I confess – I dread Pesach cleaning

Even if you think you’ve eliminated every crumb there’s room for failure


Angela Epstein's hard at work with the hoover

April 10, 2024 11:46

I’m crouching on the floor, one arm curled over my head, the other stretched out to snapping point. I haven’t signed up for the latest form of Pilates (“guaranteed to give you the body you deserve”) and neither am I engaged in adult practices rarely reported in a family newspaper.

Both those things are infinitely preferable to what I am doing, though: Pesach cleaning.

It’s really not fun squatting in our utility room trying to probe the darkest corners of various cupboards to wake pots and pans from sticky hibernation and then scrub the grime and, eek, cobwebs left in their wake.

Begone those women who are so organised they started scouring their Pesach drawers before the end of 12th night. Begone too the optimists who merrily mitigate the awfulness of the annual Passover sluice down by maintaining it’s an opportunity for some spring cleaning. Every year, I dread turning the house inside out to expunge any trace of chametz.

Even when you think you’ve got every bit of bread covered, there remains much scope for failure. I recall the time I pulled the keys from my coat as we were leaving a friend’s house after a lovely Pesach meal and a half-chewed Penguin (biscuit not bird) fell on the floor. The memory of my hostess shrinking in horror at the chametz I’d brought into her home will stay with me for a long time.

Look, I understand the need to do all this. If we don’t do the cleaning properly, we add more and more water to the glass of juice. As the colour and taste disappear, we forget the flavour. I know it is important not to dilute our religious traditions.

But boy is it so stressful, not least because of the timings involved. Instead of spreading the jobs over several weeks, the need to “change over” means a lot of the heavy lifting is done in a matter of days. The other night my freezer, sulking from neglect, took all night to defrost. The ice was so thick I almost expected to find a navigationally challenged polar bear loitering amongst the five – five! – bags of frozen peas. (I don’t even like peas).

What’s more, very few Pesach jobs can be delegated, though special mention must go to Ian, the lovely chap who came to clean the oven. With patience and grace he scraped away at bygone spillages and rogue flakes of carbonated chicken – I’m not a great cook - until it was shpiggling.

Other tasks are frankly too embarrassing to pass on to others, not least of which is pulling out the marital bed. It’s crazy because I never eat between the sheets. We aren’t talking 50 shades of grey here, more 50 shades of oy vey.

Want to know what lurked beneath the base of our bed? One plastic glove, a yellowing copy of the Daily Mail, tons and tons of ear plugs and a CD of songs from the musicals, that’s what.

The irony of course is that Pesach is a celebration of our freedom. It’s a difficult notion to cling to when preparing for it makes you wonder if life might have easier back in Egypt.

And yet when I`m on my knees, ready to hurl an overpriced tin of crushed tomatoes at anyone who dares speak, I give myself pause. Because once yom tov begins and under the soft flicker of candle light we gather round the Seder table, I know the hard labour, aching joints and paper dry hands will have all been worth it.

OK, Pilates really was never this much fun.

April 10, 2024 11:46

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive