Part the second, in which Gila and Kate try to be helpful but instead pull back the curtains of their brains and the results are…messy.
Now that we’ve sent you over the edge, we are going to have to pull you back. We will feed you kosher for Pesach snacks and everything. Hope you like palm oil in your chips.
Seriously, we don’t want to leave you with the idea that this is insurmountable. You too, have the ability to make Pesach. (Although if your money tree is more like a grove, you can go to a hotel!)
Actual Real-Life Tried and Tested Tips
So here are Kate’s tips:
- Spend 10 minutes mentally scrolling through your regular recipes. Pick out anything that can be made without modifications to ingredients or prep methods. Make those things for Pesach. (This works especially well for soups, salads, and some vegetable sides. Plus plain baked chicken – can’t lose.) (We just make the same dang thing every single year. “Monotony is the spice of life” is a thing you often hear.)
- Be Israeli or just visit. Even if you are super Ashkenazi and don’t eat anything that was ever kitniyot, you can eat kosher for Passover for Sephardim foods up until the last minute. All the rice cakes and Bamba you could possibly want! Although this distinction is apparently growing in America, 20 years ago on erev Pesach you tended to have options like potato chips and yogurt and ??? (Cottage cheese mixed with that canned fruit cocktail is the stuff of my erev Pesach memories.)
- Another (bazillion) point for Israel: One Seder
- I didn’t start seriously making Pesach until 2009 (because we were in a different country than our usual Seder hosts), so only then did I start on the LISTS and the SO MUCH EXTRA STUFF IN BOXES OH DEAR. For a couple of years I was diligent about making notes to myself for the following year. Like in 2012 I noted that I would never, ever, ever find Ashkenazi-acceptable cumin. (Still sad about that.) But I am ultimately more of a fly-by-the-seat of my pants sort of person.
(Translation: There are many, many extra trips to the store. But now my kids can bike to the local shopping center themselves, so it’s less of an issue.)
My tried-and-tested shopping list saves me. I just print my list, go online and buy exactly what it says on the shopping list. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand the list now. I will understand it later. Don’t ever go off list. Don’t ever think, “Oh we don’t need [this item].” Because when you’re doing the all-day cooking marathon, and you don’t have the raisins/5 bottles of oil/hot pepper/5 avocados, you will be sorry. Except for broccoli and cauliflower. Here is a note from my shopping list: “Broccoli & cauliflower – why are we buying this? Don’t buy unless we have specific plan for it.” I think this is in reference to the Year the Vegetables Molded.
(Kate says: Roasted broccoli and/or cauliflower is great! Unless you need that oven for a week straight – rest, plus kasher, plus cook – in which case I can see why these would molder.)
We also have a general “Pesach notes” list that we update every year. Right after chag, we add to the list, writing down what we purchased and what we’ll need for next year. Actual excerpts from the List:
Notes for Pesach 2007:
Stop buying cheese graters! We have 2!
Notes for Pesach 2012:
Remember – large black ladle is fleishig. (Because there I was, staring at this ladle, willing it to unlock the secrets of its kashrut status. Either the chalavi/besari sticker fell off or we stupidly thought, “Of course we’ll remember that! OBVIOUSLY black is besari.” We should have noted at that point that as we have to pause before speaking to our children to get the name right, we clearly cannot be trusted to remember which ladle is the chicken soup ladle.)
Need new peeler (this will become important later)
Notes for Pesach 2013
Still need a new peeler! (Seriously, what is wrong with you… can’t you get one?) (told you it would be important)
Notes for Pesach 2014
Take vegetables out of plastic bags or they will get moldy (the above-mentioned Incident)
Notes for Pesach 2017
Milk pitcher (for heating milk) – it’s just fine, stop complaining. (Sometimes we need to slap our future selves in the face like that.)
The Purim-Pesach Timeline
Gila has a plan.
Here is my timeline of How I Get It All Done:
Immediately after Purim: Oh nonononono, we cannot think about Pesach yet. We must sit and recover from the two-week-long holiday of Purim. Must sit. Must rest. Just for a minu-zzzzzzz.
Week after Purim, Sunday/Monday: Yep, this is the week I start to do stuff. For sure. I unearth my shopping and cleaning lists and spend a few moments with my eyes closed, imagining myself getting it all done. “Mmmmm … pantry … sparkling clean … yep, get under the fridge, wow, that was tough but you did it … scrub that bit off the countertop there, very good … seder plate is all ready and chicken soup is just about come to a boil … good work, everyone!” Imaginary me is very productive. (Me too! Gila and I are spiritual twins. Real me has been known to leave clean, wet clothes in the washer for…a long while.) I wish she could be real-life me. Real-life me is eating all the good chocolates from Purim before the kids come home.
