarim and the lunch meals, which was great. We were really spoiled by all our hosts.

Thursday evening I drove up to Lake George to meet my boys – it’s the halfway point between Monsey and Montreal. I was so excited to see them after a week away from each other.

I spent Friday in a frenzy of cooking and cleaning and errands, and boy-hugging!! They were all so thrilled to be here and to reconnect with their friends (it’s been six months since they were last down).

Friday afternoon the KoD’s kids joined us, and the place really started hopping. Going from two people to nine people in less than 24 hours was a bit of an adjustment, but a welcome one!

Friday night to Tuesday passed in a jumble of cooking and dish washing, serving and serving and eating and eating and davening and shul going and oh-so-much-fun. Everyone got along – I kinda want to say there was peace and harmony – but with that many kids around it certainly was not peaceful, but it was harmonious. I was so pleased that there was no major friction!

Pesach ended last night, I got the kitchen back to its usual chametz self, sorted the laundry, KoD and I took his kids home (I miss them already) and bought out half of ShopRite!! We bought bread and cereal – all the important stuff.

Today I have a humongous load of laundry to do, plus the kids have been promised a trip to Walmart so they can spend their afikoman money that is burning holes in their pockets.

I hope to be back to regular blogging at the beginning of next week – once we are back in Montreal and the kids are back in school.

The best part overall about the last few days? My 10 year old step-son, as he was leaving the kitchen the other day, looked at me, smiled and said “Hadassah, we are so lucky to have you”. My heart is full. I am totally blessed with my KoD and all our children.

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One week till Pesach

There are some people that you can’t even talk to now as they have kicked their Passover preparations into high gear. I have already heard of people turning over the kitchens yesterday (the holiday doesn’t start till next Monday night!!!!) and their families are already griping that there is nothing to eat. I don’t get turning over the kitchen so early. Even if you have an army to cook for. They still need to eat this week, and eating out costs a fortune!

I haven’t made the kids crazy – we only have to Pesach clean one room before we leave, but I am always reminding the kids to keep their rooms tidy and clean. Yesterday I was rewarded with a short discourse about how slavery has been abolished in most countries, but Jewish homes this time of year seem to forget that. My kids have it so easy yet they have to grumble with their schoolmates just to save face.

I am so looking forward to this holiday. I know it will be an insane couple of days before the holiday as the KoD and I scramble to get everything done – but we will be doing it all together. In previous years (the past 15 years) I have done it more or less on my own (with the kids help and the occasional cleaning lady), so I am relishing the idea of having the KoD’s help. Plus this will be our first Pesach in Monsey together. It is indeed very exciting. We will have an interesting balance of some time alone, and then some time with all seven kids at home. It is going to be awesome.

Right now I am in major KoD withdrawal. I haven’t seen him for 2 weeks, and won’t see him till the weekend. It is the longest we have been apart since we met 17 months ago. I feel as if there is a part of me missing. Chocolate doesn’t even help anymore. Oh well, God willing, it won’t be for much longer.

Where are you at in your preparations, and when do you plan on turning over the kitchen?

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Selling the chametz – myth or mitzvah

Traditionally before Passover / Pesach we remove the leaven foods from our home, so that we can bring Pesach food in without fear of it being tainted by the leaven that is forbidden on this holiday. Most people I know will just put away all the regular not-kosher-for-Pesach food in sealed cabinets, and employ their Rabbi to sell the chametz. The rabbi sells the chametz for all the people in his community to a gentile that he knows, for a small sum which is returned right after the holiday. In order to facilitate this sale the Rabbi asks for location of all chametz items. Technically this gentile should be able to come into the houses of anyone who has sold him their leaven items and take what he wants, after all it does belong to him. However, this is all seen as something symbolic even though contractually binding.

