PASSOVER ON MY MIND — HOW I SURVIVE (AND EVEN ENJOY) THE HOLIDAY
By Phyllis Koegel
Phyllis Koegel is Director of Marketing for OU Kosher
I had the strangest conversation with a colleague of mine recently. I can’t tell you who he is; I want to protect his identity because I’m certain women will start calling him to rant and rave.
In any case, in a very casual conversation about what my Passover holiday plans were this year, he said, and I quote, “Passover preparation is very simple this year because the first days of Passover are on Shabbat.” Yes, you read that right. I looked at him like he was an alien from outer space and I said, “How do you figure that?” He went on to explain that the Seder food preparation was simple and that because the first days were over Shabbat, not much cooking was necessary. I laughed and asked him if I could speak to his wife to see if she agreed with him. He looked at me a little sheepishly and slowly backed away.
I don’t know about his home, but I do know about mine. This year I will have 10 adults and 12 children under the age of nine at my Seder table, not to mention additional guests during other meals. Our group includes my immediate family, children, grandchildren and close friends. As simple as my colleague believes the preparation to be, I don’t think he realizes that the cleaning, shopping and cooking preparation are always the same.
My preparation generally starts the day after Purim. I begin by making lists. I figured out some time ago that if I start early and am systematic then the pre-holiday preparation is manageable rather than enormous.
Excited About The App:
I plot out the next four weeks based on when I will do my shopping, cleaning, cooking and staging the Seder. I create elaborate menus for the entire Passover holiday and then itemize every food item I will need. Every year I promise myself I will not overbuy certain items we never really use, but shopping for Passover food is just so much fun.
This year I’m really excited to try the new OU Kosher App on my iPhone. Released by the Orthodox Union (OU), the app, called OU Kosher, provides consumers with updates on products that have been certified by the OU. What an amazing idea — this way I can stay up to date on what’s new for Passover this year. The app also sends alerts when new products are certified, or when existing products are no longer adhering to kosher standards. I can use this all year round!
Cleaning is a whole separate list. I wish there was an app for cleaning. Imagine an app that magically sorts all your cleaning projects and even does them for you – sign me up!
My Passover cleaning is based on which rooms I can get done and out of the way first, leaving the common living areas — the kitchen and dining room for last. I am guilty of using Passover as an excuse to do a major spring cleaning of the entire house. I get a little overanxious about cleaning all the cobwebs and washing the windows, even though it is absolutely not required for Passover. As much as I try to finish the whole house in time for Passover, inevitably there are things I cannot get to. I’ve learned that when the going gets tough – just sell it and forget it!
Passover Can Be Fun:
Next comes the fun part – cooking! I love experimenting with new recipes and bringing out my cherished old ones. I get excited as I plan all the meals and the house takes on that special Passover flavor and aroma. I’m not sure why, but food just tastes better on Passover. I’m sure it has something to do with the freshness and purity of all the ingredients.
My daughters and daughter-in-law all love to help me design the menu. We always spend at least two to three days gathered in the kitchen the week before Passover cooking. We have lots of fun trying new recipes and reminiscing about past Seders.
When my children were little I used to have fun creating unique things they had to do in order to qualify for their afikomen presents. It wasn’t enough to return the afikomen and negotiate a toy or prize, but rather they had to recite the MaNistanah while hopping on one foot and spinning around in a circle. We have some wonderful memories of those Seders, the children had so much fun, and I am happily passing my traditions down to my grandchildren.
When I was growing up in the 1970’s there were limited items we could use on Passover. Well, times certainly have changed over the past 30 years in the booming kosher industry. In the 70’s there were approximately 3,000 kosher certified products found in supermarkets. Today there are more than 70,000. In the food industry, Passover is the busiest season for kosher manufacturers. Many will see up to 50 percent of their annual sales and revenues sold right before Passover.
Today you can find kosher for Passover products in almost every food category. From baby food to ice cream, many manufacturers want to produce a kosher for Passover line. The OU Kosher hotline rings off the hook during the Passover season with an increase in questions. Our Passover and Communications departments work for months to get the Passover directory ready in time for the day after Purim. To many, the OU Passover Guide is a blessing they could not live without.
It’s usually around the last week before Passover that I remember to set aside some “me” time, to reward myself for all my hard work. Sometimes I will buy myself something new to wear, and other times all I need is a walk outside to get some air and clear my head. Two days before the holiday I try to get some much needed rest and relaxation so that I can enjoy the festivities of the Seder. With all the work demanded on Passover preparation, nothing is more important than arriving rested, calm, happy and in good cheer.
Finally, it’s time to set the stage for the Seder. I set the table the night before and make it as festive as possible. Our Passover dishes always look so new, even though many of the pieces have been passed down through the family over generations. My grandchildren love to help at this stage. Preparing the Seder plate with the six symbolic items bring their Passover lessons to life. During the Seder itself, we make sure there are opportunities for the children to participate and share everything they’ve learned in school.
Spending Passover with family and friends is the best part of the holiday. These are the moments I treasure that make all the hard work worthwhile. Chag Sameach!
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