While my family has strayed from it's conservative Jewish roots a bit (what with the marrying of Hindus and all), Passover remains our biggest holiday. I have been with my family at Passover every single year of my life. For the most part, that meant traveling to Pittsburgh where our seders were held first at my grandmother's house, then at my aunt's. Each seder is a major event, lasting approximately 4 hours. Think pressed tablecloths, polished silver, gleaming crystal and more food than you can shake the rod of Moses at. During Passover, we commemorate the Jews escape from slavery in Egypt (they fled before there was time for their bread to rise) by taking all foods containing leavening out of our diet for a week. But, being Jews, we can't just eliminate foods. No, we must re-create them in ways that are kosher for Passover. If you have a grocery store with a Jewish section, go take a look: Passover pasta, Passover cookies, Passover stuffing mix. My cousin even makes "matzana" by layering matzah with ricotta cheese and tomato sauce.
So, let's say that for breakfast you generally eat scrambled eggs and fruit. During Passover, instead of continuing to eat that perfectly fine unleavened meal, you would replace it with: pancakes made from matzah meal, coffeecake made from matzah meal, and a nice crunchy slab of matzah slathered with butter and preserves. See? Isn't that better? In the story of Passover, matzah is referred to as "the bread of affliction". Let me assure you that if you eat too much of it, it soaks every bit of moisture from your digestive tract and you are afflicted with something only Matzahmucil can cure.
This past year, my mother moved from Pittsburgh to join us here in Oregon. Now, she and all three of her children and their families reside on the West Coast. As a result, we are having Passover here. And when I say "here", I mean HERE. At my house! What the hell was I thinking? I always thought I was making a sacrifice to uproot myself and travel to Pittsburgh for Passover, but now I see how good I had it. All I had to was pack, show up, and maybe help set the table. Voila! Out of thin air, the Magical Passover Fairies conjured up a fabulous dinner.
But this year, oh this year, I won't have to travel. How convenient! I just need to figure out how and what to feed 18 people for dinner. I have to polish everything I own that is silver. If I owned an ironing board, I might even have to iron tablecloths and napkins. I have to shop and clean and cook and bake. I have to get my house ready for houseguests AKA those ungrateful whores who just show up with their luggage and expect me to feed them.
Luckily, I have my mother to help me. We have had numerous "planning meetings", grocery runs, and cooking marathons. We've managed to pace ourselves pretty well and I already have a freezer full of Passover desserts, matzah ball soup, and matzah meal pancakes. But we're getting into crunch time. My paralysis this morning over the workload cause me to fall into an old habit. Obviously the time was right to rearrange the magnets and pictures on my refrigerator!
On Monday, my mother and I are going to attempt to make gefilte fish. This involves ten pounds of real live dead fish. Being chopped. And rolled into balls, And boiled. God help us. When searching for recipes, I found these helpful hints. Those definitely brought back memories of my grandmother, may she rest in peace. How I miss her this time of year. Especially since she used to do all the damn cooking.