Some people will finish up every crumb, every drop of chametz so they have nothing to sell. (A friend of mine is working his way diligently through his single malt collection). But still some of these people will sell their chametz pots and pans and appliances, just to be sure they do not own any chametz. Is this taking things a step too far, is this really necessary? Can a pot really be counted as chametz, if it is clean? I mean, we wouldn’t use it to cook for Pesach unless we had kashered it, but is it technically chametz or just a pot that was used to cook chametz in it?

After we have done the symbolic search for chametz (bedikat chametz) and burned that bread, we say the Kol Chamira “All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.” – shouldn’t that nullify our need to sell any of the chametz in our possession? After we have said the Kol Chamira prayer – we don’t own it anymore…

I came up against an interesting situation this year. As you know the KoD and I maintain two homes (ok that makes us sound like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – so not!!) due to our current immigration issues that are soon to be over BH. I was told that I have to sell my chametz here in Montreal, but that the KoD not only has to sell his chametz in NY, but he has to also sell my chametz again, just so we are covered. Why? Because as his wife anything that I own apparently becomes his. Therefore my apartment is no longer mine, it belongs to the KoD and it is therefore his responsibility to sell my chametz. Even though he does not live here!!! As you can imagine I am not right pleased about this.

So I am asking you folks out there to tell me about selling your chametz, why you do it, why you feel it’s necessary, why don’t you do it, what are the halachas, what are the chumras etc.

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Honesty about food costs

I shouldn’t be surprised by folk any more. Yet I am.

A friend of mine had updated her Facebook status yesterday about how gosh darned expensive kosher for Passover food is. A friend of hers responded with a question – whether she would share that information with her husband, or keep the amount spent to herself.

Why on earth would anyone keep secret the amount of money spent on food? It’s not like she went out and bought 17 pairs of shoes. That might be something that she would need to hide (although hiding any info from a spouse is big no-no in my book).

This is food for Passover and her husband, any Jewish husband, knows that it costs an arm and a leg, and maybe another arm besides. IMHO anyone that believes they need to hide this cost from their spouse needs to seriously take a look at the honesty in their marriage.

Do you keep ANY secrets from your spouse?

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And now it starts!!

The pre-pesach insanity. The minute Purim is over, for most balabustas, it’s full steam ahead for pesach preparations. Suddenly you cannot eat anywhere but the kitchen, the dining room is off limits. Closets must be emptied and reorganized. Light fixtures have to be taken down and scrubbed. The moms are on a mission to rid the house of anything chametzdik. In some houses there is not much decent to eat between now and Pesach.

But really, this craziness goes so much further than that. Most of this Pesach cleaning is really spring cleaning, but using Pesach as the excuse. According to the halacha, you don’t need to take down each individual crystal from your chandelier and scrub it in hot soapy water. There will be no chametz there, and certainly no recognizable or edible chametz. Just plenty of dust. Women who are not machmir on many things year round, suddenly in the month before Pesach are incredibly strict on what can pass muster as being clean for Pesach.

I like my home to be clean even when not preparing for Pesach. When I have the energy and the inclination I might take down the light fixtures (even though I am Hungarian I have no chandeliers) and clean them, but it will not be explained as cleaning for Pesach. Taking everything out of the closets in my room so I can wipe down the walls and ceilings and vacuum the floors – that’s nothing to do with Pesach – I don’t keep bread in my bedroom closet. To clean for Pesach you need to just get rid of chametz. Dust is not chametz. Lint is not chametz. A disorganized closet is not chametz.

If you keep your house organized and clean year round, then cleaning for Pesach should be no great hassle, and doesn’t really need to be thought about till the week before. Rooms where you know there has been no chametz don’t even need to be cleaned for Pesach. The kitchen and dining areas are really the only places that need a thorough going over and you can’t really do that until just before the holiday.

I have made Pesach annually since I got married the first time around. I have it down to a science. I would like to think that I don’t make the kids insane for weeks in advance. That I am not a dictator who has a panic attack every time someone walks out of the kitchen with a cookie in hand. When the kids were babies, yes, I found cheerios etc in interesting places. Soon enough they learned to do the chametz wiggle before leaving the kitchen in the week before Pesach.

