Passover is (finally) over and that means that…it’s time to start preparing for next Passover.
Okay, now before you kill me for saying that, I just mean that now is the time to evaluate how your food prep held up this year, so you’ll be able to ensure that you’re better prepared next year.
As you’re putting away your Passover pots and pan, or simply throwing out half-used boxes of matzah farfel, here are some questions to jot down answers to. Email the answers to yourself, or put them in a google doc, and you’ll be able to plan next year with the full knowledge that came with this year’s celebration.
What was your shopping list this year? And what were your seder menus?
This will help you get a baseline of what you were shopping for, and how much you got. If you happened to keep receipts and know how much you spent, that is also helpful to know (and I commend you for being way more organized than I was).
What did you have left over at the end of the holiday? This will help you gauge if you need to buy less of something next year. I also personally feel fine saving, say, an unopened box of matzah meal, for next year. My mother was notorious for saving Pesach spices over decades, which I don’t personally plan to do, but it’s an option.
What was the best thing you made or ate this Pesach? Perhaps it was an old classic, that you make and love every year, or maybe it was something new or recently tweaked. For me, it was this no-bake chocolate mousse cake made with avocado. It’s pareve (vegan, even) and devastatingly delicious. I made it twice over Pesach, and the second time I added a teaspoon of cinnamon, which I highly recommend.
This brings me to What adaptations did you make to recipes, and how did they turn out? Besides the cinnamon to the cake, my friend Andrea and I did some major revamping of a stuffed onion recipe, and the results were fantastic. Thankfully, Andrea wrote up what she did after the seders and emailed it to me so that we can use it to go off of next year. I also remembered to write down that while making my aunt’s frozen mousse cake, there is a part where the batter starts to seize up, and while this is terrifying while it happens, it has no negative ramifications on the way the cake actually comes out.
What did you make that’s not worth making next year? Might as well cull the menu now, when you remember how disappointing that kugel was.
What kitchen utensils, pots or pans would you like to have for next year? Since this was my first year making Passover by myself, I bought a whole set of dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. I was thrilled with everything, but wish I had thought to get a colander, a rubber spatula, and a few wooden spoons. I’ve already added them to my shopping lists for next year, and can be on the lookout for those items at sales.
What are some recipes that you didn’t get a chance to try, but would like to try for next year? Did you not get a chance to try everything on our communal seder menu? Collect recipes and links in one place so you know where to start looking next year.
With all that done, and your dishes packed away, you can leave Pesach behind―for about another 10 months, before next year’s Pesach frenzy begins.
There has been a lot of talk about kashrut lately. And while some of it has been related to foods actually being certified kosher, a lot of it is simply about whether food is or isn’t fit for consumption.
There’s still a lot of talk lingering from the big news that New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, ever on an anti-obesity crusade, wants to ban supersized soft drinks in the city, meaning drinks that are more than 16 ounces. One of the key arguments–beyond the health implications of these drinks–is that it’s really hard to tell just how much you are consuming and that’s completely intentional. (I recommend the accompanying quiz to prove it.) In other words, New York’s near future may involve a world in which soft drinks are no longer “kosher.”
On Monday, fish markets and grocery stores were selling something new (sort of). For the first time since the March 2011 tsunami that turned into a nuclear disaster, fish caught in the region were available for purchase–in this case octopus and a type of snail, so not kosher, strictly speaking. But, after extensive testing, these fish were determined free of radiation and thus fit for consumption. Other fish, of the more kosher variety, are expected to be available soon, but there are still concerns about radiation.
And, of course, there was the big fuss last week over Hebrew National Hot Dogs, which are actually labeled kosher, but, apparently, are not. As it turns out, ConAgra employees who process the meat have been complaining that the meat involved doesn’t actually meet kosher standards. Now Hebrew National’s new “higher authority” is a federal court in Minnesota where the company is being tried for misleading customers and misrepresenting their product. So even food that we think is fit to eat, might not be kosher.
Like so many kosher cooks around the country, you have probably recently wondered if there is pink slime, the ammonia-treated-meat-scrap-mixture found in most ground beef, in kosher meat. Well I have good news and I have bad news. The good news: according to the Orthodox Union, there is no pink slime in any product they have certified. The bad news? There’s almost certainly other stuff – worse stuff – in your kosher burger.
In a food animal’s life, the rules of Kashrut don’t kick in until slaughtering time. That means that until reaching the shohet’s knife, there is no difference between the cow in a Glatt Kosher OU burger and the cow in a McDonald’s Big Mac. (In fact, sometimes they are the exact same cow, as Rabbi Mandel at the OU told me – kosher meat producers routinely sell hindquarters to non-kosher processors.) A kosher label, therefore, doesn’t tell you anything about what happened to the cow while it was alive, including whether it was fed antibiotics and/or pumped with growth hormones. But even though this information is not in your kosher seal, it has strong implications for what’s in your food.
By adding antibiotics to the feed of every single animal on a factory farm, companies are able to inoculate animals living in extreme crowding and filth from infectious diseases that would otherwise wipe out entire herds. (Picture the Black Plague in Europe, only it’s e. coli on a feedlot.) Further, through the use of growth hormones, cows can reach unnaturally large sizes in very short periods of time. When you eat a burger – even a kosher one – you are ingesting those hormones and antibiotics (not to mention more highly evolved versions of the bacteria the antibiotics were meant to kill).
Unlike pink slime, which has no known negative health effects, the introduction of massive amounts of antibiotics and hormones into our food supply is extremely dangerous. Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to healthy farm animals in doses high enough to protect the animals from most infectious diseases but low enough to allow for the survival and then breeding of “superbugs.” According to the World Health Organization, we are nearing a “post-antibiotic era” in which these highly evolved microorganisms are completely resistant to our antibiotics. (Though with any luck, a recent court ruling ordering the FDA to investigate the effects of these practices may end them.) The use of hormones is no safer. After finding evidence linking hormone use to cancer, Europe banned the practice in 1989, but it is still an industry norm in the U.S. These problems are not just limited to beef: recent studies found that arsenic, anti-depressants, and painkillers are being fed to chickens.
But don’t worry. I am not about to tell you to become a vegetarian. Hazon, a Jewish organization dedicated to sustainability, has put together a great list of kosher meat producers that raise animals on natural diets without the use of antibiotics or hormones. Try it once and you’ll be hooked – not only is the meat healthier for you and more ethically and naturally-raised, it tastes better too.