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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Clean Countertops and Other Traditions

Once a year we have clean and empty countertops. That occurs every year on the eve of Passover. This year it had to happen a day in advance because Shabbat precedes Passover this year. Wow, clean countertops, indeed a sight to behold!

Some of you probably have clean countertops everyday, but I have to admit that mine are never quite so spotless, unless Passover is approaching.

There has always been a special feeling on the day before Passover; getting up at the crack of dawn and coming down to an empty kitchen. It always felt like a new beginning. I would enter the room, turn on the lights and set lots of eggs to boiling in my big black pot. Hard boiled eggs were a throwback to my parent's seder, which was actually a throwback to my father and his two brothers, Julius and George, to their seder in Europe before the war. After I finished setting the eggs in the water and hearing them jumble around as the water came to a boil, I would put the shank bone in the oven to roast, along with an egg. I always used the same dingy brownie pan from when we were first married. It was always the same. Doing the same thing each year gave stability to the holiday. It symbolized Passover to me as much as the Seder plate. Clean and clear counters, the sound of eggs boiling and the dingy little brownie pan roasting the shank bone, they were a reassuring constant. On a day that I knew was going to bring a lot of work and surprises, I felt organized on those early mornings!

A few other traditions on Erev Pesach that I'd like to share. I have never been big on burning chametz. I know that it is a break of the tradition, but I have never done it. Each year I take a walk to the local woods and discard the remainders of the chametz on the top of a hill in the woodsy park. When he was small, my youngest son used to take this walk with me. I can still see the dog park below us and wonder which animals would eat our chametz.

When the children still lived at home, and even more recently when the children had already married but were in and out of the house, I would make two things on the eve of Passover.

First of all, my mom's Passover rolls. Everyone has a recipe for Passover rolls. Some make them with a hole and call them bagels. Some people's rolls come out doughy (mine, for example) and some people's come out like popovers (my mom's). The rolls would be gone almost as soon as they emerged from the oven. I especially loved the taste of the dough after I had added all the sugar and oil to the matzah meal. It was really delicious and warm, but once I started to add all of the eggs, there was no more tasting! One more quick note, the raw dough of the rolls really reminded me of a cornmeal mush my father used to make as bait when he went fishing!

Another little tradition that I'd love to share here. Every Passover afternoon, after the rolls were finished and when it felt like there was nothing to eat in the house, I would make a recipe that my husband taught me, a recipe from Erev Pesach in Iran. We would take rice and saute' it with hamburger, onions, garlic and turmeric. All of those yummy ingredients together made such a delicious lunch. It was gobbled up by the kids and anyone else who happened to be in the kitchen and it made the kitchen, which by now was pretty messy, smell delicious. The smell of the rice and hamburger, the smell of soup cooking, choresht, brisket, too!

Another strong tradition to share and that is my husband each year preparing his Persian Charoset each year. He is an excellent chef and has a great sense of flavors. His delicious blend of dates, pomegranates which he had saved for months, roasted almonds and walnuts, made our kitchen smell delicious. The whirring of the blender as he worked his magic was very noisy and felt like it would go on forever. The results were delicious and a much coveted treat before, during and after the seders!

So, this little piece is not even about the traditions of the seder. It is only about that very special day, which is Erev Pesach. It is a magical day, a day of transitions. Perhaps as much as the seder itself, its memories are very strong and pungent like the taste of the charoset.

It's day of movement from one status to another. We all do it collectively and it has all of the messiness that goes with lots of people making a transition. The early morning quiet transitioning to the noise of the seder. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Even this year, despite the fact that we will not have lots of company and our children are still not coming into the house for the Passover holiday, these traditions still go on. It's funny how we build traditions. We probably don't even know that we building them, and then you look back and you see them so clearly. There they are, the smells, and the traditional foods and the memories. The kids are small, the kids are grown and then there are grandchildren in the house. Building memories, sharing memories.

We all have them; it's a good thing to pull them up and share them.

Do you have any memories of Erev Pesach that you can share with me?

Wishing all of you a sweet Pesach, full of built traditions and traditions that continue to be built.


Dedicated to my husband, my kids and my grandkids. You make life sweet.

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