So many times I hear women complain about how exhausted they are by the time they sit down for the seder. It’s unnecessary to be that tired. It’s a holiday. I want to enjoy my holiday with my family, not be a burned out wreck because I have been a cleaning and scrubbing fiend for a month!!! “Avadim Hayinu” – we were slaves – in Egypt, not in present day 2010! Please, get it all into perspective, ladies, and show up at the seder in your yomtov finery, with a smile showing naturally on your face, and know that you will enjoy yourself, not fall asleep by the second cup of wine.

Yes – once the house is Pesachdik there is a lot of work to be done. The changing over the kitchen, the shopping and the cooking. Food preparation for Pesach is a lot more time consuming. Get everyone involved. Plan your meals. You CAN cook on yomtov, it doesn’t all need to be prepared before hand. There is no need for us women to be zombies – let’s enjoy every part of the pesach preps.

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Miriam’s Cup

A twitter buddy of mine was clicking through Eichlers.com and came across this – a cup for the Passover Seder that initially looks like Elijah’s cup, but on further inspection it is actually a “Miriam’s Cup”. The site has one Elijah’s Cup for sale, but three different Miriam’s Cups. (*please note, since this post was put up Eichler’s has clarified that the three Miriam’s Cups vs one Elijah’s Cup is only in this specific “Emanuel” collection. For more Elijah’s and Miriam’s Cups go here)

I had never heard of Miriam’s Cup at the seder before and I set out to find out what it means, is it feminist, conservative, reform, or modern orthodox?

I came across this website (not sure which brand of Judaism the writer is from) which I think takes it a little to the extreme – what with dancing at the seder with tambourines and all. (Also there is a section for the feminization of some brachot….) But I do like that it encourages the celebration of women in our history. The cup is apparently filled with water, not wine, based on the Legend of Miriam’s Well and is not meant to replace Elijah’s cup during the seder. From what I understand the whole point of it is that women in our history, according to this website, have not been acknowledged enough – “their stories have been too sparingly told”. The whole Miriam’s cup idea started out as a Shabbat ritual and evolved to have a place at the seder.

I am still researching. I have to say there are parts of this that really sound interesting and different, and parts that just will not gel with our celebration of Passover. From the reading I have done so far it seems a liberal tradition. Perhaps if I would ever have a women only Seder I would include Miriam’s Cup. But then again, isn’t the seder long enough without it?

I have to read more – just read (on the same site) about some people putting an orange on the seder plate as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and gays and others marginalized within the Jewish community…..An orange?!!

Please let me know your thoughts on Miriam’s Cup, if you know anything more, have been to a seder where there has been one, would you include it in your seder, and as usual, your thoughts on this subject.

PS I am a little surprised that Eichler’s carries them, in my mind they are a RW Orthodox store, but I guess they have to cater to everyone.  But it’s a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

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Passover, a Kosher Collection (Book Review)

Passover, a Kosher Collection, by Pam Reiss.

Ever since this book arrived in my mailbox I have looked forward to having the time to just sit down and devour it without disruption. I love cookbooks. I love the pictures, I love the recipes, I love the stories behind the recipes. I love feeding my family in new and clever ways. I finally found the time to indulge and was in food nirvana.

Pam Reiss’s new cookbook, specially aimed at Passover (Pesach), is a delicious romp through culinary heaven. The decadent chocolate tart on the front cover is a real taste of things to come.

I am a traditionalist at heart, especially when it comes to holidays. I used to have  this mind set that Pesach cooking has to be difficult and complicated, so why bother doing anything out of the ordinary. The kids fill up on matzah, and potatoes and eggs, I will make a huge chicken soup and that’s it. No longer.

Reading my way, nay, savouring my way through Pam’s book I was struck by how simple the recipes are. Ok, some do call for a lot of ingredients, but that’s just how recipes are on Pesach. The majority of the ingredients are those a good cook would have on hand and there aren’t many complicated procedures to go through.

