My immediate family isn’t especially religious.
In a year, we celebrate only two of the Jewish holidays with any real fervor: Passover and Rosh Hashanah. And if you know Jewish holidays, you know there are a lot more of ‘em. Our celebrations tend to be more focused on the meal than on the ceremony. This is mostly because my childhood was filled with holidays spent with my religious family that dragged on and on until I was catatonic. Turns out my parents felt much the same.
As my mom has aged, she’s become less and less responsible for the meal, while my contributions have increased. So too the size and make up of our passovers has grown. It now includes a fun mishmash of 3 generations of our biological and chosen family, children, original spouses, new spouses and more. Somehow, our little 4 person nuclear unit turned into 20 in a good year, and there’s little that excites me more than seeing everyone together, eagerly anticipating some tasty food.
I’m not the only one who can and does cook though. My 2 chosen sisters are great in the kitchen. Though they live 300 kilometers from Toronto, they still manage to bring trays and trays of tasty sweet and savory things to each meal to round out the already heaving spread.
My mom still always makes a couple of things, particularly her favorites. This always includes a chicken soup, which she’s managed to make even in her worst health years.
“Gabika, does my soup taste ok?” She asks in her thick Hungarian accent, adding, “does it need more salt?” I don’t know why it’s always salt she’s worried about, but that’s the way the soup mandeln crumble, I guess.
Beyond this, she loves to contribute some specific odds and ends. On Passover, this means matzo balls for the soup and her famous matzo buns which — until the advent of Keto baking — were the closest you could get to bread on this lowest fiber of holidays. For both Rosh and Passover she always makes schnitzels for my niece and nephews (and everyone else…who doesn’t love fried chicken?). Invariably, she’ll also make a couple of sugar-free desserts for the diabetics — of which she is not one.
As the demands on me to cook for the holidays have grown year by year, I’ve pressed others into service…