A small purple wire bound notebook sits on my shelf. It’s from Israel which I know, not just from the tiny Hebrew characters on the front cover, but because the wire binding is on the right side of the book. I use it as my Passover book. As with so many of our ritual items for Passover it is especially dear to me because it is a hand me down. And I know you’ll agree that a great deal of the meaning and family memory with which we associate Passover is because of the family and friends at the table both physically and spiritually.
No matter how many people we have in eating our homes on Pesah, those homes are full because of the presence of so many loved ones. Your Bubbe’s dishes, your mother’s recipes, your father’s Kiddush cup, your best friend at the table. That’s how I feel about my Pesah notebook which belonged to a dear friend who began to use it to take notes for Pesah and was never able to finish the task.
So I continue it now. It has notes from lectures I attended on Pesah, but as the years have gone by, more than lecture notes what it contains are questions and answers. Thirteen years ago I started keeping track of the questions that you would ask me about Pesah. I didn’t start keeping track out of a desire to have a historical record. I started writing things down because I found that some questions came up year after year and it made my life easier to have the answer close at hand and sorry to say, the memory gets worse and worse each year.
What’s interesting to me is that essentially the same half dozen questions get asked every year, sometimes by the same half dozen people. And then what’s more interesting is that over thirteen years some of the answers have changed though the questions have remained the same.
Almost every single year someone asks me about mustard – variations on the, “Is it kosher for pesah?” “Does it need a KforP?” and “If it isn’t then why does my recipe call for it?”
Another question I get asked every year is about lactaid milk. God love the lactose intolerant Jews.
Recently, I’ve been asked every year about quinoa. I expect by now everyone knows about it, but in case you haven’t it is a seed that looks and tastes like a grain.
Really intriguing are the questions that only come up once or send me off to research a food product. Beginning with quinoa I could tell you all about food trends over the past 12 years – Agave nectar, Natural peanut butter, loose tea, to name just a few.
What’s interesting about all this is the interplay between tradition and modernity. The devotion to both halakhic observance and family custom that is at the heart of Passover.