Every year I have to face it: Since we don’t eat any chametz for the eight days of Passover, excursions with the kids over Passover break are a challenge. The usual purveyors of sustenance along the way are off limits. There’s no lunching at the Corner Bakery while visiting the Field Museum, no picking up snacks at concession stands. Even stopping at Starbucks becomes an exercise in resisting the temptations of the pastry vitrine.
Instead, over Passover, a successful outing means taking our own food along, but it also means rethinking that enterprise, too: No sandwiches, no hot dogs.
Late last week, when I asked my kids what they wanted to do over Passover, my daughter blurted out, “We have to do our traditional picnic!”
“Our traditional picnic?” I wasn’t aware we had one.
“We have to go out to Indiana and have a picnic with Mom’s potato-egg salad and beef patties and hazelnut cake!”
Aha! Sure enough, in years past, my solution to the Passover doldrums and the temptations found at regular attractions was to take the kids outside, either on a hike in the Indiana Dunes, or later to “Indiana,” when we bought our country property (no house on it, though, just to hang out). To feed everyone, I would schlep along the cooler with the above-listed makings of lunch.
This habit of mine must have morphed into “tradition” thanks the one time we invited more observant friends along on a Chol Hamoed (intermittent days of Passover) outing.
“How are you going to feed everybody?” my husband worried.
“I’ll bring everything along, don’t worry,” I countered.
I did bring everything along (see list below), except I forgot one thing! We were all situated comfortably on picnic blankets (Passover in the Midwest will usually yield at least one warmer, dry spring day), when I discovered I’d forgotten the paper plates.
“Let’s use matzah for plates!” one of our friends suggested.
Thankfully, I did bring along two boxes of matzah, and given its stiffness, it can be used as a plate. Our crowd of ten ended up piling potato and fruit salad on the bread of affliction, while skewering beef patties on forks, laughing all along.
We still laugh about it when we see our friends. It became a memorable meal precisely because it ended up being makeshift, in spite of all my preparations. It was, in fact, true to the spirit of Passover: Eating out in the open, making do on the go.
Here’s how to make it for a crowd:
2 yellow medium-sized potatoes per person
1 hard-boiled egg per person, peeled
At least one big yellow onion, chopped into tiny bits
At least six kosher dill pickles, chopped into tiny bits
(if you use more than ten potatoes, add more onion and pickle)
A big bunch of curly parsley, chopped
Pareve, kosher-for-Passover mayonnaise to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Planning for this salad means boiling the potatoes (you can leave the skins on if they are thin) and eggs in advance and letting them cool off completely. Putting the actual salad together is rather quick: Dice the potatoes and eggs and mix them in a big bowl with the onion and pickle bits. Add dollops of mayonnaise until the salad pieces start sticking together (don’t add too much or it will get soggy). Stir in the parsley and then salt and pepper to taste. The salad can be eaten right away but is better when it has sat for a while, even better yet if you make it the day before and keep it in the fridge.
Kosher-for-Passover Beef Patties
Family pack of ground beef
One big yellow onion, finely chopped
Four cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
½ cup matzo meal
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Knead all ingredients into a loose batter. With wet hands, form patties, about 3-4 inches in diameter and fry them in a non-stick pan until done. They keep well in the fridge and can be warmed up or eaten cold.
Mix bits of whatever season’s fruit you have together, adding some lemon juice so fruit doesn’t brown.
Add some honey for taste and some chopped walnuts for bite.
This is my grandmother’s famed recipe, easily made, transports and keeps well.
In addition to food, don’t forget:
Knives, forks, spoons
Utensils for serving food
Mustards, mayonnaise, ketchup (all kosher for Passover)
Blankets or chairs