Pam mixes the traditional with the new. There are recipes for gefilte fish and chicken soup alongside Greek Stuffed Mushroom Caps and Kabocha Pear Soup. She has included recipes for 13 salads – one must have variety through all those holiday meals. There are side dishes galore – and they aren’t all potato related! Plenty of kugels for the traditionalists from potato, to apple raisin farfel kugel to cauliflower, leek and zucchini kugel.

Pam’s main courses are mouth watering. Unlike all the other Pesach cookbooks in my library, Pam includes dairy dishes as well as meat and poultry, fish and vegetarian too. She has included the traditional briskets and roast chickens. However I cannot wait to try the shakshuka, and eggplant parmesan, and was thrilled to see directions on how to make my own ricotta. Didn’t know one could do that so easily!! One recipe I look forward to trying this Passover is her Chicken Pot Pie with Mashed Potato Crust. My family loves my chametzdik CPP – I am sure I can wow them with her Pesachdik one. I always use the chicken left over from making chicken soup for my pie, and that is exactly what Pam suggests.

There are so many main dishes to choose from – we could eat a different meal every night of Passover and still have plenty recipes left to try. I love that there is an Osso Bucco recipe – who would have thought to make that on Pesach, but there is absolutely no reason why not. Change it up a little bit!

One thing I have never done for Pesach, is baked desserts. The amounts of eggs that go into everything coupled with no flour or magic baking powder, it was always much easier to buy the desserts. Reading Pam’s yummy dessert recipes and seeing photos of her confections has helped changed my mind. I will be attempting to replicate at least some of her delectable desserts. There are biscotti and mandlebroit, pancakes and matzah rolls, meringues and cookies, cakes and macaroons, cheesecakes and birthday cakes, several different types of tortes, crème brulee, brownies and pavlova. No one even needs to know that they are eating Passover desserts. There is no way that they could tell the difference.

Pam guides you through her recipes step by step. You do not need a degree from culinary school in order to whip up these delicious meals. You just need patience and time to spend creating wonderful meals for your family. Your family will look at Pesach in a whole new light after you cook for them from this book. You will be creating even more awesome family memories.

This book makes an awesome gift for any chef who is planning to be cooking for the upcoming holiday, or a must buy for anyone that truly wants to feed their family better food on Pesach from now on. Personally, I cannot wait to have my kitchen all Pesachified and full of the Kosher for Pesach food, so that I can start cooking up a storm. For me, Passover, a Kosher Collection, will be front and center, a major part of my pre-Pesach preparations and Pesach celebrations, not just this year, but every year.

To order your copy online, please go to www.pamreiss.com.

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I’m already Pesach Pooped!!

 

So here’s the Pesach dealio. It costs an arm and a leg, and a couple of extra limbs besides. Financially we are all feeling the pinch, throw Pesach into the mix and we are strangling. But we always manage it because there is no choice.

 

Preparing for Pesach takes a physical toll too– although how much depends on how machmir you allow yourself to be. If you insist on taking down the 300 piece chandelier and wiping clean each surface, then yes, you will be knackered by seder night. But even if you don’t go crazy on the cleaning, the simple preparation of the house for the holiday is very taxing.

 

