Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spend a ton on 8 days

What a holiday concept! For those of you that don't celebrate Pesach (Passover), let me tell you, don't ever complain about how much it costs to make your Easter Baskets. You have no frigging clue of what Pesach costs and how much work is involved. But let me tell you, only the rich can afford to pay for a couple of big seders for family and friends. Each meal could potentially cost $500 and you're eating Pesach cuisine. It's heavy, it's delicious, it's constipating as hell. Ymmmm.

Let us start with preparations. In order to 'turn over' your house for Pesach, you must first clean. And clean some more. And then scub, and clean, and vacuum and clean, and wash and clean. I believe the term spring cleaning comes from Pesach cleaning. You see, someone somewhere decided to make women so totally miserable in the spring that they invented turning over your house for Pesach.

You must get every single crumb you can find out of your house. There must be no hametz (leavened products and foodstuffs that are not market Kosher for Pesach) in your home. Therefore you clean out every closet, vaccuming the pockets of all jackets to remove crumbs. You clean every bedroom because someone might have brought up a box of Cheerios (not mentioning any names here) and have eaten them in his/her bedroom. You clean the bathrooms until the sparkle. You clean your living room and dining room until there is not a crumb to be found behind the sofa or the chairs, under bookshelves, on top of windowsills, etc.

Once you're basically broken your back cleaning each room, you announce that the room has been 'turned over' and that no body can bring anything foodlike into that room until Pesach has started. That's always a popular time, when the rooms have changed to KLP, but you don't have KLP food yet to eat, so you basically spend most of your time eating ourdoors on the porch if you want a snack.

Note that the kitchen has not yet been mentioned. The kitchen is your enemy. You must attack it with brute force, and with military precision. For you must keep a small part of your kitchen non KLP in order to be able to eat, while turning over all the rest of the kitchen before the holiday starts.

To turn your kitchen you must empty your cabinets or tape them shut, so that you will not mix KLP food with hametz. You must remove your dishes, glasses, silverware, service utensils, and small appliances that cannot be used for Pesach. You can boil your silverware and soak your glassware and use it for Pesach if you a) want to give up your bathtub for a few days of soaking glassware or b) don't want to use paper goods (my favorite) or special pesach dishes only used during the holiday. We do have Pesach dishes, but I still prefer paper for most of the holiday as it is so much easier.

Before you put any Pesach kitchen stuff into the drawers, you must of course clean out all the drawers and replace the contact paper or line with newspaper/foil. Then you can put the Pesach stuff away in drawers. The counters need to be completely covered. We use two layers of heavy duty foil, taped down with masking tape. It's a great look!

Now that you have covered your counters, you can then put all the food that you've bought for Pesach onto the counters or into a Pesach cabinet, but you can't open anything until after the holiday begins. It's cruel and unusual punishment for children, because Pesach is traditionally the time when you get to eat tons of candy and drink soda. All that candy just sitting there calling out "Boy, come eat me.... I'm delicious cherry marshmallow covered in chocolate. You know you want me." and "Girl, get the almond kisses before your Mom does because you know she's going to eat the whole box." This is a hard time to be a kid, I'm telling you.

OK, now let us turn to shopping for Pesach. I've mentioned that all your regular food has been stored away and 'sold' by a Rabbi to a non-Jewish person. It isn't really sold, it's a way of getting around tossing thousands of dollars worth of food, but we all pretend otherwise. So what you have left in your kitchen is precisely nothing. No spices, no salt, no staples, nothing. What's a cook to do?

You head to your local Kosher store where you fight with every other Jewish person in your area for some mmmm mmmmm good Pesach food. The brisket that costs $90 to feed a family of 4, the turkey that cost $50, chicken, and fish are the staples. You have to buy everything brand new to make Pesach. All new spices (you only get what you use), sauces, jams, baking items, sugar, cake meal matzoh, fruits, veggies, etc. Everything new, plus lots and lots of potatos. This is so not a holiday for the diabetic. After fighting for space in the ever-crowded aisles of your Kosher store, you get to checkout, where it's time to protect your heart. As you start unloading the big basket of food, the checker punches in the amounts and the subtotal starts going up, up, up. For our small family of three, the average cost of a week of Pesach reaches about $500-600. The waves of dizziness pour over you as you pass your debit card over to the clerk. Thoughts of selling your first born to pay for this holiday whiz by, but then you remember that's WHY you're celebrating it in the first place. Ooops.

Now you have to deal with the food, which means cleaning a space in your freezer for the meats, and other frozen items, and putting all the fridge foods into plastic bags tied up so they can be separate from the foods you need to eat for the next week. All the foods usually stored in cabinets are kept in boxes or bags in a room that has been turned over already. We keep a huge pile of plastic bags filled with food under the sideboard in the dining room.

The kitchen is always the last room to turn over. Cleaning out the fridge, the oven, and the cabinets can take several adults an entire day. It is back-breaking work. But when it is turned over and everything is clean and new, it signals the start of Pesach drawing near.

Only one more thing to do, check for hametz. This ritual is done right before Pesach starts, usually the evening before. An adult hides a couple of bits of hametz in easy to find places. We use cheerios and windowsills, for the most part. Using a kit containing a wooden spoon, a candle, and a feather, you go around your entire house searching for hametz. Anything you find you sweep with the feather into the wooden spoon, using the candle to light your way. Everything is tossed into a paper bag, and brought to a specific spot to be burned under supervision the morning of erev Pesach. Once that ritual is completed, you are officially ready for Pesach.

BUT... you can't eat in your home until the Seder. So you cram as much breakfast as you can cram down your throat and then run outside for snacks. You can't eat anything matzoh based, so any snack you eat must contain no hametz and no matzoh. I'm big on egg salad or chopped liver. Tuna fish works, too.

I'll get to cooking in another post. I'm already exhausted!
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Blogger sarah cool said...

I loved hearing about this!! Thanks for going to the effort to DO it ANNNND write about it.

5/4/06 8:26 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

What a great description for those of us not Jewish. Thank you for sharing. The food sounds delicious!

5/4/06 3:32 PM  
Blogger WendyWings said...

A big OY VEH from me lol. I just listened to another friend complaining about what a pain the cleaning was too.
Happy holidays :)

6/4/06 2:23 AM  
Blogger Dr. Cissa Fireheart said...

WOW. I will NEVER complain about Easter EVER again....of course, I don't really celebrate it anymore though....only baskets for the kids and egg hunt that morning...otherwise, it ain't happening.

I hope your hunger doesn't torture you too much. I can only imagine the torture of not being able to eat stuff until the holiday starts. Good luck to you all on making it through!

6/4/06 8:30 AM  
Blogger Shari said...

I don't know if I would like to HAVE to spring clean at a certain time. It's more about me getting in the mood to do it.

You are a brave and strong woman!!

6/4/06 1:55 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

I am. so. tired. just. reading. this.

Not even the salt? Wow. That's dedication.

7/4/06 2:53 AM  

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