The Pesach cook must also be part plumber… and magician… and archivist.
Magician to prepare an entire week’s worth of meals from scratch. Even the most accomplished chef sometimes reaches for the Trader Joe’s crunchy tilapia. But not this week.
Archivist because the seder wouldn’t be the same without the exact apple kugel we eat every year. And three kinds of charoset. And one green vegetable. And apricot squares. How many preschool afikomen holders can one family use? How many cups for Elijah? How many decorative seder plates? We have them all, ready to adorn the seder table yet again.
Plumber for when the cook (that would be me) stuffs too many carrot peels down the garbage disposal. You know how the water makes a whirlpool in the sink but doesn’t go anywhere?I have been down this road before. Usually it’s because of green beans. I am an impatient sink stuffer. I know I should compost more. It’s just that the compost bucket is upstairs, and I was cooking in the basement. And, well, you know how it is when you’re preparing three dishes at once – peeling onions and cracking eggs and slicing apples and throwing all the bits and pieces in the sink.
And then you finally flip the disposal switch, and everything’s going great … until it’s not.
Step one: Wait and hope.
Step two: Turn on the disposal again.
Step three: Sink plunger.
Step four (and WHY must we always get to step four???) Unscrew the PVC pipes under the sink. Don’t forget to put a bucket or a soup pot under there. The water does eventually have to go somewhere.
After much mopping and twisting and panicked searching for a missing piece of pipe, I got the sink under control. The carrot dish was in the oven; I was cleaning up. And I got to thinking about my Aunt Debbie and the time we cooked together in my basement kitchen.
I had wanted a Pesach kitchen for most of my adult life. Of all the things I have wished for, this is the one that has exceeded my dreams. I can start cooking two weeks before Passover; I can leave the sink full of dishes; I can store all my holiday pots and pans in the cupboards instead of lugging them up and down the stairs. For a person who takes “Kosher for Passover” pretty darn seriously, a spare kitchen is an unthinkable luxury. In general, I am pretty low on luxury, but this room is one indulgence I never regret.
The year my aunt and I cooked together, the kitchen didn’t have a tile floor; the ceiling wasn’t finished; but the counters were in, and all the appliances worked. She baked for three days from handwritten recipes she’d carried with her from Florida. I’m fairly certain apple kugel was on the menu.
We only cooked for Pesach together that one time. There were too many reasons why not in the years that followed. And then her health declined, and travel became too challenging.
My aunt died almost a year ago, and I miss her. She gave me my first taste of herbal tea – Celestial Seasonings cinnamon apple – and told me I was beautiful even when I didn’t feel it. She took me shopping and out for lunch – salads and black bean soup and usually dessert. We walked barefoot along Clearwater Beach, where I once found an intact sand dollar.
I doubt she ever fixed her own sink. But magician and archivist?
Most certainly yes.