Passover is an interesting holiday. It’s one where traditions and customs really seem to come to the forefront in a way they don’t always the rest of the year. From how stringent each family is about their cleaning and prep to what they will and won’t eat on the holiday, there is so much variation, even among Orthodox Jews.
My husband comes from a Lubavitch family, which, for us, means that we try to follow Lubavitch minhagim, or customs, particularly on major holidays. So, that means that our Passover preparations and menus are even stricter than many other Orthodox Jews. For years, I cooked according to more mainstream Ashkenazic customs for Passover. Our Rabbis didn’t really mind and encouraged us to make the holiday easy for ourselves since his obligation was questionable and the rest of the family’s obligation was non-existent. While this did mean that I had to still do a lot of cooking, it wasn’t so difficult because there is actually a lot you can do with matzah and there are a ton of recipes out there.
Last year, though, we decided to take the step of no longer eating gebrokts, which is really anything that involves soaking matzah to kind of simulate bread or pasta. We do eat it on the last day of Passover, but the rest of the holiday, we do not. We also peel most vegetables and don’t use many spices.
We’re probably crazy for taking it on before we have to, but I wanted to have some practice with it and some good recipes up my sleeve for the day when it’s all for real, so there we are.
What I found last year was that almond chocolate chip passover cookies really are the bomb and that limiting my ingredients this much really made me appreciate even more how much I normally have to work with, even in Alaska. We still ate well and healthy and you can pretty much do anything for a week. That final day I don’t think I’ve had anything as wonderful as the matzah lasagna we could finally have and it was nice to ease back into eating all our usual foods that way.
This year, I have a few more recipes to try, but I like that doing Passover this way is such a big change from how we eat the rest of the year. We really get to eat simply, with very basic recipes and ingredients and it is a time to step back a bit and think about all the deeper themes of Passover. I love how Jewish holidays are an immersive experience and how the food of our holidays connects us to every other aspect.
Now if only I could find the same inspiration in cleaning out my cupboards!