Passover is the ultimate food holiday, from the essential symbolism of foods on the Seder plate to what we eat and don’t eat for these exceptional eight days of the year. And then there’s the fact that this is not a go-to-synagogue holiday, but observance takes place at a meal, imbuing our tables themselves with holiness.
During these last few days before the first Seder, Jews – mostly Jewish women, if we’re honest – from all levels of religious observance are usually making final tweaks to menus for the Seders and the rest of the week. The cooking is gaining speed and intensity, too, in preparation for the typically large gatherings of relatives, friends and even strangers who will come together to re-tell and celebrate the story of the liberation journey of the ancient Israelites.
But this year, as we are all too aware, is quite different.The reason for the holiday is, of course, the same as ever. We just have to go about it completely differently than we ever could have imagined. Instead of large gatherings, often with too many people squished into too small a space, we’ve got space with few people. Some of us are alone. Many of us are learning how to share Seders virtually. And when it comes to food, there are some very real challenges.
As we try to create special meals with what we have on hand, supplemented by few, if any, trips the grocery store, it might mean no traditional brisket, chicken soup with matzah balls or other Passover favorites. Horseradish or fresh parsley? Out of the question for many. Matzah meal, matzah ball mix, cake meal, potato starch, even matzah itself…all can be in short supply even if you do venture out.