Preparing for Passover requires quite a bit of shopping, cooking and cleaning. Each task I do lovingly, remembering my mother's household and the people we were so lucky and so thankful to have with us once more. I am of course referring to my grandparents who arrived at the end of January 1947 and soon thereafter celebrated this holiday of Pesach, this holiday of freedom, this holiday where we welcome the stranger into our homes.
It was then, the first Passover I attended after learning the Four Questions during my first year of Hebrew School as many of you have read in my new book The Key, the Turtle and the Bottle of Schnapps. It has been my favorite holiday ever since then. I sat at my grandfather's right for the next twenty-two years as we moved from Newark, New Jersey to Millburn, from child to mother of my own children. I sat at my father's right for the next decade, continuing the tradition after he died at my mother's side as she cooked and cleaned, until she needed the help of her daughters to prepare the feast for the family of her grandchildren, always welcoming guests into her home.
Today I feel my mother's presence as I prepare the chopped liver appetizer. I render the chicken fat as she did, frying it in the pan with the onions and the five chicken livers. My mother only used the one liver that lived in the chicken she cooked for the matzo ball soup. Most of her guests preferred the sweet gefilte fish she made. My family prefers chopped liver. As I peeled the ten eggs, I missed my mother's wooden bowl and the curved chopping knife which I learned is called a mezzaluna. So off I went to the megastore to purchase a wooden bowl and a chopper, and the chopped liver is authentic to my memory of it.
After my trip to Cuba, the store was overwhelming. The Cubans have no such store nor any of the items in it. They have the same tools their mothers and their grandmothers used for cooking, but most likely far less variety of ingredients than their grandparents had before the revolution.
For those of you who are also preparing and participating in this ancient ritual, remember those who are not yet free, remember the refugees waiting for acceptance and welcome the stranger in your midst. Have a sweet and just Passover.