Book Review

How To Make Pesach In Five Days- A Pre-Pesach Guidebook by Meira Spivak

“Welcome to How To Make Pesach In Five Days. This book presents ideas that you can easily incorporate into your family’s routine. Your mind will not be cluttered with details…” So begins Meira Spivak’s lively- and uncluttered- marvel of a book, explaining in non-stressful language how to manage the pre-Pesach pandemonium. It is short, concise, and exactly what I need as I contemplate the calendar and realize that Purim was already a few weeks ago and Pesach is fast approaching.

“You see, in previous years I would clean a room two weeks before Pesach, only to turn around and find Cheerios strewn all over the floor…I will not clean in advance only to have it destroyed!” I can relate- we rented a house many years ago when my daughter was a baby, and that house came with a gold shag rug (yes, it was the 70’s!) That shag rug contained at least one full box of Cheerios, innocently tossed around by that happy baby, gleefully hidden color wise and chametz wise within those shaggy fibers. Meira Spivak begins simply enough with Part 1: “The Five Days: Cleaning and Cooking- It Can Be Done.” From washing your car to cleaning your home, from stocking up on Windex to negate the chametz and rendering it “unfit to eat, even by a dog” (and referencing the oukosher.org website for these and other recommendations), to rinsing off toys and checking for chametz under the mattresses (“I find incredible amounts of chametz in the cracks of the beds, including Cheerios, noodle soups, pretzels, crackers, candy, and chocolate”), she details how to go from a clean car to a clean house in record time.

With a wonderful sense of humor, Meira (I feel like I know her personally from reading this book!) has advice for those with young sons: “If you have boys in your family, you have an additional game to play. It’s called ‘If I were a hoarder, where would I hoard things? Get into the mind of your eight-year-old…In short, any place where you would never put chametz, check.’ She relates how she sold her couch once and the buyers arrived to move said couch; needing to fit the couch through the doorway, they turned it upside down and angled it- keys, yarmulkes, spare change and more all merrily spilled out. More advice follows on cleaning the garage (which she notes is either clean and actually is used to park cars, or is “packed with stored food and supplies, including… [fill in the blank with whatever is actually in your garage]”, kashering, shopping, bringing out the Pesach supplies, and convenient blank pages for your cooking list and schedule.

Part Two of this guide gives sample menus for the first and last two days of the holiday, as well as meals for chol hamoed and Shabbos, even allowing for leftovers at the end of Pesach. (Thank you, Meira, she wrote with a smile as she wondered what to do with all the leftover chicken!) Also in these chapters are advice on “Switching Over Your Kids’ Clothing” and “Buying Your Pesach Clothing.” (“This is perhaps the most daunting of tasks, so I will break it down into parts: Those of you with teen girls, Everyone else.”) We can all relate and laugh and nod in agreement as she sorts through racks with her daughter and assures her that “the outfit on the mannequin in Target was exactly what the girls would be wearing in Lakewood for Pesach.” She then concludes with sage advice: “If you’re not totally spent, treat yourself to something nice to wear for Pesach.”

As a reward for cleaning and food shopping and (the agony of teen) clothes shopping, Part Three of this delightful guide consists of recipes, from main dishes to side dishes (even one for “Vegetable Kugel Gone Wrong,” of which we all probably have our own!), salad dressings to desserts. I have already marked, with my ever-present yellow sticky notes, those recipes for Lemon Freeze (“The dessert for when you want to pretend you’re eating healthy”) and Chocolate Mousse Pie (ditto, she wrote). And to ensure her readers are prepared and stress free, Meira Spivak concludes with sample shopping lists (courtesy of Jamie Geller) of all the products we think we’ll remember to buy but probably won’t if we haven’t referenced these lists.

I’m writing this erev Shabbos, with just a couple of weeks to prepare for Pesach, and am eternally grateful to Meira Spivak and her calming advice. If she can arrive at the holiday with a clean, chametz free house and such a marvelous sense of humor in only five days, having survived the inevitable kugel gone wrong, then so can we. Wishing you all a happy, stress free, healthy and safe Pesach. Now to get ready for Shabbos in 45 minutes!

Randy Rubinstein lives in Sharon, Massachusetts