By Andrew Silow-Carroll
(JTA) — The 30-day period between Purim and Passover is often fraught, especially for Jews — especially if, against all sound advice, they insist on hosting a Passover seder. To ease the challenging process of planning and preparing the festive meal, we offer this handy Passover countdown checklist:
30 days out (the day after Purim): Begin going over your invite list for the seder. Parents, siblings and their kids, check. Widowed Aunt Fay? Of course. But Cousin Eric? A nice guy, but how did he vote?
27 days out: Think about clearing out cabinets to make way for Passover food.
24 days out: Continue thinking about clearing out cabinets to make way for Passover food.
23 days out: Throw out Passover food still crowding the cabinet from last year: the bottle of off-brand ketchup still three-quarters filled, one jar kosher le Pesach duck sauce, one carton gluten-free “panko” matzah crumbs, two boxes of Streit’s matzah you bought last year on the second-to-last day of Passover worrying that you’d “run out.”
22 days out: Clear out last of cabinets to make room for Passover food.
21 days out: Announce to family that no more non-Passover food will be purchased between now and the holiday. Start planning pre-Passover meals based on the crap you have on hand: freezer-burned hamburger meat, bags of stale macaroni, whatever that thing is in the Tupperware.
20 days out: First Passover shopping trip: condiments, tea bags, tomato sauce, tuna fish, shelf liner, grape juice, off-brand ketchup, kosher le Pesach duck sauce, one carton gluten-free “panko” matzah crumbs, potato vodka. Total bill: $347.71.
18 days out: Begin planning menu: Search online for new Passover recipes. Brisket with horseradish gremolata? Skillet roast chicken with fennel, parsnips and scallions? Braised lamb shanks with dates, tangerines and baby onions? Check the number of steps and ingredients for each recipe, gasp, then agree to make the same three things you’ve been making for the past 19 years.
17 days out: Cousin Eric calls asking if he can bring a date — someone he met at a “political rally.” For a “very famous politician.” Uh-oh.
16 days out: Second Passover shopping trip: macaroons, Passover cake mix, soda, jars of gefilte fish, paper plates and disposable utensils, matzah meal, wine, almonds and walnuts, jarred horseradish, cottonseed oil, mayonnaise, potato vodka. Total bill: $740.
5 minutes later: Return to grocery store for your free five pounds of matzah, per coupon. Reduce grocery bill by $20.97.
10 minutes later: Return again to grocery store to buy one pound of gluten-free shmurah matzah for Aunt Fay. Increase grocery bill by $67.26.
14 days out: Ask spouse to bring up kosher dishes, seder plate and Haggadahs from the basement.
13 days out: Ask spouse to please bring up kosher dishes, seder plate and Haggadahs from the basement.
12 days out: Ask spouse to please bring up kosher dishes, seder plate and Haggadahs from the basement — goddammit.
10 days out: Finalize guest list. Finalize menu. Longingly peruse ads in Jewish newspaper for weeklong Passover cruises.
7 days out: Last shopping before Passover: beef, chicken, fish, produce, milk, cheese, parsley, shank bone, eggs, chocolate-covered matzah, potato vodka. Total bill: You don’t wanna know.
5 days out: Clean and kasher sink, counters, stove, oven and refrigerator. Begin cooking seder side dishes.
5 days out: Inform family that Passover rules already apply in kitchen: no bread, pasta, beer or everyday tableware or cutlery. When they ask what they are supposed to eat, reply “improvise.”
3 days out: Ask spouse to bring up table leaf from the basement. Begin vacuuming and cleansing all surfaces with the care normally given to sterilizing microbiological laboratories.
2 days out: Ask spouse to bring up table leaf from basement, goddammit. Set table.
1 day out: Cousin Eric calls. It’s off with his plus-one — he can’t date a “RINO” who thinks Rachel Maddow “sometimes makes some good points.” Panic.
Seder day: Welcome parents, siblings, their kids, Aunt Fay and Cousin Eric. Ask your youngest to recite the Four Questions, which he does perfectly, which is less impressive than it might seem when you remember that he’s 23. Read Haggadah. Eat festive meal. Welcome Elijah. Ignore Cousin Eric.
1 day after: Vow never to do this again.
2 days after: Agree to do this again next year.