Week after Purim, Tuesday/Wednesday: What? Did I say I was going to clean something this week? Oh god I’m way too tired to do stuff. What was I thinking? I halfheartedly start perusing the Pesach goods online at Shufersal. Actually, I do one thing – I call the butcher and make my meat order (just going off that list, God bless it). Because I have a recurring Jewish mother nightmare in which I call the butcher and they tell me “Oh no we are ALL OUT OF ALL OF THE THINGS THEY ARE GONE PEOPLE BOUGHT THEM ALL BEFORE YOU NEENER NEENER. Enjoy your cheese sticks!”
Week after Purim, Friday: In a rare burst of energy, drill sergeant me rounds up the kids and we clean out the toy drawers and baskets. The kids fight over using the vacuum and tire of the cleaning process in general after about 5.3 minutes and wander off to their electronic devices or to whack a sibling in the head just cuz. (Also my children have learned how to weasel out of helping: Instead of refusing to do something, they just “In a second, Mom!” me until I give up.) However! They have forgotten that Friday is already Yellingday, and I will not give up, so I just continue to yell till it’s all done and now we’re alllll kvetching crying and yelling. Phew. That was exhausting. While the kids are distracted I help myself to more chocolate. (A much-overlooked benefit of too much screen time: Kids are much more distracted, making it easier to access the chocolates.)
Two weeks after Purim: This is it folks. The buying begins for realz. I start to fill my online shopping cart with one of everything from my list. I like to start with buying stuff. Compared to cleaning stuff, buying stuff is relatively easy and painless, until the credit card bill is due and you realize you may have to sell one of your children to pay for it and then you realize, Omigod! Do you think we can sell all of them???
Week before: Now the “stuff” is getting real. (I am using “stuff” instead of a less nice word, if you catch my drift). I am on my hands and knees, becoming imaginary me from a few short weeks ago. Scrubbing grime off the floor behind the oven. Toothpicking the chairs. Scouring the sinks, pantries, countertops, fridge, freezer, omigod I’m so tired just writing all this I need more coffee. No, a nap. JUST GIVE ME BOTH. But when we reach the point where we are tossing boiling water on our counters (guys this religion is WEIRD, yo), we know the end (of the cleaning, at least) is it sight. Yippee!
“She likes me, she really likes me!”
Let me take this minute to say something that may not be quite obvious to those reading this vitriol-filled diatribe: I actually love Pesach. If you asked me – go ahead, do it – what my favorite chag is, I would say, “Pesach.” I actually love the holiday and hosting seder and the moment when you sit down at the table and you’re like “Wow, we made it!” It’s kind of like childbirth, but without the option for an epidural. (Pesach epidural; someone get on that!) I love chol hamoed and family tiyulim with the kinder and eating the special foods, at least until we are sick of them (the foods; the kinder seem to stick around no matter what). But in order to get to the special lovely parts, you gotta yank year-old pretzel crumbs and other unidentified, eww-why-is-this-thing-wet substances from in between your couch cushions.
(Kate’s favorite holiday, though you didn’t ask, is Sukkot.)
So, dear readers, if you’re still reading, I wish you the best of luck in your pre-Pesach cleaning/cooking/yelling endeavors and may we all merit to get to the “Wow we made it!” moment with some of our sanity and all of our matzah balls intact (except for the few we sampled while we were cooking).
Kate’s Obsession Trap
Rather than focusing on the list of lists (cleaning, shopping – food, new clothes/shoes, disposable products, what am I missing, I must be missing something, help!), I have my own problem. Almost every year I hyper-focus on THE ONE THING I must do or have to make all the things perfect.
Upon making aliyah, I discovered that I could not get a shankbone for the seder plate for love or money. I think I visited every butcher in my fair suburb. I finally consented to use a chicken wing. Lo and behold, that is what normal people do. I did not have to waste so much time and energy on this.
But I am quite slow in the lessons-learned department.
My must-have this year was something that I never dreamed could have existed. A rabbi wrote a Hogwarts/Harry Potter haggadah. My kids’ “desert island” books would be, I’m sure, the Harry Potter series. So naturally I HAD TO HAVE THIS. Amazon doesn’t deliver here; I couldn’t think of a relative who was coming in this direction before Pesach. So when it was announced that a bookseller in Jerusalem would have copies, I stalked various Facebook feeds.
I was literally the first person in the country to own it, less than 12 hours after it was unboxed. (Shh, my kids still don’t know.) Like drop everything, blow off Friday responsibilities, and go to another city, where I asked the very bemused proprietor for 10 copies to distribute among my people.
Totally normal, yes?
(Note: Because I resolved this issue with OVER TWO WEEKS TO GO, now I am on to curry powder. I need curry powder to make my “magic sweet potato soup.” The magic part is that every person in my immediate family eats it. There is no other vegetable soup that fits this description, and I make many, many kinds of soup. So this soup is important to me. Many elements that make up traditional curry powder are things that Ashkenazim cannot have on Pesach (see above for my annual CUMIN LAMENT), so I am debating making my own mix. But this is of course another shopping trip or six. Let me stew on this for another week or so.)
Now I can get back to the lists. As can you! Happy matzah, friends.