Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back to Business as Usual

There's an old saying: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It can surely be applied to getting through the yom tov of Pesach. A whole lot of people who were sure they would never make it to be ready for Pesach, and yet somehow they did. A whole lot of people who wondered if they could possibly make it through 8 days of non-stop cooking, eating, cleaning up, company and all that goes with being basically cloistered in close quarters with a whole lot of other people. Yup, they did. Those people should take some chizuk from the fact that they managed to produce Pesach and yes, even enjoy some of it.

And yes, I dusted off the "P" words and put them away in my files until it's time to get them out next year. I did, however, leave out one "P" word and a related "R" word to occupy my thoughts for a while today--Ponder and Reflect.

While yom tov is still fresh in my mind I'm making myself some notes for next year based on what happened this year. I'm looking at what things worked especially well this year and what things did not. I'm amending the purchasing lists to be used next year to include more of a few items and to eliminate a few items as well--in no way am I ever touching those non-gebrokts cake mixes again; no use in trying to save some time and energy if the results aren't going to be eaten or are not as advertised. I tried a couple of new recipes this year and one at least was a big hit with the family and company; the recipe is going into the treasured recipe file. A long time ago I learned not to count on memory alone when it comes to this particular yom tov.

So yes, I know it may be the last thing you want to be doing now that Pesach is finally over, but I'm recommending taking a little time to think about what you did and didn't do, and when you did or did not do them, and make yourself some notes to be used next year.

20 comments:

Mark SoFla said...

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

I've refrained from commenting until now, but I can't stifle myself any longer. For over a month, you've been making Pesach seem like a terrible thing, something to dread, and something to simply endure, get over with, and then be thankful that it is done and over with. The countdown posts were rather extreme, and seemed to simply be there (maybe that wasn't your purpose, but it seemed to be that way) to make people nervous about the impending holiday.

For me, Pesach is, by far, the most enjoyable holiday of the year. I like it better than Sukkot because we get to remain inside rather than in the extreme heat (with the associated insects, etc) outside. I like it better than Shavuot because it lasts longer and we generally see more family. I love all the special Pesach foods, I made matza brei everyday, sometimes multiple versions of it, and the kids absolutely LOVE it. They also love plain matza, or matza with various things spread on it. As for the rest of the food, we eat pretty much the same things we eat the rest of the year except for bread and rice. Oh, I also made Pesach pancakes (more like crepes, obviously) almost everyday for the kids. They love those too. In fact, Pesach pancakes were the last thing I made about half an hour before chag was over because the kids were hungry and had to go to bed around that time. My wife makes a big batch of pancake batter in the blender (best $20 I ever spent for a Pesach appliance! Thinking of getting a Pesach immersion blender next time I see one on sale) before each chag. I certainly like Pesach better than the Yamim Noraim, less time spent in shul, more time spent with family - that's a win/win in my book.

As far as cleaning for Pesach, I follow what my Rabbi (Orthodox like we are) recommends, and I even went quite a bit further than what he recommends time-wise. I started cleaning on Motzai Shabbat, worked mostly though the whole night (fridge, ovens, etc) while everyone was asleep and out of my way. Then on Sunday did the rest of the cleaning - counters, pantry, drawers, etc. Late Sunday night after the kids went to sleep, my wife and I put away all the chametz things, and I did the final kashering of counters plus the kashering of the sinks. We then unpacked all the pesach boxes (dishes, cookware, cutlery, etc) from the garage into the cleaned out drawers in the kitchen. At that point the kitchen was pesachdik. Cooking commenced on Monday as we had the second seder at our house for the entire family (~22 people). But we did not go nuts for an entire month or even a fortnight before Pesach! We also did not go nuts for every single meal - in fact, most of the lunches were milchigs, while most of the dinners were fleishings. I just don't see why people make such a big deal about it - seems to me that it's just about the same amount of cooking as usual. Okay, perhaps a little more because of the multiple chag days, but still, we prepare a cooked dinner every night of the week throughout the entire year. As far as prepared food goes, we don't buy ANY of it during Pesach, sometimes during the year we will buy sliced deli meat for Shabbat, but not for Pesach (way too expensive and generally not very good). We did buy 2 salamis, but didn't even open them (which is surprising because the kids love salami!). Not even one prepared cake, the cakes/pastries we make ourselves (again, simple ones like brownies, chocolate chip cookies, nut cakes, etc) taste far better than any of the store-bought ones.

