I grew up hearing stories of my grandmothers and their preparations for Passover, most of which began way in advance of the holiday. The walls had to be whitewashed, the geese had to be slaughtered and the goose fat rendered, and the down pillows were opened so that the feathers could be cleaned and re-stuffed into new ticking. Then there was the shopping and cooking. With large families, and no take-out or prepared foods available, everything was made at home. I was told that my maternal grandmother baked an enormous sponge-cake every morning, made with 12 dozen eggs, a cake large enough so everyone could have a piece for breakfast. I wish I knew my grandmothers, these women who worked tirelessly to keep their traditions and whose efforts made lasting impressions on their children and on the grandchildren they never had the chance to meet.
I think of my mother’s preparations for Passover and wonder how much she was influenced by her own childhood experiences. I think of my children and wonder if there are pieces they will choose to keep from their childhood. Do they remember that the glass dishes soaked in the bathtub for days, that they were made to clean their dresser drawers while keeping an eye out for pieces of gum or candy that might have been missed. That the trunk of the car was loaded with all the cutlery, pots and pans that had to be toivled at the synagogue and then driven to the car wash so that the back seats could be lifted and vacuumed? Or my personal favorite which was hiding the chametz around the house and searching for it by candlelight?
I too am starting to think of Passover and I remember specific foods that my mother always had on hand during the holidays. Home-made beet borscht for one, the cold version that had sour cream mixed in which turned it into the color of bubble gum, but which I never did acquire a taste for. When I met my friend Susan T., I discovered a meat version of beet borscht, made with short ribs and served piping hot with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes mixed with fried onions, heaped in the center of the soup bowl and suddenly I discovered how good beets could be. Eventually there were other preparations that I now love, like beets paired with goat cheese and walnuts, or simply roasted and drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar.
I wish my grandmothers had lived to see how Passover is observed in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I imagine that they would shep naches knowing that their descendents make an effort to get together for the seders, that we care enough to argue over issues like kitniyot, that we have dishes like beet salad whose ingredients they would still recognize as being familiar, and that no matter how many of us there are, we make sure there is enough cake so that everyone can have a piece for breakfast.
Beet and Blood Orange Salad
5 medium beets, use a combination of red, orange, and yellow.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, placed in cold water for 1 minute and squeezed out.
5 blood oranges, peeled, and segmented
March 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM
You have some terrific qualities but math is not one of them. I don’t think I have laughed so much in my life since I read about the sponge cake made of 144 EGGS for a family of EIGHT for each day of Passover. There must be some mistake somewhere. I don’t think there were enough chickens in Mogielnica for every other family if our grandmother used all those eggs. But you are very funny and cute. My mother told me that they used to buy a SHOK of eggs every Passover for the eight days. Maybe a SHOK was about twelve dozen. It is very strange about the things each of us remembers. I don’t remember your stories and you don’t remember mine. But it does not matter because we both have good memories of growing up.
Thanks for the great blog!!
Love, your shvester
March 5, 2013 at 4:52 PM
I had tears streaming down my face when you called me and told me that what I wrote was impossible. I too was laughing so hard because I have such vivid memories of questioning Mommy about the number of eggs and she would get frustrated with me for questioning her. It didn’t seem SO unreasonable because many recipes for sponge cake use 10-12 eggs and they had a large family. We will never know but I can’t imagine that she would have told me 12 dozen, that would not have been worth mentioning????????? We will never know but I am sticking to my story.
March 4, 2013 at 12:39 PM
I love this story. I too wish that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were here to see all we’ve done with our family traditions!
March 4, 2013 at 1:29 PM
Thank you Sheila!!!! Wouldn’t that be great? Hopefully we will be around to see our grandchildrens seders.
March 4, 2013 at 11:01 AM
Irene if it is possible for one friend to shep naches from another I do so from you. Your Yiddishkeit and memories warm my heart.
March 4, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Wow, thank you so much Susan!! Here is to sharing many more ways of shepping naches from each other and from our families!!!
March 4, 2013 at 8:19 AM
Love the topping of pomegranate seeds . Yummy salad,,,,have a sensational. Passover
March 4, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Thanks Denise. I hope to see you before then!!