Wisdom from the Pesach Kitchen

By Naomi Ross

When I was a child, I remember begging my mother for a job to do on those momentous days leading up to Passover. The anticipation in the house was contagious, and I couldn’t help but sense the urgency – something big was coming and I wanted to be a part of it. Fortunately for me, my mother was adept at putting me to work, getting me involved in the Pesach preparations and effectively igniting a spark in her daughter to experience the joy and excitement of Pesach. The mitzvah of chinuch habanim (educating your children) of the story of the Exodus from Egypt began there – not at the seder, but before in the kitchen.

Each part of the Seder is carried out in such a way as to arouse curiosity in the children in order that they might ask questions. According to the Sages, one should explain the story in the way that will be most understood on their level. By doing so, you will fulfill the mitzvah of “v’hegaditah l’bincha,” teaching the story to your children. Children learn experientially. They need to engage all of their senses to really internalize a concept or lesson. By drawing your children in, you will stir their interest and make Pesach real for them; by inviting them to take part in Pesach preparations, they will be enabled to take ownership of their own holiday experiences.

There are many jobs that are perfect for this purpose and are appropriate for a wide range of ages. Here are few suggestions:

  • Making Charoses

When I was a kid, I thought making Charoses was an all-day process. Peeling, coring and chopping the apples took forever. And dicing nuts in our little manual glass jar chopper was such hard work for a little kid that by the time I finished, I truly felt as though I were enslaved in Egypt, too!   Truth be told, it was the perfect job – it kept me busy for a long time and I felt very accomplished afterward.

*Safety Tip: For younger aged children where sharp knives are inappropriate, an old-fashioned hand-held chopper and a large chopping bowl are the way to go.

  • Peeling hardboiled eggs – all kids think this is fun. I have no idea why, but they do…so teach them how and let them.
  • Setting the table – There are many more things to prepare on the Seder table than for a regular meal: assembling Haggadahs, pillows, and preparing the Seder plate all take time. If your children are creative, they can create pretty folded napkins, and handmade place cards are a fantastic craft project for artistic kids.
  • Cooking and Baking for older kids who are able to follow a recipe (or interested in learning), this is a great opportunity to teach your kids basic lessons in cooking and baking. I still remember being called over to help taste and season a bubbling dish simmering on the stove. There is nothing quite like Pesach baking to teach the art of separating eggs and beating them up stiff. It was in my mother’s Pesach kitchen that I quickly learned what “stiff peaks” were and exactly what “folding” meant. And as for my mother? She had to bake no more!

Every Pesach kitchen needs a “tried and true” sponge cake: versatile and reliable. This recipe just does the trick…so make it a family affair with the kids!

Almond Sponge Cake
Toasted Almond & Chocolate Ganache Layer Cake
Apple Cake Variation
Strawberry Shortcake Variation

No matter how you enlist your child, the real secret to getting them involved is by exhibiting the joy and fun (yes, fun!) of making Pesach yourself. When your kids see you enjoying yourself and getting into the spirit, then they will follow suit and reflect that joy into your home.   Best wishes for a happy and healthy Pesach!

Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer.  She teaches classes throughout the tri-state area and writes articles connecting good cooking and Jewish inspiration. Visit her website: www.jewishcookingconcepts.com