Bottom of the Barrel

As a kid, the weeks leading up to Passover were a complicated puzzle:  how can a family of five eat three meals a day created from the food left in the cabinets without going grocery shopping?  The prize for surviving these weeks of stone soup was getting to arrange many, many boxes of chocolate-covered marshmallows and ring-jells on the empty shelves.  (The other prize was polishing the silver, which my parents managed to convince us was the ultimate fun activity.  And we believed them.)

As I prepared food for the Grad Network’s salon potluck Friday night and for a small Shabbat lunch at our house on Saturday, I channeled my parents’ ingenuity and created menus based on what I found in the cabinets while cleaning up.  It felt great to be resourceful in the particular way that only comes from ridding yourself of chametz.  It also felt like the phrase “bottom of the barrel” was invented for the last few meals before the seder.

Rice and beans, Naomis rice pilaf, and pasta all in process at once

I made rice and beans for Friday night, and I was so happy with how it turned out.  I used to make this all the time and hadn’t in years (another advantage of finishing things from the back of the cabinets: rediscovering old recipes).

Rice and Beans

1 1/2 cups of brown rice (or another kind that you like better)
3 cups of water
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil for sauteing
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
salt, pepper, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes to taste

Cook the rice, and while it’s going, saute the onions and garlic and rinse the beans.  When the rice is done, add everything else to the pot and cook over low heat until you’re happy with it.  Also good with cheese and hot sauce (and probably tortilla chips, if we’d had any of those around).

There was a lot of good food at the salon, plus we had a  great discussion about using Passover as a platform to talk about a variety of social justice issues.  My take-away was that this strategy works for some people and doesn’t for others, and, like my approach to Judaism in general, I hope people will use what works for them.

This article made me so mad (that’s how we knew it would make a good salon topic).  It upset me because the author assumes that everyone grew up going to rote, meaningless seders and, on top of that, that the traditional seder experience isn’t enough to stand on its own as a meaningful ritual.  I know some people have terrible seder memories, and that other people have a great time with plague props, Pharoah costumes, and afikomen scavenger hunts, and I don’t begrudge anyone’s experiences.  Still, my family’s seders as a kid were an absolute highlight of the year, and they were based around family, friends, the traditional text, and time to ask a lot of questions.  You don’t have to try to make the seder kid-friendly: it’s already designed that way.

I dragged out another old favorite recipe for lunch today, pasta and bean salad, but this one didn’t turn out quite as well as I remembered it.  We also had edamame hummus, which Marc described as an “astounding color,” a few other noshy things, and, for dessert, nutella ice cream pie.  It was so lovely to have a 6-person meal where everyone could be part of the same conversation, and besides getting other people to help eat our chametz, not having to go out in the rain was an added bonus of hosting.

As soon as Shabbat ended (ok, maybe a little bit before), it was on to the cleaning.  For just a couple hours of work, we made a lot of progress, including cleaning out the fridge.

We are so ready for ShopRite tomorrow. Kids, do not try this at home!

Here’s a special shout-out to anyone reading this to procrastinate from cleaning.  I hope everyone has a wonderful and liberating holiday, and here’s a sneak preview: next Friday night, there’ll be matzah lasagna.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Bottom of the Barrel

  1. Rebecca

    Amazing! Love the photo of Marc in the fridge!!! Chag Sameach!!!

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