Monday, April 07, 2008

No Right to Complain

Making Pesach is difficult. I know this, yet I do not speak from experience. You see, RaggedyDad and I are lucky enough to spend Pesach with my parents, and we simply close up our chametz-sold apartment for the week. They live about a ten-minute car ride from here, so it doesn't get much more convenient.

This will be our seventh Pesach since we're married, and it will be the seventh time that we've packed up and moved in with my folks. That's right, I have 3 kids, and I have yet to make Pesach. I'm ready for the jeers, the stones you want to throw at me, and the nasty looks. I know, I know, I'm a big baby and a spoiled brat for getting off so easy.

Around this time of year, I feel like I just want to hide for the few weeks before Pesach as other friends and family members kick it into high gear with their cleaning and Pesach preparations. During Pesach itself, we aren't around, and then there's a week or so after we return and everyone's getting their lives and homes back to normal.

Some of the remarks I hear are stated bluntly, and some are more veiled. But the subtext is clear, and it is a tense time for me and relationships with people whose resentment is palpable. "I'M SORRY!" I almost want to shout. I really am. I wish I could just make the work disappear, and give everyone the chance to focus on Simchat Yom Tov and not just on the labor-intensive, nitty gritty of Pesach preparation.

Granted, the things I will be dealing with greatly pale by comparison. Among them, packing up the five of us for the week, cramming us and our stuff into the 1 1/2 rooms we'll be alotted in a totally un-child-proof environment, wanting to help but being incessantly in the way, keeping everyone quiet and well-behaved in a home that's not ours, the stairs that I am unaccustomed to at this point, repacking, the laundry-thon at home, disrupted daily schedules that may or may not ever get back to normal, and of course, everyone, um, hating me.

I know that those things are really minor in comparison, and believe me, I do not complain to the Pesach-makers. I don't dare. There's not much to talk about during these couple of weeks, when we ask each other what's doing, and the discrepancies between what we're each busy with are so pronounced. I tend to sort of avoid people because I can hear their internal dialogue regarding my combination of luck and chutzpah, and I'm sure of it because of the occasional comments that slip out, intentional or not.

While I haven't yet paid my Pesach dues, my husband certainly has. His family lives overseas and is totally assimilated, so obviously, Yom Tov with the in-laws is not a consideration, nor is having their help in any way at other times, but right now, understandably, what everyone's thinking of is Pesach. Before we were married, he spent several years working hard at Pesach hotels for the week of Yom Tov. He doesn't quite understand the social tension this time of year. But I assure him that it is a real issue, and one that only gets more pronounced as we find ourselves outgrowing the newly-married-young-couple category. Most of our friends have made at least some portion of Pesach themselves.

I did suggest to my mom that we come back to our own apartment after the sedarim this year while I went over the list of what my mother would like me to buy for Yom Tov in my neighborhood where some stores carry certain items at better prices. At this point, Sukkos and Pesach are just about the only times we go to them.

Us never having made Pesach, and not having a Sukkah (or a place to construct one) also precludes my brother and sister-in-law from inviting my parents to their house for these two holidays, and believe me, I hear about it on that end too. We cause trouble in lots of ways. "But where would the Raggedys be for Yom Tov?" More guilt. More cringing. More shame. For this Pesach, my mother assured me that they do really want us to come, so I'm trying to shirk off the extreme discomfort I feel.

I think that it comes down to this. Everyone has their challenges, and their breaks in life. Some people really do seem to have it harder due to different circumstances. The various arenas - physical, emotional, financial, and in terms of the different kinds help people do or don't get from their spouses/parents/in-laws/children, etc. differ for us all in terms of what we have to deal with or where we 'get off easy'. It is impossible to know what another person's "pekaleh" really consists of, because even if you truly knew, you wouldn't know it from their perspective. Making Pesach is one of those challenges that is more public and more obvious. Which is why, since I'm not doing it, I'll be keeping a low profile between now and May.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Two Pesach Recipes

Even though I'm not making Pesach, I still have Pesach-compatible recipes to share.

The first is for what's called Lacy Potato Kugel, and it comes from the original Kosher Palette cookbook, which has since spawned many babies. I credit my good friend Shoshana with turning me on to this recipe that I otherwise probably never would have tried. I make it year-round, and we like it a lot.

Lacy Potato Kugel (Kosher Palette, page 262)

6 large potatoes, peeled
2 onions (1 medium, 1 large)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 Tbsp. oil
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup potato starch
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Grate potatoes and onions, [I drain the grated potato mixture in a collander] and place together in a large bowl.

Stir in eggs, 5 Tbsp. oil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle starch on top.

Pour boiling water over starch, and stir thoroughly.

Pour 1/4 cup oil into 9x13 inch baking pan, and place in oven for 1 minute or until hot (Do not burn).

Carefully pour potato mixture into pan.

Bake 20 minutes at 500 degrees, reduce heat to 400 degrees, and bake 40 minutes or until deep golden brown.

The next recipe is one that I've made for the same friend. She can't eat gluten, so this is an easy cake to make when she's at a meal.


Yield: 9 Servings

Source: Torah Prep High School for Girls Pesach booklet.

3 Eggs

1 c Sugar

1/2 c Oil

2 tb Cocoa

1/2 c Potato starch

1 c Nuts, chopped

Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add oil. Then add rest of ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees F. for half an hour in a 9-inch square pan.