Pesach. Ahhh, so many memories. I loved helping my mom clean the house, line the cabinets with shelving paper and the counters with contact paper (I’ll have you know there was not one air bubble left on the contact paper when I was finished with it!).
I helped put away the chametz dishes and unloaded the Passover ones into the cabinets. I helped her shop, cook, bake and set the table for the seders. I can still remember the excitement of buying new shoes and outfits just for Pesach. Seems that my daughter Jordana inherited my excitement for buying the shoes and outfits, but the love of cleaning, cooking and baking seems to have skipped a generation.
If I loved helping my mom when I was younger, why do I find it a chore now?
I promise myself every year that this year I’m going to make it simpler. I try to remind myself that half of what I buy I end up throwing out after the holiday.
Yet, when I’m in the store I can’t help but think that I actually might need a kosher for Passover product that I don’t even dream of using as a not kosher for Passover version during the year. There should be a dayenu song version for the women. If we just had to clean out the cabinets, dayenu (it would have been sufficient). If we just had to torch our ovens and stove tops, dayenu.
If we just had to kosher or cover our counters and sinks, dayenu.
If we just had to prepare two seders and countless five-course yom tov meals, dayenu.
Things seemed so much simpler when I was a kid. There weren’t hundreds of food choices as we have today. We ate matzo with jelly, butter or cream cheese. We had cottage cheese, gefilte fish, tuna fish, matzo brei and just about anything you can possibly do with eggs or potatoes. We had homemade noodles that were actually omelets cut into strips, chicken soup, chicken and roasts. We had chocolate, potato chips, marshmallows and those half-moon slices of jelly candy sprinkled with sugar.
Today, you can buy cold cereal of your choice, Passover farina and oatmeal, pizza, rolls, sushi, noodles, lasagna, cake mixes, any type of flavored potato chip, pizza wheels, falafel bits and even licorice.
All right, so you’ve, shopped, baked, cooked and set the table for the seder. You’ve dug into corners of the house you didn’t know existed; you’ve cleaned out, given away, sold or thrown out all the chametz in your house.
Or so you think. Better take one more look. And, in Jewish tradition, this is where you get out your hunting-for-chametz tools: Your feather, your candle, spoon and hopefully some little kids, because this is supposed to be fun for them.
At this point it’s crunch time. Chametz is burned in the morning, last minute preparations and cooking take place and before you know it, we’re sitting at the seder with family and friends. Men are leaning on their cushy pillows and when it’s time to wash the women bring them the washing cup and bowl so that they don’t have to stand to wash.
Ok, what’s wrong with this picture? At this point we have scrubbed, koshered, peeled, grated, shopped, cooked and cleaned. Our hands are chapped, our eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep and our feet barely able to hold us up — so why are you leaning and we are bringing you the washing cup? Was it too taxing on you to burn the chametz, go to shul and don your kittel?
Since we will have been working so hard leading up to Pesach, I thought I would share an easy delicious recipe for matzo lasagna.
My eldest, Daniel, insists that I make it for him when it’s not Pesach, on his rare visits home from Pennsylvania where he attends law school. He’s convinced it tastes better than the real version.
6 to 8 matzos
24 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 lb. of fresh mushrooms lightly sautéed in cooking spray
1-1/2 jars pasta sauce (I use Gefen’s marinara sauce)
1 cup sautéed onions, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 ovenproof dish with non-stick spray. Pour about a cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place 1-1/2 pieces of matzos (or enough to fit your dish) in the sauce and add a bit more sauce so that the matzos are covered in sauce. Spoon 1/4 of the sauteed onions and mushrooms over the matzos.
Sprinkle 1/4 of the shredded mozzarella cheese onto the mushroom onion layer. Repeat the steps above till all the ingredients are used up. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 min or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. This dish can be frozen and put directly into the oven. It will just require extra time to heat through.
Here’s to all our wonderful memories of past seders shared with family and friends and to the new memories we’re still fortunate to make.
Originally published in 2012.