Finally, everyone get ready, Pesach begins in 344 days! :-)

Abba said...

PROFK:

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

ah, yes

http://abbasrantings.blogspot.com/2011/04/balabustas-pesach-and-christina.html

MARK:

you are correct. people have lost complete sense of what is required and what isn't

ProfK said...

Mark,

I don't hate Pesach nor dread it. I also don't stick my head in the sand regarding the chag either. Of all the holidays we have, Pesach requires the most intensive work in preparation, both with the requirements halachically and with the items that come along with it. You turned your kitchen over from motzoai Shabbos through late Sunday evening? So? Sure it can be done--if you can go sleepless for two nights and have the energy to do so--talk to me again when you're 15-20 years older and let me know if you are still so sanguine about leaving everything to the last minute.

Did you also do the routine cleaning of the rest of the house that usually comes in that same time period? Lucky you if chometz, the kind you have to get rid of, ONLY appears in your kitchen and nowhere else at all in your house. Did you do all your grocery shopping and clothes shopping and haircuts for everyone during that same time period? Did you plan out your menus first on Monday? In short, I highly doubt that EVERYTHING was left to those last two nights to complete.

As to the purchased food, where did I say that I don't do my own cooking for everything? I don't buy out during the year--I certainly wouldn't begin on Pesach. The cake mix posting pointed out that this was something new for me and that I won't be trying it again--I do all my own baking, some simple, some not.

I'm happy for you that you enjoy Pesach above all other holidays, but that doesn't mean that others have to share in your enjoyment to the same degree. Yes, I enjoy Pesach, but it's not my favorite yom tov--different strokes for different folks.

Raizy said...

Just curious Mark what you are going to do next year when Pesach begins Friday night. You going to take off a couple of days from work so you can work all night to prepare? Wouldn't be an option for me. Also notice that you talk about a lot of cooking that you do. You do realize that a lot of husbands don't do any cooking and that all those things you seem to split up with your wife belong only to the wives in many homes? This works for you? Great! It sure wouldn't work ihn my house.

Abba's Rantings said...

PROFK:

"with the requirements halachically"

many of the "requirements" that people fret (in terms of cleaning and shopping) about have nothing to do with halacha.

tesyaa said...

Let's be honest - Pesach does sometimes seem like an endurance test. And while I don't actively dislike Pesach foods, I miss some of my usual foods. And it's a lot of work. To the extent I can do less work, I enjoy the chag more. I've already substantially cut back the amount of cleaning and cooking I do. It seems like I can't cut back more, but I'm sure I will, and this is why:

My older kids now do a lot of the cleaning and cooking, but I'm afraid that they are starting to see it as a burden. And all my kids, including the younger ones, get the short end of the stick because they're dealing with a stressed-out mother.

So my goal has to be to do even LESS next year, so that I am more available for the kids. If that means some meals that are literally just matza, cream cheese, an apple, and chocolate, that is what it's going to be.

Abba said...

TESYAA:

"If that means some meals that are literally just matza, cream cheese, an apple, and chocolate, that is what it's going to be."

hey, i'd be happy with even less than that. you can keep the matza, cream cheese and apple--just give me the chocolate!

JS said...

Most of the craziness associated with Pesach has nothing to do with halacha or the chag itself. Most of it has to do with personal preferences and family issues.

For example, my parents have a set of fine china for Pesach. Every year they would spend the better part of a day removing all of the chametz dishes from their cabinets, cleaning out the cabinets, shlepping them down to the basement, shlepping the Pesach china up from the basement, and placing them in the cabinets. Then, after every seder my dad and grandmother would stay up another 1-2 hours washing and drying the china to be ready for the next day. Finally, one year, my mom said "Enough!" and got nice looking plasticware. Costs maybe $50 more over Pesach and saves maybe 20+ hours of work (washing/drying is repeated for end of chag then everything needs to be put away after chag).

