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Mar 29 2012

Passover, The Slacker Way

By at 2:40 pm

This is me preparing for Passover.

My friend Marjorie recently wondered if there was such a thing as Passover cooking for slackers. I wish. I overdo Passover so hard I always wind up ill before, during, and after the seders. Right now, just the thought that I must find, unfold, starch and iron the Florentine tablecloths makes me sweat. Forget about creating the haggadah and sorting plague toys and designing elaborate afikomen treasure hunts and oh, the deep cleaning supposedly going on for weeks beforehand. I realize seder prep needn’t be all or nothing, but I would love to hear about any time and trouble-saving tips that will save ME.

And then there is the cooking. If all I had to do was cook, I’d cook happy and calm. I’d don a vintage apron and stroll through ancient Sisterhood cookbooks, Joan Nathan, a few online posts, and then get sidetracked in Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. I’d sketch a graphic organizer of elaborate dishes tailored to the ages and preferences of each guest. And then I’d cook.

But real life demands real strategies. Here are a few. Please add more.

First, there is the issue of one or two seders. If you do two seders, a strategy is to keep one for the immediate family and keep one for the crowd. It works for me. Every year, after that first seder, I SERIOUSLY question the wisdom of this Diaspora workaround. Whoever made that the minhag (custom) did not iron the Florentine tablecloths.

1. Order. The easiest slacker seder would be an online order to a kosher caterer. Preferably an organic, green, and locavorian kosher caterer, but I sense I am moving away from slacker territory with these modifiers. Anyway, I’d open the containers, stack some compostable bamboo plates at one end of a table. Done.

2. Potluck. The next easiest would be to go potluck. In the past, I couldn’t even let guests bring salad because of the whole kosher thing. Can’t treif the house, heaven forbid, lest someone not feel comfortable eating here. Since then, I’ve realized if someone is that kosher, they aren’t going to eat here no matter what. Not unless I hand them an unopened bag of O-U potato chips. But, I still haven’t done potluck. Maybe, just maybe, I have control issues. Anyway, many of my guests are teenagers, and they aren’t likely to whip up a roasted vegetable medley between after-school lacrosse and kiddush.

3. Cooking. The next-easiest thing is hard. It is cooking. However, it is still slacker-worthy because it does not involve sauce to thicken, souffle to pray over or tricky timings with oven space and stovetop. Consider cooking things with three ingredients or less (I don’t count salt and pepper).

If there’s chicken, it’s bone-in, tossed in a foil pan with ketchup and Coke. If there’s salad, it’s cucumbers submerged in vinegar and sprinkled with sugar. If there’s a vegetable, it’s frozen green beans cooked for eternity in a giant pot. Dessert is chocolate-covered matzah and a chocolate seder plate straight from the box, and a tin of macaroons.

But, I still have to make soup. I can’t cut corners here, I just CAN’T. It must be from-scratch chicken stock with matzah balls made that day. Damn it. At least I can cook the stock weeks ahead and freeze it, theoretically.

And dessert. I simply must have our traditional potato starch brownies. However, these are easy, and I can bake them up to three days ahead as long as the foil is tight and the mice don’t find them.

Still, this is sort of slacker, right? You’ll probably gag at the thought of ketchup/Coke chicken and my overcooked green beans, but they sound good to me.

What sounds really good is the lovely ideal of MODERATION. Moderation in all things, yes? Do I really need to make my own haggadot and print 20 copies? Do I really need to draw a seder order chart and buy puffy frog stickers for the kids to mark off each section as we finish? Do I really need to hem the Egyptian loin-cloths? Yes, yes, and no. This is my version of moderation.

Any ideas for Three-Ingredient meat dishes and for vegetables that don’t involve cutting? Please share!

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