With Purim over and the kitchen and dining room littered with the refuse and junk food from mishloach manot, it is time to think about Pesach.
Every year I look for ways to simplify the process, use less aluminum foil, and pack away fewer items. Making aliyah has changed much of how I do things (fresher, more appetizing Pesach food available, fewer days of Yom Tov, and less storage space), but I continue to look for ways to increase my efficiency.
Here are a few things I’ve come up with:
1. Don’t combine spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning. I know it’s tempting, but unless you start really early, the price in burnout is just too high. My neighbor says she tidies and cleans gradually over the month or two in advance and just needs to touch up things a bit before Pesach. I muck out the fridge a week before Pesach while the kids are still in school so I only have to give it a quick wipe before unpacking Pesach food. If you’re getting a late start on Pesach prep, let go of the things that can wait until after the holiday. It’s more important to enjoy Pesach than to have a sparkling house. (Let the dust and dirt remind you of the desert which was Bnei Yisrael’s home for 40 years.)
2. Minimize what you store for Pesach. The only Pesach dishes I keep are my formal meat dishes and my grandmother’s glass goblets for the seder. If I’m not hosting a seder, I don’t unpack them. (This makes years when we host a seder all the more special). I keep cutlery for meat and dairy and a box of everyday glasses (a wedding gift), but that’s it. We use disposable the rest of the time, using the same plate for breakfast and lunch (which usually just accumulates matzah crumbs), and a clean one for dinner.
3. Keep menus simple. I’ve been working to reduce the number vessels and utensils I store from year to year. The more elaborately you cook, the more stuff you have to store, so think of Pesach as a time to eliminate fanciful food and cook with the simplest ingredients (fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables for soups and salads, eggs, simply cooked meat and fish). I’ve stopped kashering my KitchenAid mixer and only keep a hand mixer, just in case. Since Purim involves so many sweets and I find Pesach desserts uninspiring (too many eggs, too much beating, too much matzah meal), I have stopped making desserts except my friend Heather’s farfel clusters (recipe below). Did our ancestors stand there beating egg whites for half an hour for macaroons? I think not. Figure out what you REALLY need to eat during the holiday and just keep equipment for that.
4. Keep Pesach special. I know no one bakes desserts with matzah meal during the year, but reserve some tasty recipes just for Pesach so it is something to look forward to. The Cap’n and I love matzah brei, and the kids love having their first fruit juice pops of the season in the special molds I keep for Pesach.
5. Don’t move. Stay in the same house. This makes it much easier to develop a routine with Pesach things stored in the same place and a kashering method that works quickly and efficiently. (Also, don’t get pregnant, don’t get sick, and don’t be in graduate school. These all interfere with Pesach preparation and should be avoided.)
As promised, here are Heather’s Farfel Clusters (via her mother-in-law; with two or three ingredients, how can you go wrong?): Melt 12 ounces (350 grams) of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a double-boiler. (I use a pyrex dish inside a saucepan of water on low heat. Don’t heat it too fast or the chocolate will burn.) Stir in one cup of farfel (lightly toasted in the oven) and 1 cup of nuts or raisins (optional). Drop by teaspoonfuls onto foil or wax paper and refrigerate until firm. Store in a zippered bag in the refrigerator or a cool place.
I am always looking for new ways to eliminate fuss at Pesach. What do you do to minimize Pesach prep fatigue?