You can find countless examples of stuff like that. But, it's all a personal preference or family issue. It's how you CHOOSE to make your chag. It's really not fair to blame this kinda stuff on Pesach. You want to use fine china, for example, you have to deal with the extra burden. You want to turn Pesach cleaning into Spring cleaning, you want to ignore halachic requirements for removal of chametz, you don't want to sell your chametz, you have a family minhag to do something, it's all an extra burden you take on.

It's also has a lot to do with how people deal with stress and having to multitask and do lots of things in a short amount of time. Some people breeze through them and don't see the big deal while others fret for months. Some keep a mental list or fly by the seat of their pants and some have lists and notes and schedules. To each their own.

But, again, don't blame Pesach.

Rae said...

Oh come on now, Pesach is only hard because we make it hard on ourselves? Get real. There is only one other chag that lasts as long-Sukkos. And the halachic requirements for the other chaggim are nowhere near the requirements for Pesach. Even if you do only the barest minimum you are going to be tired at the end of this chag. Sure JS is right that maybe some of this is personal preference or family customs or community customs but there's enough that isn't to make this a hard yom tov to bring about. And if you are more machmir on some things-and I'm not talking outrageous chumrahs here--then there may be more work to be done.

And the prof is right that your age comes into play as well as the status of your family members, married or single, youngish or older. When I was way younger I "only" had 6 people to worry about feeding and taking care of for Pesach. I could manage to balance all I had to do and wanted to do with work and other responsibilities with no problem. Now that they are all married with kids of their own I'm preparing for and feeding at least triple that number for Pesach, sometimes quadruple plus. And at this age doing that is no walk in the park. At least I've earned my right to kvetch a little.

tesyaa said...

Now that they are all married with kids of their own I'm preparing for and feeding at least triple that number for Pesach, sometimes quadruple plus. And at this age doing that is no walk in the park. At least I've earned my right to kvetch a little.

That is not right! Surely the kids can pitch in, even if they have little ones. It sounds like you did the work yourself even when you had little ones. If you are doing all the work for 5 families yourself, you are taking on too much. I hope you enjoy it. But you don't HAVE to do it all yourself. How about telling your kids it's too much for you to do it all, at your age?

Rae said...

Tesyaa, the kids do help once they are here, as much as they can with little ones to look after.

Our kids live pretty much spread out and the only time they can see each other and us too is over a long chag. It's not necessarily the plan to have all four families here at once but sometimes that's how it works out. Those four married kids come with sets of in-laws who have other married kids who bring in-laws with them also. Not all that simple to coordinate who goes to who for which holiday. Then add in that someone in the mix will either be very pregnant and need to be near to her doctor/hospital or someone who has just delivered and will need some help, or someone who caught some bug or another or someone whose work schedule goes haywire and they can't travel further than your house because they suddenly have to go in to work on chol hamoed.

Some of our friends go to their children for Pesach but that would mean that we wouldn't get to see the other kids. So I still do the work because I want to see the kids and the grandkids. That doesn't make the work easier but it gives me something to look forward to aside from cooking, cleaning and all the rest.

Mark SoFla said...

ProfK - Pesach requires the most intensive work in preparation, both with the requirements halachically and ...

Yes, it's a lot of work. So is preparing the sukkah, especially if you include the tree branches I had to cut this year to ensure a clear view to the sky. According to my Rabbi, you are halachically required to spend 3 hours cleaning the kitchen and 3 hours cleaning the rest of the house, a total of 6 hours. I did a little more than that, but that's the halachic requirement. And nowadays with modern self-cleaning ovens, I can even avoid blowtorching every surface of the ovens! That used to be rather time consuming.

You turned your kitchen over from motzoai Shabbos through late Sunday evening? So? Sure it can be done--if you can go sleepless for two nights and have the energy to do so--talk to me again when you're 15-20 years older and let me know if you are still so sanguine about leaving everything to the last minute.

I didn't go sleepless. Motzai shabbat I am always up late because of the nap on shabbat afternoon. And I slept fine on Sunday night because I had to work part of the day on Monday. In 15-20 years, hopefully I will visit my kids for Pesach (just like my parents visit us for Pesach).

Did you also do the routine cleaning of the rest of the house that usually comes in that same time period? Lucky you if chometz, the kind you have to get rid of, ONLY appears in your kitchen and nowhere else at all in your house.

