Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Passover cleaning

April 22, 2005

In December 2004, a Spanish Talmudic scholar named Sinterklaas was cited translating the Torah,

‘Passover is the holiday when it behooves
us to clean the barnacles out of our grooves’.

If you don’t have anything in the fridge, it’s easier to clean it. Smetvrees, the fear of contamination, is an ancient Jewish tradition and therefore a once yearly scrub-down (and burning!) is on the menu today, the day before Pesach. Before the week of Passover commences, it’s necessary to rid the house of all items containing leaven, creating an elaborate excuse for rarely performed activities such as dusting and refridgerator cleaning.

Since March 11 I’ve been in my home exactly 3 days. The contents of my fridge (l to r, top to bottom) are: 2 eggs, jars of mustard and homemade sambal from January 2004 (a gift from a then-not-yet-ex, indicating the period of time that has passed over since… YIPES = LEAVEN!!!), 1,5 train station supermarket courgettes, leftover film from a photoshoot in 2003. 2nd row; 2 1000 yr. duck eggs, 1 open packet of gari (pickled ginger), pickled daikon radish, 1 jar of anchovis. 3rd row; 1 tin of sheep cheese in brine containing 1/8th of a cheese, 2 tins containing only brine which I will also categorise as clutter I mean leaven, 4 St. Marcellin lait cru cheeses brought from Occitania on Wednesday.

In the vegetable ‘crisper’, which I realistically refer to as ‘the rotter’; 1 piece of burdock from a 2004 automnal dinner, 1 carrot from same dinner, a lot of paper bags that act as an absorbent layer when I’m gone for any length of time ( = LEAVEN), 500ml of half fat milk, bought at the train station, 1 bottle of ketchup from last century. Ketchup is oddly exempt from all dietary law.

Contents of the freezer: (top shelf) a scarily old piece of salmon labled ‘TOSS ME in 2002′, diet margarine (!) left by a guest = YUCK = LEAVEN, ice cubes (I guess I’ll make new ones), a bit of delicious organic coffee stashed so that I wouldn’t return to an empty coffee larder (how can a wonderful surprise be considered leaven?). Behind these items are 3 packs of wonton skins, picnic blue ice, a box of bicarbonate of soda, and more ice.

Bottom row; 1/2 bag of edame soybeans, ice cream maker, terrible peanut butter cookies (I was planning to use them in a crumb crust one day = LEAVEN), celeriac puree from autumnal dinner ( = BORDERLINE), peas, a 1998 snapshot of the author in a swimsuit indicating what I unrealistically think my body should look like now ( = HOLD ON TO THE DREAM = NOT LEAVEN), bottles of wodka, sliwowitz and Rosie’s Lime Cordial. Behind these items are two tupperwares containing archives of chicken and duck fat ( = UH, NOT LEAVEN).

If you are interested in the humorous aspects of Jewish dietary law (then you are a wierdo), listen to this hilarious reading of Shalom Auslander’s short story, ‘Blessing Bee’ about a yeshiva bocher’s struggle to learn the laws of kashrut and kill his abusive father at the same time. The piece starts at the 38th minute of a This American Life broadcast (My Big Break, Act 3).

Tomorrow is market day and I endeavour to stock up on leafy greens and fresh fruit before heading off to be a guest at a friend of a friend’s Pesach Seder.

debra at 10:20 | | post to


  1. I know, I know my refridgerator light is broken.

    Comment by debra — April 22, 2005 @ 17:43

  2. What’s this photograph doing in you freezer?

    Comment by Heleen — April 22, 2005 @ 21:44

  3. That’s me in a swimsuit in 1998 - so that I have an image and don’t start eating ice cream. It works. No ice cream in the freezer. Chez TvR in Occitania however there was much duck fat and ice cream eating. But now I’m back to my own freezer.

    Comment by debra — April 23, 2005 @ 9:04

  4. I think I’m going to make a copy of that picture and put it in the fridge chez TvR in Occitania. And then I’m going to take that same picture and tape it to every bottle and box of wine… my downfall in FR. That delicious and generously poured wine.

    Comment by debra — April 23, 2005 @ 18:00

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