Passover begins Monday night with the first of two seders. Because of my work schedule, I can’t host the seders this year. My ex-husband has generously offered to host in his house for the first time.
How? What? Why? Seriously?!
My ex and I decided even before our divorce was publicly announced that we would put our kids’ needs first as much as humanly possible, which we decided meant including each other in holidays and family events as much as possible. As I discussed here last year, last Passover was the first Passover since my divorce, and my ex and his mom and my parents and my uncle and our kids all celebrated together.
In this past year, we have spent holidays such as Thanksgiving together (and with each other’s parents!), we have attended weddings together from respective sides of our families, and we have even done things like go to Disneyland with our kids (and my ex’s mom) and take them to their first movie together. It’s not always 100% comfortable, but as far as our kids are concerned, it is. They know we’re divorced, I promise. The whole two houses, two sets of sneakers, two toothbrushes, and shlepping toys and dolls and Hebrew homework back and forth makes it really clear that we are divorced.
But they also know they are part of a family, and that’s incredibly important to their psychological well-being in a divorce. Gwyneth Paltrow: you’ve got nothing on our conscious uncoupling!
My ex and I are dividing up the cooking, with my best friend who lives here in LA helping me with the more complicated recipes that I take pride in making. I have completed my shopping thanks to an exhaustive set of lists. Making the lists took about an hour and a half one evening last week. Here’s the list story.
I first write down the entire menu on one sheet of paper, using graph paper because a) graph paper is awesome and b) then everything can be lined up perfectly as you list stuff. Yes, I’m that person. I used color designations to indicate which recipes would be made by my ex, which my friend and I would make, and which things my mom and dad are responsible for bringing.
Recipe Ingredients List
I write down each recipe and its entire list of ingredients, noting which items I already have in my pantry that are usable for Passover.
The third list combines all of the recipes’ ingredients. This way, if I have five recipes calling for garlic, I only have garlic listed once on my master list which avoids errors and allows for some really fun math in the process. Sometimes I have to add the need for 3 1/2 cups of matzah meal with the need for 1/3 cup of matzah meal. It’s fun!
I organize my master list by supermarket department, with sections for Produce, Dry Goods, Pantry Items, and Miscellany, if needed. I also add to the master list Passover staples I need that are not part of the recipes such as Russian dressing (great on quinoa for small people every day of Passover!), jam, pareve margarine, almond milk (which I used to make from scratch before it was made kosher for Passover), and various chocolate covered nuts and fruits which I dole out to my kids throughout the long eight days of not eating out, not eating grains, not eating kitniyot (such as corn, beans, and rice), and just really basically eating unprocessed foods for eight straight days which for adults is amazing but can be hard for small people, hence the chocolate covered goodies.
I go to the kosher supermarket first, and then fill in the missing items at larger supermarkets and sometimes smaller ones, too, since the tiny quaint French Moroccan kosher market seems to be the only place I can reliably get frozen artichoke hearts. I am the lady at the market with a highlighter and a clipboard. My sons help put things in the cart and make executive decisions such as which gummy fruit product do we get (we went for jungle animals) and which jam to get (“Mama, we are getting strawberry and that’s the end of that discussion,” said Firstborn as he cradled the jar. The only jam I stock in our house is the plum jam I make and jar every summer since I don’t like corn syrup in jam–ugh, I totally just sounded like Gwyneth Paltrow…sorry!).
As for planning the cleaning for Passover, I use tiny post-its on a hand-made calendar and I place the post-its on the day I plan to do various cleaning jobs such as: Oven, Fridge, Cover Counters, and such. If I have more time and energy and accomplish a task a day early, I move the post-it to show me I did it on that day. I also make tiny post-its for all of the preparatory steps needed for my cooking, placing them on the days they belong on. For example, I need to boil beets for my beet relish and for the seder plate (vegans can use a beet instead of the lamb shank bone). I can boil the beets Friday and make the relish Sunday, but I have a post-it that says “boil beets” placed on Friday so I know to do it then.
It feels so good to be organized this way, if you are the kind of person for whom organization feels good. My mom was a list-maker and I am a list-maker and yes, sometimes I write things down so that I can cross them off and it feels good. It’s not yet a DSM-V designation (the DSM-V is the diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders), and it makes me feel satisfied and safe to have everything laid out and planned this way. Some people like TV. I don’t. Some people like drinking beer in loud bars and grinding up against people they don’t know in the name of “dancing.” Also not my thing. Some people like manicures. Me? I’d rather have my nails permanently removed than sit in a manicurist’s chair even once a month. Some people thought the new “Captain America” was perfect. Chris Evans? Perfect. The movie? I’m still on the fence.
But lists and charts and graph paper and highlighters and a sturdy ruler to underline recipe titles and create order in a world of chaos?
I said it before, Gwyneth: You’ve got nothing on me! Except when we talk about jam. Because when we talk about jam, I’m the most goopy person ever.