The Pandemic Pantry
Passover (Pesach – pronounced Pay sock) is coming up soon. i’m not exactly sure when – i heard from some goyisha friend it’s today, that would be Wednesday at sundown. All Jewish holidays start at sundown.
Hebrew is read from right to left. If you’ve never read Hebrew in your life you can probably make out that the three letters on the right say “KOSHER”. There are no vowels in Hebrew (at least not the letters – vowels are either understood or go under the letters). the right most character that looks like a backwards ‘C’ makes the “K” sound. The middle letter called a ‘shin’ and to my eye looks like an ‘S’, though I can’t tell you why. The Shin makes the “SH” sound. The third letter that looks like a backwards ‘R’, is, well you figure it out. The four letter word is “Pesach” with the two left most characters making the “CH” sound and the first two being “P” and “S” (as in snake). That’s your Hebrew lesson for the year.
The lesson of Passover is freedom of the mind. Of course it doesn’t say that anywhere, but it’s easily deducible. Pesach is the story of Exodus and is a major Jewish Holiday. It is so special we’re not supposed to use our daily pots and pans and plates and kitchen. These special regulations get labeled “Kosher for Passover”, which is different from Kosher at other times of the year. We’re supposed to live the week like we’re running for our lives in exodus.
Sounds like a pandemic.
We’re supposed to have a big meal that requires reading from a book called the Hagadah to tell the story, remind us of the bitterness of slavery and torture the participants, especially the children. That meal is called a Sedar. I’ve been to the most famous seder in the world, which is in Milan Italy. There are allegories, games, songs and traditions some of which go back some 5,700 years.
You may notice there is a passover section in the grocery stores. You can tell because, since we’re not supposed to use the same “plates” there are paper doyles on the shelves under the Kosher for Passover Products. Kosher for passover……
That section is also full, no empty shelves. You’ll know when there is a real food shortage when people start hording the kosher for passover food. That hasn’t happened yet. Btw, kosher for Passover, or Kosher food in general doesn’t mean it’s bad, or not delicious, it’s fine! It only means that they paid a Rabbi to stand around and certify that it was made according to the rules.
Every year my genes rattle around inside of me and I get an urge to buy a box of matzoh. And I eat it with Butter and jelly. There are many other things you can do with Matzoh. You can make matzoh balls (no the matzoh balls are not contained in the scrotum of the matzohs). Matzohs don’t have scrotums). You can make matzoh brie (prounounced “eye” with a BR in front), which my father liked to do on weekend mornings during passover. Dad like to make breakfasts. I hate matzoh brie, which is like matzoh pancakes, you eat it with cinnamon and sugar instead of Aunt Jemima Syrup and you only need one bite, it sits in your belly like lead and you’ll be full for a week. It’s awful!
Matzoh is the one of the critical element (and according to the Maxwell House Hagadah, arguably the only element) that must be mentioned at a sedar. If I were going to lead a sedar, rather than it taking 5 hours, I would just say “Matzoh”, then “Lets eat!”
Matzoh is unleavened bread. In dramatic style the Hagadah refers to Mazoh as “The bread of affliction.” In fact it’s bread with no leavening agent in it at all. It’s essentially a cracker. Sort of like a communion wafer, but it’s more artisanal and cooked more. I love it with butter and Jam. One box is good for a year. My Uncle Al used to get real matzoh imported from Israel. Instead of it being like a cracker it has the flavor and consistency of the cardboard box it comes in. It’s truly awful and I refused to eat it. If that’s what the fleeing Israelites ate then maybe it is the bread of affliction.
The icons of Passover are
The Four Sons
- The wise son, includes himself as an active participant
- The wicked son, excludes himself as an active participant (that’s me!)
- The simple son, is just dumb
- The young son, is told the story of passover – he must suffer and be hungry for the stupid amount of time it takes to tell the story and not eat.
Four Full Glasses of wine, demonstrates wealth and freedom. Has to be cheap, sweet, disgusting, sickening Manischewitz wine.
The Four Questions:
3 of the four questions are ‘trick’ questions designed to elicit long winded answers, torture hungry people and especially children, sitting in front of a feast for hours while only eating bitter herbs, matzoh and salt water. I would suggest not answering them, or better, not asking them.
The fourth question is never answered correctly, which I will do here:
4. On all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining. Why on this night do we all recline?
You try drinking four full glasses of Manischewitz wine on an empty stomach before dinner and see if you don’t recline.
The Ten Plagues:
water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the killing of firstborn children. If you use the Maxwell House Haggadah, It is perfectly acceptable to substitute the Maxwell House products on the back page for the recitation of each of the plagues:
Unfortunately This year we have the 11th Plague. Governor Cuomo has ordered flags to be flown at half mast, – for Covid-19 victims whos count now exceeds the number of people murdered on 9-11.
I opened by saying that Passover is about the concept of freedom. According to the story, Charlton Heston, former president of the NRA, wandered with his band of jews in the desert for 40 years trying to find ‘The Promised Land of Israel’.
At the end of the journey, he could see Israel, but was not allowed to enter. No one who had lived under slavery in Egypt, all had died on the 40 year journey, except Moses, were allowed to enter into Israel. The people that made it to the promised land never lived even for a moment as slaves. The reality of living as and being a slave died in the desert. This lesson is not in the Haggadah. It is the Lesson of Passover as told by this prodigal wicked son.
In this politically divisive time I would like to point out another lesson of Passover. There is room at the table for the wicked son, and there always has been.
Soup by Dan Scolnick
I made chicken soup from scratch last night – a gallon of it. Ray is making matzoh balls tonite. I finished the box of matzoh last night. I wonder what kind of bread Ray is baking for our sedar.