Why is the middle and end of Pesach so much harder than the beginning?
Partly it’s the dismal choice left on the shelves of Manchester’s kosher food shops. Do you want lurid-coloured fromage frais, or crinkle-cut barbecue crisps that line the stomach like underlay beneath a laminate floor? Or, for the adventurous hostess, the tropically suggestive Hearts of Palm — cans of damp greens as exotic as breakfast in a Blackpool boarding house.
It’s not just the shopping that’s grim. At the beginning, we have the excitement and anticipation of Seder Night, at the end just the prospect of eating more stodgy apple cake for festive dessert.
And it doesn’t help that people who have the good fortune of spending Pesach somewhere warm seem to have nothing better to do than post pictures on social media.
I shouldn’t really grumble on this point since, thanks to my brother who lives in Israel, we have spent many happy, sunlit Passovers in the Holy Land. But I’m only human. I don’t need to see your holiday pictures while I’m panicking over entertaining the family during chol hamoed, and what they’ll eat when we do leave the house.
Cinema trips are especially miserable with that sweet, sweaty smell of popcorn assaulting the nostrils while the Jews graze on a packet of Snowcrest crisps.
And then there’s the fabled Pesach picnic. These can be lovely if the sun struggles from behind clouds as thick as coconut pyramids. But the picnic bit can be quite a depressing experience if you’re a tiny bit competitive. While my friends magic gorgeous cakes and fabulous tubs of salad from their bags, my family have to make do with damp squares of processed cheese and yet more matzah.
My biggest challenge is finding the enthusiasm to cook for the final days of Yom Tov. After the beginning onslaught, I just want to make something quick, easy and perhaps even meat free. But there’s no pasta — unless you buy that vile Pesach stuff which always turns out as sloppy as a kiss from a not-so-fragrant great aunt.
I’m all chickened out by the time the final days of Yom Tov swing round, but is it possible to find at least some variation in the endless meals? On Facebook, I see countless women crowing about their Pesach version of “yummy” (are they 12 years old?) family favourites. They’ll taste terrible. You know it and I know it, so I’m not falling for promises that cauliflower can be transformed into a tasty pizza base, or aubergine used instead of lasagne leaves.
It’s back to chicken, chicken and more chicken. Slogged over and prepared without even a sniff of vodka to soften the edges
Of course there are some redeeming features to this fag end of Pesach. Students return home, the house fills up, the macaroons get eaten. We regroup and reload, carving fabled “family time” from an otherwise overburdened calendar.
So what if we take a trip into town and forget to bring enough macaroons to prevent us expiring from the effort? It’s probably good for us to learn to do without instant sugar. And I’ll try not to moan about the Siberian Yom Tov weather even though the forecast says worse is to come.
I’ll try and ignore the inevitable fate of my kitchen by Day Seven — a crumpled symphony of matzah crumbs and torn up foil.
With food on the table, delicious fish-balls donated by friends, and the knowledge that normality is on the way, the end of Pesach has its very own charm. But as for the canned Hearts of Palm, I’m yet to be convinced.