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Sunday, April 04, 2004

'Twas the night before Pesach 

Oh, Passover. Truly, it's the obsessive-compulsive's holiday, where any trace of neurosis a person posesses kicks into ultra-high gear. It's hard to explain the process of converting one's kitchen for the holiday even to reasonably observant Jews. How to explain that one shouldn't eat matzah (this kind, at least) until the night of the Seder, and get into all the different types that exist (and I'm not talking regular vs. whole wheat, although I eschew the former for eating voluminous amounts of the latter. Or I just splurge on this.) Truth is, I can't even keep up with the changes that rabbis and governing bodies make year after year. Why is it okay to use the regular microwave now when it wasn't last year? Can I still take certain kinds of medications? How many new foods have been deemed Kosher for Passover? It's enough to drive any person crazy.

But if that's how you were brought up, you just roll your eyes, accept your due, and get to work--weeks in advance.

So, at least in my house, it's been rather nutty of late. Clean out the fridge and freezer of food, make sure they are devoid of anything chametz. Heat the oven to maximum to make sure every piece and speck of dirt is burned up, then kosher it. Rinse and repeat for the stove top and microwave. Figure out how to consolidate kitchen space so there will be room for the Passover utensils and pots and pans--and yes, because this is my house, it means there are three separate streams of household items, just like there are for the other 354 days a year. I know people who have completely separate Passover-only kitchens that are empty and shut-up for the rest of the time, but that always seemed rather extravagant and excessive. (Or maybe they know something I don't). And only once the kitchen's ready, then it's time to cook.

My mom, still somewhat infirm and due for another major round of medicine, is actually ahead of the game this year. Usually she's killing herself right up until the last minute, going nuts that she hasn't finished the cooking until an hour before the first Seder. But this time she's enlisted the help of her friends to cook and, to a certain extent, get the kitchen ready. Though there's still lots of last-minute things to do, we're in pretty good shape, and--dare I say it--tomorrow might be a somewhat relaxing day.

At the very least, there's barely anything to eat in the house that's not-for-Passover. Which was why my parents and I, along with some family friends, went out to dinner. We chose a favorite Chinese restaurant that we'd been to a few times before. We arrive there, and I laugh, because about six other Jewish families we know had the same idea. My family doctor. Former neighbors. I saw a couple of girls I had gone to elementary and high school with. What the hell is it with Jews and Chinese food? A stereotype I'd never given much thought to suddenly stared me in the face.

But of course, the reason was obvious--we're all sick and tired of the preparations, and with no food to eat in the house--well, nothing that doesn't have KOSHER FOR PASSOVER stamped on it--there was nothing else to do but go out for dinner. And even though the first Seder isn't until tomorrow night, once 11 o'clock rolls around, it's time to break out the Pesach food. Well, except for the real matzah. Egg matzah will have to suffice until then.

Luckily, for the most part, I really like Passover food. For the first few days, anyway. And a good thing too, since I'll be eating a prodigious amount of such food the entire time. It helps that for the most part, a lot of stuff I normally eat I can still eat during the holiday. But you better believe I'm going to miss being able to run to the coffeeshop and sit with my cup and read a book. Or go out for sushi.

But hell, it's only eight days. And interesting ones, at that.

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