I have 5 little kids, there is food everywhere in the house. We cleaned as best as possible, we had the kids find and eat all their candy stashes, and I sold whatever other chametz remained, and was mevatel all the tiny crumbs that might have remained.

Did you do all your grocery shopping and clothes shopping and haircuts for everyone during that same time period?

Did grocery shopping a little here and there during 2 weeks before chag. I even picked up a few things on Monday afternoon on the way home from work. Didn't do any clothes shopping at all, that can be done anytime of year, why on earth would anyone choose to do that right before Pesach?!? Haircuts? I cut my hair 2 weeks before Pesach and one of my boys, the other boy didn't get a haircut. Big deal, it can wait until lag baomer or later. Shopped for the wine on Thursday night before chag.

Did you plan out your menus first on Monday? In short, I highly doubt that EVERYTHING was left to those last two nights to complete.

Wanna bet? My wife asked me "what should we make for seder night?" on Sunday so she would know what to defrost (or buy at the local butcher). In the end, we made 1 brisket, 2 chickens two different ways, meatloaf (the one from Pam Reiss' Pesach cookbook), roasted root vegetables, roasted broccoli, roasted potatoes, 2 salads+2 dressings, and my mom made quinoa. We had 2 kinds of charoset, traditional apple+nuts kind, and a date mixture kind, made fresh immediately before seder (kids helped grate the apples). I grated the horseradish which chased all the kids out of the kitchen for a few minutes.

Regarding planning menus, we rarely do it. We let what is available "at the market" plan our menus. In other words, we usually use the fruits/vegetables that are in season, or what we happen to have in the house. Sure we do extra for chagim, that's where the root vegetables came from.

As to the purchased food, where did I say that I don't do my own cooking for everything? I don't buy out during the year--I certainly wouldn't begin on Pesach. The cake mix posting pointed out that this was something new for me and that I won't be trying it again--I do all my own baking, some simple, some not.

Like us. Home-cooked food is generally so much better! A few years ago we bought some of those Osem prepared Pesach cakes. I'd rather have plain home-made cakes or cookies.

Mark SoFla said...

Raizy - what you are going to do next year when Pesach begins Friday night.

Oy vey. I'll probably have to start Wednesday night and take half a day off on Thursday to switch over to Pesach kitchen so cooking can begin! But the worst case of all is when Pesach begins on Motzai Shabbat (next time that happens is 2021).

I agree that those who leave it (the work) ALL up to their wives are being very unfair. I wash all the dishes during Pesach (we use the dishwashers the rest of the year).

We also switched over to using paper/plastic a few years ago (though for fewer than 8 people, we can still use real cutlery). We even used nice plastic becherim (colored silver!) this year, everyone got their own (large for the adults, small for the kids). And we've been using plastic tablecloths for years, hope it won't affect shidduchim for the kids :-)

JS said...

It seems to me that if you have the kind of household where all the cooking, cleaning, and other preparations fall on the wife, the wives are going to be pretty miserable. That's a family issue as far as I am concerned, not a chag issue.

The way I see it, Pesach and Sukkot are basically the same thing. Just substitute "cleaning" for "building a sukkah." Maybe women feel Pesach is harder because they are more likely to be the ones doing the cleaning, but the men are more likely to be the ones building the sukkah. So, for Pesach it all falls on the women whereas on Sukkot it's more evenly spread out.

Lissa said...

Pesach and Sukkot do not equate JS. In a bad year it takes my husband and sons 2 hours to put up the sukkah--decorating it is left for me and my girls. Know anyone who can make Pesach in 2 hours? Also the cooking for Sukkot is far easier then for Pesach. There is no obligation to change dishes and pots and bring things in and out of storage and not have your regular cooking utensils available. There are no special food requirements or things that can't be purchased, no checking every package to see if it is kosher for Pesach or looking through lists to find out what is permissible and what isn't. There are no special foods that have to be cooked for any Sukkot meal. Cleaning is of the normal has to be done variety. Crumbs and table mess are all outside where a quick shake of the cloth on the lawn takes care of the dirt. Also, there is no requirement for everyone to have a sukkah and to eat a full meal in it. Those who don't have one maybe because they live in an apartment can borrow somebody elses for a meal or two or just make kiddush in the shul sukkah. People who live in apartments aren't patur from making Pesach in those apartments if they are staying at home. At least let's be honest and admit that no matter who is doing it Pesach is the chag that requires the most work out of all the chagim.

tesyaa said...

