Monday, April 5, 2010

Thirteenth Week

Monday, March 29, 2010
Passover begins tonight with the first seder and continues for 8 days which raises the question of Will he or won’t he eat Chinese food during Passover? As a basic principle, I follow the teaching of Michael Ratner, a Tzadik who skipped the seminary for the construction business, to wit, "I’ll eat treyf, but not chametz." For those whose Jewish education ceased before birth, this translates as "I’ll eat ordinary non-kosher foods, but I won’t eat foods specifically excluded for Passover (most typically bread and associated items)." With the exception of one or two restaurants in Chinatown which I haven’t gotten to yet, all Chinese food is treyf. However, no one goes to Chinatown for a sandwich. Which brings us to rice, a food staple for much of China, eaten by Sephardi (roughly Eastern) Jews throughout Passover, but normally barred to Ashkenazi (roughly Western) Jews based on the controversial doctrine of Kitniyot, a Hebrew word meaning "little things." Read if you want to know more, and for a glimmer of rationality on a subject that is otherwise all rationalization. As of mid-day Monday, I haven’t decided on rice for the rest of the week. Maybe, I shouldn’t sweat the little things?
I don’t mean to demean Nice Green Bo Restaurant, at 66 Bayard Street, which I recall eating at on its opening day in 1998. But, I wasn’t looking for anything particularly good on this rainy, chilly day. The first seder tonight will be celebrated at our Englewood relatives (whom I’ll spare the embarrassment of naming), noted for their hospitality, menu planning, cooking and large portions. Even though we won’t begin eating until about 10 PM (you don’t escape Egypt in the blink of an eye), I want to be able fall upon the meal the way the locusts fell upon the Egyptian crops.
I ordered a scallion pancake and vegetable shu mei, which were formed and steamed in a space in the front window crammed between the cash register and a soda machine. The eight pieces were hefty, probably weighing over a pound together and tasty with a very green vegetable filling. The scallion pancake was crispy, but a bit greasy so it does not threaten Joe’s Ginger's preeminence. With tax, lunch cost $7.05 and I’m ready for the Exodus.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The combination of the wonderful food offered in great abundance and the late hour we returned home after the first seder last night kept me in bed until 9:40 AM and home from work the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
David Webber’s birthday which we celebrated last night at the second seder, held at the West End Synagogue. Considering that WES is an anarchic Jewish congregation, or maybe a congregation of anarchic Jews, the evening proceeded somewhat coherently.
Driven by a combination of appetite and conscience I went on a search for chocolate-covered macaroons for lunch. According to Wikipedia, "Most recipes call for egg whites (usually whipped to stiff peaks), with ground or powdered nuts, generally almond or coconut." This makes them very popular at Passover, although I will eat the chocolate-covered version all year round. I had little hope of success in finding them in the neighborhood of Chinatown, but it was an excuse to walk a one-mile circuit before buying some bananas and tangerines from a street vendor just off Canal Street for my lunch.

Thursday, April 1, 2010
I’m still devoted to finding chocolate-covered macaroons, or possibly just avoiding confronting the Passover food rules. Last night, after work, I went to Zabar’s, which had an abundant supply of chocolate-covered macaroons at too high a price. I recall that, in the past, Zabar’s would lower its price on Passover goods once the holiday started, but I must have been a day or two early. So, I left and went to Fairway, which has a big Passover food section, but no chocolate-covered macaroons.
Today, at lunchtime, I headed out, not to wander the streets of Chinatown in a fruitless pursuit, but directly to the Pathmark supermarket in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge at the East River. This is on the edge of the traditional lower East Side, and only a few blocks from where my mother was born and grew up. Today, however, Asians and Latinos occupy the neighborhood as could be deduced from the sparse Passover display in Pathmark. There were some cakes and cookies, but no chocolate-covered macaroons. Hold on, though. This is a season of miracles (except probably for the Rangers and the Mets) and I found boxes of dark chocolate-covered mini-matzahs on sale! These are silver dollar-sized matzohs, not just ground nuts and chocolate spread out in a thin layer to resemble matzohs.
I walked right back to the courthouse (40 minutes back and shopping and forth) and ate some of my dark chocolate-covered matzohs and a banana for lunch.

Friday, April 2, 2010
A head cold hit me last night, so I felt crummy today and skipped lunch. As much by inadvertence as piety, therefore, I have observed the Passover rules all week. There’s still Monday and Tuesday to deal with, however.

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