Flour Power: Creative Cleaning for Passover
The gates are open! They’re off!
Once again, the annual Pesach cleaning competition has begun and, in my humble Jerusalem neighborhood, the Title Bout has never been fiercer. The first gal to declare her home hametzrhein will be declared the winner of annual “My Home is More Kosher Than Yours” contest and find herself eligible for prizes and a possible guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The relentless thumping on an upstairs balcony indicates that Mrs. Pitusi has found a crumb in her Persian rug. And the public hallways of my humble Jerusalem abode are crowded with plastic chairs, groaning under the contents of entire kitchens. A painful, arid odor of Economica wafts through the hallways as I risk life and limb taking out the garbage.
Many women find themselves overly stressed during this season but with careful planning and a simple attitude adjustment, one can enter the Festival of Freedom with a relaxed approach and truly enjoy the holiday.
Remember, nowhere is it written that a woman has to be the Pascal sacrifice!
In our home, this in-between period is merrily referred to as “The Month of Strange Meals.”
Our pantry is empty during most of the year except for rice cakes and mistakenly purchased bottles of food coloring. And yet, already two weeks after Purim, the larder is lined with seven unopened bags of white flour. This may have something to do with the hamentaschen I was going to bake for anonymous soldiers or the individual challah loaves I was planning to distribute among the needy.
After astutely evaluating the hametz situation, both the facts-on-the-ground and the calendar suggest that it is again time for Andrea’s Pre-Pessah Menu Planning and Sneaky Inclusion of Hametz in Every Mouthful.
“Hey, Mom, this orange juice has brown lumps in it. I think it’s rotten,” shouts a disobedient child.
“Must be the extra-pulp,” I call back, fingers crossed.
“Get real, Mom,” comes the retort. “It’s almost Pessah. What did you put in the juice?”
“Oh, Ariel,” I sweetly explain, “I was worried that you weren’t getting enough roughage. I just added a bit of Grape Nuts to the drink. Don’t make a big deal about it. It’s good for you . . .”
Vegetable lasagna has always been a favorite supper, but this week I’m adding an interesting twist to our old standby. New name? “Raisin Bran Lasagna Surprise.” Accompanied with a colorful tossed salad and fresh fruit juice (don’t forget to fling-in any remaining Grape Nuts), hardly anyone will notice the crunchy difference — especially if you drown it in homemade tomato sauce.
Boiled semolina pasted together with mayonnaise and seasoned according to taste makes a delightful sandwich filling.
Any parve breakfast cereal – American or Israeli brands work equally well – – can be lobbed into the food processor with leftover marshmallows and used as a delicious stuffing for veal or Cornish game hens. (Ashkenazim should consult their rabbis in matters of kitniot.)
And my personal pre-Pessah favorite? Crushed chocolate wafers sprinkled over a bed of crisp lettuce. This makes a delectable side dish for a kasha-varnishkes soufflé. (Trust me on this one. Guests really take notice and will talk about the meal for years to come.)
A well-kept secret for thousands of years, hametz is finally re-emerging – – at least in my home – – as the ultimate inexpensive beauty aid. No longer are we spending our hard-earned shekels on Anti-Semitic European face powder. A damp sponge dipped in vanilla cake mix will keep pale-skinned women looking young and shine-free for hours. Mocha-flavored mixes do equally well for my ethnically mixed daughters.
Applying whole-wheat flour to damp underarms becomes a pleasant task when using a large powder puff. For those of you really drowning in leavened foodstuffs, the same powder can be applied with a slice of soft rye bread or not-yet-stale challah roll.
In the month before we celebrate our liberation from Egypt, everyone in my home is commanded to take at least two oatmeal baths per week. Although The Encyclopedia of Home Remedies suggests one cup of oatmeal per full tub of tepid water, everyone can sport smooth skin and resolve the spare-hametz crisis.
“No way am I getting into that tub, Mom,” whines a particularly ornery child.
“What’s the matter with it?” I ask, concerned.
“It’s good for you!” I answer. “We really want to tackle those skin allergies, now don’t we? Everyone uses a kilo of oatmeal in the beauty baths these days. Everyone who wants to look really good, that is!”
Still skeptical, the towel drops to the floor and she enters.
“Ouch! I think there’s sand in the tub!” she cries.
“Oh, you silly goose,” I playfully answer. “Don’t you know that couscous is the latest discovery for calloused feet?”
I’m still not up to boiling silverware, but with steady planning and a happy heart, my home should be kosher-for-Passover sometime in early June.
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