| From My Table |

From my Table: Pesach 5783

Preparing for Pesach is always exciting for me, but it was especially exciting when I was seven or eight or nine, and baking became my babysitter. Now that my own kids’ baking is a regular occurrence in my life, I can picture the scene even more clearly. I wouldn’t just find the first nut cookie recipe or brownie in the cookbook. Part of the process was finding something that was a little interesting, different enough to be cooler than an ordinary chocolate chip cookie.

I remember taking down recipes from friends over the phone, stretching the phone cord to the kitchen table, and filling an entire sheet of loose-leaf paper, front and back. Then for some reason my mother believed in me and let me actually execute the baking, at an age far younger than I would allow my kids to do it today.

The catch was that (back then, as now!) I used artistic license in the kitchen, and just a bit more potato starch or just a few degrees off in the oven or just a missing egg was totally fine. I’m sure there were some things that came out okay, but the strongest memory by far is the flattened blondie with the one-inch gel-like layer on the bottom. (I don’t know if any of my creations ever made it to the table, which is why I referred to this activity as my babysitter!)

These days, there’s a common word we try to avoid in my house, and that is Just.

I almost always finish cooking on Fridays with plenty of time to exit the kitchen a few hours before Shabbos, but I never do. Because even if my cooking is done, I Just put up a quick pot of whatever or Just prepare an extra dressing. And so, Just is not Just anymore, it’s hours and hours of extra time in the kitchen.

This word also makes an appearance when we minimize our cooking post facto: This chicken is delicious! What did you do? I Just threw in a bunch of onions… In reality, I didn’t just throw together a salad. Or just quickly make up a recipe for pulled beef. Because even if each of these actions only took a few minutes, the bundled endeavor is the furthest thing from Just, and dubbing it as Just is circumspect and unhelpful.

Every year we aim to be helpful to your cooking process, and we give all kinds of options and variations to our recipes. Sometimes I get feedback from readers after Pesach that they didn’t make a certain recipe because it had some ingredients they don’t use, and I always think, Just substitute it. Just leave it out. Why are you passing up a great dish? But maybe those people have a better relationship with Just than I do.

There are countless things that can be assembled quickly at the eleventh hour this Erev Pesach. Or even in the hours when we’ve finished our cooking, and we can be relaxing with a well-deserved coffee. The Justs all add up to time we can’t reclaim, and in the bigger scheme of things, we can almost always agree that we survived and thrived without the Just addition to the meal.

My hope is that we can hold ourselves back from all the Justs, so that we can be more present and available to enjoy the rich and invaluable experience around us this Pesach.

Wishing you a chag kosher v’samei’ach,

Food Editor, Family Table
Editor in Chief, Kosher.com


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 835)

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