Emma Sass
Grateful to be Grateful

To Kitniy[n]ot?

So here’s my personal kitniyot dilemma.  Hear me out.

I have to preface this piece by saying that for the last 9 years – upon entering the state of blissful wededness (depending which day you ask) – I have been taken to a hotel for the entire week of Passover.  But there were 34 years prior to this, and during those years, special Pesach foods were quite a significant part of my 8-day festivities.

We grew up religious. That meant doing the whole house turnover before Pesach.  That meant hours upon hours of dad going to the loft and bringing down special plates and bowls etc., all the while as mum took them from him while in the kitchen conjuring up her latest culinary “surprise.”

I use the term surprise loosely.  You should know, my mum is an INCREDIBLE woman in soooo many ways.  But let’s be honest.  Baking isn’t her strong point. She tries, truly she does, but you know some people are into it and others aren’t.  She falls in the latter category somewhere.

Anyway, back in the day – and remember, I’m no spring chicken so we’re talking around 3 decades ago – there wasn’t all that much available that was kosher for Pesach. So we basically survived on what I came to know and love as “Pesach” foods.  This ranged from matza (that constipated) to dried fruit stew (that remedied that situation the other way) to my mum’s infamous cinnamon balls.

Now I gotta tell you. Much as I really do enjoy going to a hotel for an entire week, meals at the ready, there’s something so missing with the lack of my mum’s cinnamon balls. You see, together with the special white milchig bowls with strawberries on them, used just for Pesach, these cinnamon balls were everything about Pesach I knew and loved or hated.

Now granted they could also be used as a door stopper.  But that’s not the point.  My mum baked them and we were to eat them.  It was either that or the alternative – which in my day and age was a large bowlful of “nothing.”

Okay so fast forward 3 decades give or take.  I’m in the supermarket – not buying Pesach stuff you understand as I’m going away.  But I was eyeing the special Kosher for Pesach section. And now while I’ve been – over the last few years, since having kids really – a strong proponent of “oh please do me a favour; it’s kitniyot NOT chametz” brigade, something slightly disconcerting struck me as I glanced up and down that aisle.

And it was this.  As I went up the aisle of gluten free (and thus Kosher for Pesach) “pasta” I wouldn’t say I teared up exactly, but I had a vision of in a few years’ time when we do eventually make Pesach that one night on Chol Hamoed I’ll just say to the kids “so, who wants pasta tonight?” like I do EVERY SINGLE OTHER NIGHT during the year.

I know, I know, I’m showing my age and I’m sounding old, harping on about “the good old days” and I get that, I do, but I feel like I do still want my kids to seriously differentiate between Pesach and not only the rest of the year, but the rest of the chagim too.  There is something so significant and crucial about Pesach and its “surprising” food to the entire philosophy behind the meaning of Judaism. We are enslaved and we come out free.  We relive the Exodus as if it’s happening now.  And we live like we are avadim.

And to be honest, IMHO cracking one’s teeth on my mum’s cinnamon balls is a much more effective way to feel like a slave than having pasta for dinner on the second night of Chol Hamoed.

In the meantime, Next Year in Tel Aviv (Crowne Plaza).

About the Author
At 48 years old, Emma Sass is blessed to be the most content she has ever been.