Thursday, April 21, 2005

On my travels again

I haven't been blogging for a week. No excuse. Other than a string of hectic social engagements. And a date. Kind of. I hope you've not missed me too much.

So in all the excitement I forgot to tell you that I'm on my travels again. I have arrived in Jerusalem today for Pesach/Passover (delete as appropriate). For one reason or another I've avoided the large family Seder for the past few years. But this year we are doing the full paschal shabang, en famille. At the last count, there will be 11 adults and 9 children. That's a helluva lot of cinamon balls.

For those who don't know, Pesach is a 7/8 day spring festival. I say 7/8 because it lasts 7 days in Israel and 8 outside of Israel. I'd love to explain this discrepancy but I can't. Mainly because the reason is illogical and rather convoluted and involves smoke signals and donkeys. And if I went into all that you'd think I was mad. No, much better to concentrate on the festival itself. That makes perfect sense. Basically, we stop eating bread, or any other grain-based product, for the length of the festival.

Actually, it's not so much grain that is forbidden as leaven. I'm not 100% sure what leaven is. It sounds like a Jewish-Gay nightclub. Leaven is one of those English words that Jewish kids are taught to use from a young age but which nobody else ever says. Like 'hearty'. You can't wish someone Mazal Tov - you have to wish someone a 'hearty' mazal tov. But have you ever heard anybody wish you a hearty happy birthday? Another favourite is concubine. We are all taught in Cheder that Hagar was Abraham's concubine. (Are Social Services aware that 8 year olds across north-west London are being taught about concubines?) But nobody else uses this word. It gets to the stage when you begin to think we are talking a different language altogether. Maybe we are. I was convinced for years that 'aggravation' was actually a yiddish word.

Anyway, I digress. Basically, we can't eat leavened grain. This means that only supervised and authorised products can be consumed. Everything has to be bought new, in advance. And the old stuff has to be slung out. So the kitchen cupboards are stripped bare and restocked. But not just restocked with the basics. Every conceivable edible item on the planet (as long as it doesn't contain grain) is squeezed into the last nook and cranny of the house. Every possibility has to be catered for. You can't run the risk of running out of a vital foodstuff during the festival. Can you imaging the calamity if you woke up on day 4 and realised you'd run out of chocolate spread? So my sister's flat (where I am staying for the festival) is full to bursting with packets of food of every shape, size and description. As I write, there are four boxes of ground almonds on the floor next to me, two tins of coconut macarroons on the desk and my bed has 12 (yes 12) jars of pickled cucumbers underneath it. And that's just the back bedroom. I will spare you the horror of the kitchen.

And I simply daren't tell you about the gastrointestinal horror that is seven days matza consumption. Think Immodium. Double it. And then double it again.

But, bonkers though it may be, it is lovely to be here, with my family, for the full 7/8 days. You just can't beat Mum's coconut pyramids to whisk you back to Passovers past. One bite and you are hurled back to the mid-80's in a haze of paschal nostalgia.

If you are celebrating passover - have a good one and go easy on those tea-matzas. If you're not, remind me to explain that thing about the donkey and the smoke signal.

Chag Sameach to one and all...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Beanz,

Agree about the word "concubines". I rememember in my first ever RE lesson aged about 11 being told that Soloman had several hundred concubines.

"Wow", I said, "he must have had a concubine harvester."

I am immensely proud of that joke, and it remains a mystery why, then as now, others don't seem to find it as funny as I do.


10:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great story, we also noticed you had a date thats good news can you elaborate??


10:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep on blogging, enjoy the holy land Chag Sameach.

P xxx

2:20 pm  

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