Getting that kitchen completely chometz free – scrubbing refrigerator and oven, stove tops and counters – it’s tough stuff. Grocery shopping for the holiday – bags and bags and pesachbags to be shlepped to the car (I borrowed a car, there was no way to do the pesach shop without one), shlepped from the car  (our apartment is on the 9th floor….), unpacked….Put in the right place…no no not there, that place is chometzdik still…..Running around – getting the matzah that your are makpid on (I couldn’t really care less, but there are those in the family whose opinion totally counts – and apparently there are differences between all the hand shmurah matzahs, and they cost a bloody fortune!!) ..where was I? oh yes. Getting the little things like dish sponges, and plastic tablecloths, to running to the wine merchant to pretend you are knowledgeable about the differences in wines, when really you want to say “I don’t care, so long as it is sweet and cheap!!”, if you use paper and plastic dishes and “silverware” (we call it cutlery where I come from) you would be crazy to buy it at the grocery, so you have to shlepp to the wholesale place. There are a gajillion other things and errands to be done before pesach, and we still have to feed the kids, bathe them, send them to school with a packed lunch (how hard is that the week before pesach when there is no food in the house that they will eat?) and kiss all their booboos, while in our heads our lists are multiplying at an alarming rate. I am ready for a vacation already.

 

Don’t get me wrong – I cannot wait to sit at the seder with 5 of the most important males in my life (and yes, my brothers, I love you too!!) – and once the kitchen is changed over and I am cooking, I will be more relaxed, because that will have meant the majority of the work is over. Cooking for my men is a pleasure. Sure, there will be last minute bits and bobs that we have forgotten – but I am sure I will have a couple of willing volunteers to run to the store for me.

 

I did my first Pesach shop this morning. We went early. Like 815 am early. So that I wouldn’t have to arm myself with shin pads and elbow pads and a goalie mask – it gets really crazy at times doing Pesach shopping. Some of those shoppers have real attitude. One year I felt lucky at leaving the store only slightly bruised. (my wallet had taken a tremendous beating as it does every year – do they gouge on purpose??)

 

This year I am extremely lucky. My eldest Prince, Lenny, ended school yesterday. He is a big kid, almost 14, and eager to help. So he came with me and helped me. We both pushed shopping carts, I put all the heavy stuff in his – hey, mother’s prerogative. We ran around the store checking stuff off our list, but the most important ingredient was nowhere to be found. They were out of KETCHUP!! How can you have matzah brei with no ketchup???? At least they had mayonnaise – can’t have matzah without mayonnaise.

 

He was awesome, he helped put stuff on the conveyor belt thingie for the cashier to ring up, he helped shlepped the bags upstairs and unpacked them. Rode on his bike to the other store to find ketchup. Success! Now he is pooped. I am allowing him to rest while I write this up, then its back out for paper and plastic goods. My back is already screaming – I can give in to it later.

 

I guess my message is this – remember, this holiday is about freedom, and how we are supposed to remember slavery and be thrilled that we live free now. Don’t enslave yourselves to the point that you lose the ta’am, the taste, for this wonderful holiday. I keep looking ahead to seeing those four gorgeous sons of mine sitting around the seder table with my new gorgeous husband – and it energizes me. It thrills me. It empowers me.

 

But I think I am writing my own personalized version of the four sons – I don’t like the ones in the Haggadah, the labels don’t fit. Watch this space.

 

Ok, deep breath, back to the Pesach Perambulations……

DeClutterfication

Traditionally this time of year heralds the arrival of the beginning of the PrePesachInsanity. (PPI for short). Some balabustas that I know start cleaning for Pesach at Chanukah time, some wait for the end of Purim. I usually start a fortnight before, and work like a mad woman. I am the same way with any deadline. Give me three months to do something, I can do it in 2 weeks, the last 2 weeks, working till the 11th hour. Just who I am. But I am trying to change.

 

So firstly we have PPI to deal with. Then, let’s not forget, that the Queen is due to move her court to Monsey in a few months. That means that she needs to direct her minions (who seem to still be on a drunken binge since the wedding and haven’t been heard from since) to pack up all the Queen’s belongings in preparation for the big move.

 

Some wise person who shall remain nameless suggested that instead of spending the time now going through all the stuff, she should have the movers take it all, and go through it at her leisure once she has moved. Ix nay on that. if the Queen doesn’t do it now, we all know she never will.

