Lucky for Moses, all he had to do was free the Israelites from Egypt, part the Red Sea, and listen to their kvetching for 40 years in the desert…oh, and get the Ten Commandments. Moses didn’t have to orchestrate a Passover celebration for the “chosen people ” who turned out to be pretty choosy when it came to their desert lifestyle. “What?! Manna from Heaven, again!” “Oy, another day of hot, dry, and dusty!” “Who made Moses the boss, anyway?”
Although Moses was forced to re-check the Tablets in the hope of finding “Thou shalt not whine” on there somewhere, he didn’t have to meld centuries of Passover tradition with modern mishagas.
It starts with cleaning. Spic n’ Span pales beside Spoon n’ Feather. The Passover custom is to rid the whole house of every crumb of non- Passover food (called hametz), like bagels, Oreos, Cheerios, and Spaghetti Os. Before Passover can officially begin, we’re told to search the house for any leftover bits of chametz, poking about with the feather, sweeping stray crumbs onto the spoon, and burning them. And who is supposed to scour the house so that there’s hardly a chametz crumb to be found? Not the Rabbis who for centuries pondered and produced these customs, but the hapless, harried housewives of the Shtetl! As Tevye sang to Mrs. Tevye while she scuttled about checking that no piece of schmutz had been passed – over, “Tradition! Tradition!”
And then there’s the food. Those of you who live in east and west coast cities with pro sports teams and large Jewish populations can stop reading right now and go back to scrubbing and Swiffering. You can find shelves of Passover food at your neighborhood supermarket – no problem!
But, here in ABQ, where a few descendants of those ancient Israelites have settled in another desert, rounding up the Passover staples is a challenge that makes the Exodus look like a romp along the Nile. Although ABQ supermarkets have been awash in purple bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and spiral hams since Valentine’s Day, Passover items appear in tiny end-of-aisle displays of random Jewish fare assembled by some corporate intern in the product distribution department who vaguely recalls the Passover Seders she yawned through at Grandma’s house.
So, with Passover shopping list in hand, I went determinedly from store to store – here a box, there a can, is that gnarled thing a horseradish root? Oh look! Gluten free matza made from potato starch, tapioca starch, palm oil, vinegar, honey, and egg yolks. Ewww! Could the “Bread of Affliction” be any more afflicted? And potato pancake mix? What is this, Hanukkah?!
Suddenly, right in the middle of my marathon shopping schlep,what should arrive in my mailbox, but a Wegman’s Passover Food Catalogue sent by a family member who lives outside of Boston. Now while Massachusetts may have winters that last from October to May with outrageous accumulations of snow that only a polar bear could love, it does have Wegman’s. Another family member from Metro DC describes Wegman’s as the Disney World of supermarkets (minus the measles, of course.) Although I’ve never set foot in Wegman’s, for a long time I’ve been following family members’ comments on Facebook. “We grabbed Chinese from Wegman’s international buffet.” and “Wegman’s has the freshest baby octopus tentacles for sushi.” and “Who needs Whole Foods, when you have Wegman’s with its three aisles of gluten-free foods.”
And for Passover- don’t ask! The catalogue was bursting with such Seder ready selections as
plus a recipe for Potato Latkes with Salmon and Cream Cheese!
But for me in the ABQ wilderness, Wegman’s is as distant as the Promised Land was for my Israelite cousins many times removed and I don’t have forty years to meander through ABQ supers searching in nooks and crannies for foods to fill the Seder table. I don’t even have 40 days! Passover guests are arriving…Soon! Passover guests with wheat allergies, peanut allergies, extreme aversion to green veggies, gefilte fish phobia.
And remember the spoon and feather, clean – every- corner thing? Well, should I throw out this stack of newspapers dating from September or clear out that cupboard full of cottage cheese containers that just look sooooo potentially useful? Decisions! Decisions!
Did I mention that guests are coming SOON? Lots of guests! Do you think I could throw a towel over this old shower bench and use it as a table for the vegetable kugel and salt water?
And what about dragging in the big table from the garage and putting it in the center of the living room, with the kitchen table in the hall, and then use the bookcase for the brisket and wine bottles? Wine! Holy Moses! I still haven’t found any! Would Barefoot Chardonay….?
No! No! Gotta get the Manischewitz.
Ok, folks. Gotta run.
However you celebrate spring – with a roasted egg, a Cadbury cream egg, or some vegan vaguely egg- like substitute, enjoy!
If you are fortunate enough to live near Wegman’s, raise a glass of their Israeli Barkan Classic Pinot Noir to us desert dwellers.