June 20, 2024
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Pesach Is Coming: Are You Ready?

As I walked out of my house on my way to work the other day, I met some neighbors waiting for their children’s school buses. As is usual at this time of year, the conversation turned to where everyone was in her Pesach preparations.

I never understood the need to compare notes or brag. Why would it concern me if my neighbor has seven (or is it 17?) cakes and chicken soup to feed an army in her freezer? No matter whether one started her Pesach cleaning right after Chanukah, waited until Purim was over or (horrors) didn’t even think about it until Rosh Chodesh Nisan, everyone will sit down to the Seder at approximately the same time.

When I was a small child, my mother, z”l, used to “turn over” the kitchen the day of bedikat chametz. The older I get, the more I wonder how she managed to do it all: cook the schmaltz, grind and mix the fish, and cook everything else, including large vats of sweet borscht, in that one day. Granted, she did not patchke with foods like apple, sweet potato or squash kugel, nor did she make ices for the first days. Yet I recall with nostalgia that there was a special taste in that simple Pesach fare. I think I was in my teens when she had a brainstorm to kasher a day earlier. I remember her gloating that “this year [I] will not fall asleep at the first Seder.”

My family adheres to the customs that we grew up with, namely not mishing (mishing is translated as mixing. It manifests itself as making everything at home from scratch and not using any manufactured or store-bought foods). The only packaged things I use are sugar and salt. For a nut cake, I have to crack the nuts myself. My grandchildren all know that if they want some of my Pesach cake they have to wield a nutcracker, of which, by the way, I have a huge assortment. Some work and some are not worth the space they take up in my drawer.

Over time, many recipes using just the basics have evolved. My mother’s generation did not dream of making duck sauce (they probably didn’t use it during the rest of the year either) and she would have scoffed at some of the concoctions with which her children are busy. By now I have a binder full of recipes: for ices, salads, desserts and soups. I start earlier than my mother did, but not weeks in advance.

Here are four tips that everyone to whom I give them appreciates:

  • If you cook potatoes on Pesach, and who doesn’t, buy a pasta insert to fit your potato pot. It looks like a pot that’s riddled with holes. Put your potatoes into the insert and place it into your pot of water. When the potatoes are cooked, simply lift the pasta insert out of the boiling water, letting the hot water run back into the pot. Easy, while reducing the risk of a burn.
  • Peel all of your cooking vegetables before Yom tov and freeze them in one of two ways. Either freeze them by type: carrots in one bag, squash in another, or make up bags with each kind of vegetable. If you have pre-cleaned chicken, you don’t have to spend more than five minutes putting up a soup before the Seder, and by the time Shulchan Orech comes around you have fresh soup with minimal effort.
  • Prepare the simanim a few days in advance. Pretend that Erev Pesach is on Shabbat. I did that the year I traveled to Monsey for a brit milah on Erev Pesach and then hosted my daughter and her family, including, of course, the newborn, for the Seders. Even the horseradish, which I had stored in a tightly closed glass jar, was as fresh as if freshly grated.
  • When preparing ices or sorbet, pour them into individual small cups, with covers. It eliminates the need to scrape and scoop, and you’ll be the best bubby to boot.

Wishing you all an easy Erev Pesach and a chag kasher v’sameach.

By P. Samuels

 

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