The holiday of Passover is coming. If you follow me on FB you might have seen my updates on how busy I am with preparations. I thought I’d go into a bit more details so you can see for yourself all that it entails. Let’s start with this:
And this day shall become a memorial for you, and you shall observe it as a festival for the L-RD, for your generations, as an eternal decree shall you observe it. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove the leaven from your homes … you shall guard the unleavened bread, because on this very day I will take you out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day for your generations as an eternal decree. – Exodus 12:14-17
We are supposed to rid our homes of all leaven (Hametz in Hebrew). That includes anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt) that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after first coming into contact with water. That is the part that causes the most work (besides the cooking).
I start about 3 months before Passover with the top floors, I have a house so this is possible. I go room by room, closet by closet and organize at the same time. I use this time to spring clean too because I see an opportunity. Knowing myself, if I don’t HAVE to do it, I’ll never do it. The second floor, which houses the guest room does not have to be cleaned as thoroughly as I request the guests not to bring any food upstairs. The kids are also not supposed to bring any food upstairs but let’s not discuss what I usually find behind my son’s bed… I progress to the first floor where all our bedrooms are located. There I tackle the closets one by one, throwing out old clothes, organizing and checking that all is clean. I do that usually once a week together with my cleaning help. The ground floor, where the kitchen and living room is (are) located will be left for last. For me, that is the fun part. I love seeing my closets neat and empty.
When it comes to the last 3 weeks before Passover, the work gets more intense. Most of the Hametz is on the ground floor. I start with all the closets in the living room, then the kitchen closets. Some items need to be thoroughly cleaned and checked that no crumbs are on it like the mixer, the toaster and so on. These get cleaned with toothpicks and all.
For Passover cooking you have two options. You either have a Passover kitchen which is usually a small counter space with two burners and a sink or you have to change your kitchen over. Those with a Passover kitchen have it a lot easier as they can cook weeks in advance and clean their own kitchen last minute. Those of us who don’t have a Passover kitchen, need to change over our kitchens to be able to start the cooking. Changing over means to cover all the counters, either with strong plastic or boards. I use strong plastic.
This is my kitchen just before changing over, I wish it always looked that clean! The outside of it took 5 hours to clean. That includes making sure the sink was free of dirt and crumbs, wiping down the counters, checking all the crevices for crumbs, cleaning the burners and the walls. Everything is scrubbed down. Then, your sinks cannot be used for 24 hours in preparation for the kashering (which means to make the kitchen ready for Passover use). This is where I’m at right now.
Still coming is the cleaning of the ovens, the table and chairs in the living room, the fridge and freezer, all of which take hours as it’s not the usual cleaning. I will be scrubbing every inch of the above, to make sure all signs of Hametz is removed.
The hardest part is the twilight zone. It’s the time when your kitchen is kosher for Passover but you didn’t finish the rest of the ground floor yet. Your kids need to eat but you don’t know what to serve. You don’t want to have Hametz in the house but neither do you want to start serving Passover food. From tomorrow, this will be my reality. Part of supper will be take out, another part from the freezer and the rest pre-cooked.
After the kitchen hasn’t been used for 24 hours you can start changing over. I cover all the surfaces with a hard plastic. Silver foil is used to cover all shelves. After being thoroughly cleaned with toothpicks, bleach and Q tips, the fridge will be lined with paper or silver foil or hard plastic. All the shelves that you want to use need to be covered too. I cover it with paper. The day before Passover is the busiest day of making sure the house become Hametz free and lots and lots of cooking. But slowly, the finishing line is in sight. It’s the day before Passover now. My kitchen has been changed over. This is how it looks like now.
Now we go to the storage room to retrieve all the Passover dishes. We cannot use our all year round dishes so we have a totally different set of everything. So now the unpacking begins. Once that job is done, one can finally begin the cooking of the many meals. Tomorrow will be the day for preparing all the traditional foods for the Seder and of course some more cooking. Not to forget the showers and baths for every member of the family and then the kids have a nap since the Seder usually ends way after midnight and we want them to be awake for this beautiful tradition.