 

Today was the day marked to begin declutterfication of my closets. A daunting task. I decided to start with my shoes. I don’t know about you, but I feel a bond with some of my shoes. These were bought on sale in that cute little store in an alley behind somewhere, these are designer heels that kill but are oh so cute and were oh so reduced…..each shoe has a personality and a story. But to be honest, there are plenty that I do not wear, have not worn in a long time, and there really is no need to keep them. So I was thinking I could be ruthless, cut a swathe through my shoe shelves (oh to have Carries closet from SATC) but I wasn’t prepared to be assailed by memories that these accessories evoked in me. It sounds so silly getting emotional over shoes, but that’s just the way I am.

 

(if only I could have had it specified in the Ketubah (marriage contract) that on top of his 3 main obligations the KoD also has an obligation to keep me in shoes….oh well, too late now)

 

I finally managed to put aside 50 pair that I absolutely do not wear, have not worn in over a year or just plain got bored of. We shall not count up how many are left in the closet, but they may still be culled further. I still have a gorgeous collection – and I know I will have to resist the urge to replace the shoes and boots I have set aside for charity.

 

So shoes done, I started on the clothes. You may know / remember that two years ago I weighed approx 45lbs more than I do now. Most of my larger clothes were gone, but I kept hold of a few items just in case I gained weight overnight and had nothing to fit into. I have been my present weight for almost a year now, so I think it is fair to assume that I won’t gain anything significant overnight. So I got rid of those clothes. I had a bag of 10 pair of jeans that I haven’t looked at in a while. Now I need to keep a pair or two for when we ride – Harley baby – (Mum, please note, I am not going to tell you that I am going to ride a Harley. I just won’t tell you that I won’t. Ok? Good.) because riding a HOG in a skirt, no matter how wide it is, just isn’t tznius or safe. Don’t worry, my hair will be covered by the helmet. Sheesh! So I shlepped out the bag to try my jeans back on. Sadly only 2 pair fit….happily the others were way way way too big and went back in the bag and were earmarked for charity.

 

I spent hours in my closets today, and was sad to fold and pack away some of the clothes – again, associated with happy memories. But knowing that I was organizing so that when its time to pack up I don’t have to declutterfy and it will simplify my life, well, that made it easier.

 

I can now walk in to my two walk-in closets, and shocker of all shocks, I could if I so choose, fit all my clothes into one closet. (yes, my closets are colour coded, black clothes here, denim there, whites etc….). I have a row of sheitels right next to my tichels / bandannas / pre-tieds…very logical.

 

I get a buzz looking at the neatness and order. It’s when I step out of the closets (no jokes please) and survey the rest of my empire that I feel I have not accomplished much. The task at hand is huge, but if I do it bit by bit I will overcome!

 

While I was organizing my closet Prince ChatterBox was watching and “helping” and he decided he wanted to organize his closet too. 15 minutes later every single item of clothing that he owns was on his bed, and I was sure I was going to have to redo his closet myself once he got tired. But he did it all himself. His closet is far from organized according to my standards, but he is only 6, and I am so proud of him for wanting to help. “wow, Ima, this sure is hard work” he said. Such a yumster.

 

Next task is to tackle my desk before it gets up and walks away in protest…..wish me luck – that desk has been ignored for weeks because I just don’t like the way it looks at me. As we used to say when we were kids “don’t look at me in that tone of voice, you smell a funny colour”……….

 

I wish you all much luck with your own personal versions of PPI – remember, pesach cleaning is NOT spring cleaning whichever way you slice it. I declutterfied my closet and found no chametz – so does that disqualify it from pesach cleaning? A point to ponder……

a funny

while doing my passover shopping this week, i stopped by the local hardware store (why is it so hard to find a stove top ketttle that does NOT whistle??). at the store they had many novelty items for passover – over gloves made to look they are matzahs, the same material used for aprons….and then i came across another item. A toilet seat cover made to look like matzah, with, I kid you not, the words “Let my people go” embroidered on the top in gold. Of course the kids thought it was a hoot and begged me to buy it, but even I have my limits.

Happy Passover Everyone.