Pesach is more work than Sukkos, but remember that Sukkos is not a standalone, because there's a whole RH/YK/Sukkos season. It's slightly more comparable when you take that into account.

I don't really hear men complaining about the hard work of putting up a sukkah, since if they have difficulty, they just hire a few teenagers for $40 or $50 to do it for them.

Women do get the brunt, but as someone else said, that is a marital situation that needs to be addressed.

Ruth said...

You're right Tesyaa that how the work gets divided up for Pesach is a marital issue but it goes really way beyond that. Lots of boys who are raised by families where the boys aren't expected to raise a hand in doing anything that is considered "womans work." And they may not see their father helping out much either. So they get married and aren't used to helping around the house and some feel resentful if they are asked to do so. And lots of schools which cement that idea in the boy's minds, that "housework" is a woman's job and they have other things to do. Even where they do help out some many of those boys still see it as helping out mom with HER job rather than seeing it as THEIR job.

tesyaa said...

Ruth - presumably there is a mother taking part in raising those sons, and mothers helping make the decisions where their boys will go to school. Presumably there are also mothers giving their daughters guidance about how to choose a husband - and choosing a husband who will help around the house is a worthwhile thing to look for, more than a "learner", IMO. Mothers need to be more proactive in changing how "housework" is viewed by boys & men.

JS said...

My point was simply that, in families where all the cooking and cleaning fall on the wife, Sukkot is a more equitable holiday since that always falls on the men.

I'll just repeat what I said before that, according to strictly the halacha, cleaning and cooking for Pesach is really not all that difficult. If you have a self-cleaning oven, you can basically just set the oven on its clean cycle, go around vacuuming, covering countertops or pouring boiling water on them, and pretty much be done. You don't HAVE to use nice china (see my post above). And shopping nowadays is fairly straightforward unless you insist on buying tons of narishkeit that requires special checking (and even that isn't so hard since most supermarkets have pesach sections). If you cook with a lot of fresh veggies, it's really very simple and not really any different from rest of the year cooking.

I think it's a real shame that in many households there is an attitude that cleaning and cooking is women's work. I can't speak for every marriage, but the couples I've seen where this attitude is prevalent don't seem to have as deep a connection as those in which both spouses help out. Maybe not everyone is the best chef or the best cleaner, but there are tasks that everyone can do. It's the 21st century. People need to wake up already and drop these antiquated gender roles.

Miami Al said...

JS,

Biggest thing missing in our diet for Pesach? Fresh corn. This was the height of Florida corn season, so I've been picking it up fresh every time I'm at the produce market (2-3 times/week). Second biggest gap: rice, it's a staple, go-to vegetable/starch. Other than that, what's the big deal with Pesach cooking?

Early in our marriage, my wife went so overboard, inhaling fumes from cleaning the oven, etc., that she was miserable at the seder. It wasn't even family, just friends that came and joined us since we were right out of school and it was a Wed/Thur or Tue/Wed Yom Tov and we couldn't bolt out of town.

Given that Pesach was my wife's favorite holiday, and seeing her refuse to participate in the seder our of exhaustion, was an indication that there was a problem.

But I love my wife dearly and care about her happiness.

Kitchen turnover it Motzei Shabbat the week before Pesach. This year that was right before Chag, if Pesach starts on Saturday, that means a week with a Pesach kitchen of sorts...

If you are not celebrating the Chag with joy, you should think about if this is what you should be doing.

I've known women, Jew and Gentile, that love a sparkling home and will have nothing less and love entertaining in it. If you are one of those women, that is terrific. If you are not, then this is insanity.

My favorite holiday? Sukkot, because I find building a Sukkah fun and enjoyable. Having friends over in a dwelling that I built is the best feeling in the world.

We even hosted a Sunday Brunch for friends that couldn't join us for a Shabbat/Yom Tov meal this year.

My philosophy, other than Matza, if it needs a Kosher L'Pesach label, you don't NEED it for 8 days. You can want it, you can even pick it up, but you don't NEED it.