By Angie Jacobs
I work in Golders Green. Not at the coffee bar end, but the Hendon end. This is where normal rules of driving do not apply.
As soon as Purim ended, Pesach frenzy began. Matzah print ties, aprons and bibs were displayed in shop windows, traffic wardens hovered on every yellow line and chametz was confined to one aisle in the kosher food stores. I wonder what Moses would think if he could see us now.
Pesach gets a lot of bad press. The food is dear, you must clean your house and you can’t get a decent parking spot within a mile of Kosher Kingdom. And it hasn’t even started yet. I’m quite a laid back person and like to think of my interpretation of Pesach as traditional. (Truth be told, The Jacobs have more Pesach loopholes than a badly crocheted scarf.)
Yet, some people really do dread it and for months before beg “Don’t mention the ‘P’ word. I can’t bear even to think about it.” Even those who frequent Brent Cross on Shabbat still carry out Pesach to the ‘nth’ degree, getting themselves in a right old tizz.
Hey, I’m all for a bit of “we all have our own level”, but if you’re going to stay up cleaning your house, then do it with good grace.
Anyway, I have decided to take a different approach this year and will be looking at the pleasure rather than the pain of the Passover period. I could write all day about how I love Pesach because I can eat home made biscuits every day and working for a Jewish organisation we don’t have to take the Yamim Tovim as holiday.
However, I have decided not to rattle on so much about what I think, but conduct some qualitative research from within the community. But whom to ask?
The answer was shining out at me from my laptop: The Pesach Recipe Facebook Group. Hmm, would they be a good cross section of the Jewish community though and would anybody even answer the question I posted: “What do YOU like about Pesach?”
The response was phenomenal – a personal best of 51 comments and six likes, exceeding my previous high ratings on my son’s Barmitzvah photo, my daughter’s “just got back from Tour” photo and 10 times as popular as my no make up selfie (shocker).
My glass-half-full interviewees waxed lyrical about the two f’s – food and family. Let’s talk about food first. It did not suffice (geddit?) to just say the word “food”, the best comment was actually from real-life friend Lisa. She said she loves the “baking, cooking and eating”.
Many people remarked on the abundance of freshly cooked food, making meals “from scratch” and how we really should have egg in salt water as a starter throughout the year.
As for matters familial, the emphasis was on being together and remembering seders past. Many had family members who travelled from around the world to be at the seder table at this special time. Some baked with their kids and I can remember doing so myself before they got so big and proficient in the kitchen (cooking and eating).
Traditions were also mentioned – recipes and crockery passed down from generation to generation, the throwing of mini-marshmallows at the kids to represent the hail during the 10 plagues.
So, bias of the question and exclusivity of the demographic aside, there was lots of Pesach positivism. Interestingly, no men responded to my question, nor do they have much of a presence in the Pesach recipe group.
Maybe the subject of men and Pesach cleaning/shopping/baking could be next year’s column. (Or maybe I should assess what I have learned from 20 years of marriage and know when to keep it zipped.)
Despite the heroic and stoic claims of my interviewees, my favourite comment was, “I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that my husband hasn’t secretly booked to take us away on Pesach.”
I’m with you Helen, and so is Alison. Almond macaroons and family tunes are all very well, but give me five-star luxury in Eilat any day.