This month people are celebrating Passover, Easter and Ramadan in what is, in effect, social quarantine. And for better or for ill, it means new memories and new traditions will be born of this time.
Our memories of holidays past can bring some comfort, even if holidays are not in our own faith traditions. We bring you two tales, and invite you to share your own!
A Presbyterian, a Pandemic, and Passover, or Why I Made Matzo
by Mary Beth Ray
Matzo and I go way back. My first Passover dinner was in 1972 in New Orleans, when my friend Evelyn Fried invited me to celebrate with her family. Evelyn, who is Jewish, and I have been friends since we met at the Presbyterian nursery school, later to rekindle our friendship at St. Martin’s Episcopal School.
That Passover almost 50 years ago brings back fond memories, of friendship, family connection, matzo and other delicious foods, and a stray dog (more about that later).
In the decades since, we have attended other Passover dinners, and we’ve hosted our own Passovers with friends of all faiths. Was Jesus’s last supper a Passover meal? Scholars debate, but it seems to me like a good excuse for Christians and Jews to celebrate our common heritage. What a great opportunity to bring together people of all faiths, or no faith.
And then came the quarantine. With friends and family scattered all over the world, or even down the street, COVID-19 means that both Passover and Easter dinners will be taking place on Zoom this year. So it seemed like the perfect time not just to buy matzo, but to try making it. And fortunately, my favorite chef, Melissa Clark, published a recipe in the New York Times.
Baking is not my forte, and so let this be a word of encouragement: if I can make matzo, so can you! Any recipe with fewer than five ingredients catches my eye, especially when no fancy techniques or equipment are required. Having deep cleaned the kitchen about 50 times since house arrest began, the kitchen counter was ready for action. Regular flour, whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt, what could be easier?
Kneading the dough felt therapeutic, and frankly, so did vigorously stabbing the dough with a fork! My rolling pin skills are woefully out of practice, and so what should have been a thin, almost translucent circle of dough ended up being a pudgy rectangle.
Legend has it that matzo is made in 18 minutes, allowing the Jews time to bake and escape before the Egyptians arrived. Well, I went into overtime, and I certainly didn’t meet any kosher requirements, but the result was amazing. The aroma was like a warm hug- no social distancing required. And the final product – a satisfying, salty crunch and a reminder of simpler days with friends and family.
Oh, and about that stray dog at Evelyn’s house. When the time came to open the door for Elijah to enter, a curious dog wandered in. Finding humor and an extra place at the table seem like good thoughts for our holidays this year – and don’t forget the matzo!
A Special Easter Egg, or Why I’m Dyeing Eggs This Easter
I have many special memories about Easter growing up in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and being the only Jewish kid in my class. There were the huge Easter baskets my sister, brother and I got when we visited an old army buddy of my father’s and his family. And my mother loved to watch the Easter parade on Sunday morning from our balcony as everyone walked to one of the four or five churches within a block or two from our house. Every year I got excited about the parade, having forgotten that is was about watching what people were wearing. I was not the least bit interested, but every spring, hope sprang eternal.
I particularly looked forward to decorating Easter eggs. In third grade, we were going to paint Easter eggs in class. But to my great disappointment, I woke up sick that day and missed it. At the end of the day my mother went to school under the pretext of picking up my homework. She came home and presented me with the most beautifully painted Easter egg that my teacher had made for me. It was bright blue with swirls of many other colors. I kept that egg for a long time. I think my mother threw it out when it started to stink up my room.
With these memories swirling around and given our lockdown, I went to search for some good ideas for decorating eggs. This method – using Cool Whip and food dye – looks like fun. Here are tips on preparing boiled eggs for decorating.
Or you can keep your decorated eggs for posterity by blowing the raw egg from the shell. There are a variety of techniques, but this seems the simplest of the YouTube videos I watched. But I will use a push pin like I saw in another video.
I am off to buy eggs and food coloring with my mask and gloves. If you have any other tips, let me know. I will let you know how everything turns out.
If you want to send photos of your decorated eggs, please do (firstname.lastname@example.org, or tag @foresthillsnews on Twitter). And we will put on a parade of Easter eggs.
And here’s our first reader submission! These are beautiful, don’t you think?