Sunday, April 23, 2006

Passover: Lessons Learned

This post has a fairly odd audience: Me. Well, not exactly me. Me in about 1 year. See, the tricky part about Passover (as you can tell from my previous posts this year) is that you pretty much turn your eating life upside for a week. You need separate dishes and food. And while some of the food is very good, most of it you don't want to be eating the rest of the year. Which means that ideally, what you buy and use for Passover should be just the right amount to last you the 8 days.

That's the theory anyway. My mom makes it a practice each year to note down what she learned - so that next year, she won't repeat her same mistakes (or buy yet another 5 boxes of fruit jellies - which don't have any fruit in them, and have the nutritional value of eating a 5lb bag of sugar).

So, here's what I learned this year. Hopefully it will come in handy next year.

Preparation

  • Buy another large roll of shelf page - I finished up our big batch this year.
  • Cover three shelves in the fridge, not two.
  • Buy dish washing bins - how you got along this long without them is beyond me.
  • Buy full sized utensils trays - the tiny ones you own are more of a hassle than anything else.
  • Cover a shelf in the panty - it worked great as a place to store stuff.
  • Buy a strainer. Thanks Vera and Ari for providing one!
  • Buy a cutting board. Thanks again to Vera and Ari - you guys rock!
  • Buy some 4 disposable cookie trays. Shira's cookies are one of the best things we cook on Passover.
  • Don't forget, Mom provided you with salt and paper shakers - use them.
  • Contact the Rabbi early about selling Chametz. You'll be glad you did.

Food

  • 2 boxes of matzah seems like the right number. Nothing worse than having boxes and boxes left over after Passover.
  • The Dannon plain yogurt was a good move - you can skip buying sour cream, as it substitutes just fine. And you should try adding fruit (crushed pineapple worked great), cinnamon, vanilla and nuts to it.
  • Don't buy Streit's Kiddush Wine - that stuff was nasty. So nasty in fact, that I think I may have gotten a bad bottle.
  • 2 cans of tuna fish seem about right.
  • Whatever you do, don't buy La Jolla Farms Classic Russian dressing. Yikes that stuff was bad. How do you mess up Russian dressing? Well, they found a way.
  • Lieber's Marshmallows were delicious. Buy plenty of bags. Granny's marshmallows were nasty. Avoid them.
  • The Manischewitz chocolate covered nut caramel thingys were quite yummy. Give yourself a treat and buy two boxes of them.
  • Buy a single bag of potato chips. Although tasty, we never seem to get through more than one bag.
  • Buy a clump of beets (see below).
  • Pickup a new container of olive oil - never hurts to have one around the house. The same goes with sugar.
  • One word: prunes.

The Seder

  • You should use red wine for the Seder. Though, the Shuchan Aruch goes out of its way to say that if you are in a community where non-Jews believe that Jews use blood in their wine, you can use white wine. Perhaps we should have one cup of white wine to remember that there were (are?) communities where ignorance on this order of magnitude existed.
  • You can use a beet instead of a lamb shank bone. In fact, in some ways it's almost better than a lamb shank bone - because the goal is to remember the sacrifice, not to perform it in any way. The beet can remind you of it without making you think that you are actually using a lamb for sacrificial reasons. (OK, that's me going out on a limb here...you should probably still use a shank bone.)
  • I asked my Rabbi why, during the section that talks about how in every generation they rise up ..., we cover the Matzah. She didn't have a good answer handy - other than to suggest that the paragraph I was talking about was critical. If we can't imagine ourselves leaving Egypt, at least we can try to remember the lesson of always being mindful, and being fortunate for, our freedom. On more than one occasions groups of Jews have assumed that they were living in enlightened times, only to find out that things weren't what they seemed. Perhaps the act of covering the matzah, and making a bit of a fuss over that section, refocuses our attention on that critical area - and causes us to remember all the more, how true the statement made in the Haggadah is. (Anything that sounds good from the above paragraph should be attributed to my Rabbi, anything that doesn't jive is all me.)
  • The section that immediately follows the quote I just mentioned has always been of confusion to me - till I finally got some clarification from the Art Scroll Haggadah. First, Laban is mentioned as proof the of statement that "in every generation ...". Second, the quote that the passage about Laban introduces is one of four quotes that we analyze. These four quotes are essentially an executive summary of the entire Passover story: (1) We went down to Egypt, (2) We were enslaved, (3) G-d heard our cry, (4) G-d miraculously brought us out of Egypt. There you have it, 4 easy quotes that cover the whole process.
  • The Pour out they wrath... section is another area I asked my Rabbi about. She mentioned to me that in many ways it is a way of expressing "righteous anger." That is, we can be angry for our persecution, and we can ask G-d to make amends for this - but it is not our responsibility to exact punishment. We aren't supposed to go around blowing up shopping malls or committing other acts of terror - but we should still feel free to express our anger in a Kosher way. (Again, anything in here that doesn't work is probably me butchering my Rabbi's thoughts - so please, blame me.)
  • Torah.org has a nice service they offer where they will send you a reminder daily of what the count of the omer is. They even include the blessing right in the e-mail, so you have all the info you need at hand.

I think that about covers must of what I learned this year. See me next year.

I'd love to know if you learned anything special this year...please feel free to leave some notes in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. This year, I learned that I can buy one of my favorite candies, Joyva Raspberry Jells, in the Kosher section at Giant at this time of year. Otherwise, I've only ever found these in some mall candy stores, Wegman's bulk candy section, and I swear they used to put one or two Raspberry Jells in Whitman's Samplers when I was little (where I first got my taste for them).

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