As a child, I loved all the Yom Tovim but Pesach was definitely the highlight of the year. I wasn’t fully aware then of the endless cleaning and all the hard work; that was almost exclusively my mother’s sphere.
How I looked forward to seeing our old kitchen suddenly transformed overnight. The counters and cupboards were freshly covered with shelf paper and the sturdy wooden table lay hidden beneath a new colorful tablecloth. Even more thrilling was the unpacking of our Pesach dishes from the boxes in which they’d waited through an endlessly long year. One of my favorite pieces was our family heirloom: an ancient, slightly chipped enamel bowl with a cherry design, which had made the long journey years ago from faraway Lithuania. Into it we spilled drops of wine during the Seder, as my father recited: “Dum, tzvardaya, kinim…”
Another treasure was a delicate porcelain cup, with tiny pink flowers and an elegant black rim, which had belonged to my grandmother. Since she had passed away soon after my first birthday, I was sadly bereft of any memories of my bubby but drinking tea from her cup helped me feel connected to her.
Of all the Pesach foods we had, the one I recall most fondly is my mother’s ginger-carrot candy. She would boil a pot of water on the stove, with sugar, ginger and a few drops of oil. As the spicy fragrance filled the kitchen, she added a bagful of grated carrots to the bubbling piquant mixture.
Waiting till it was ready seemed like an eternity to my child-self.
“Is it candy yet?” I kept asking.
“Not yet. It takes a while till the mixture is ready. We have to wait for exactly the right moment,” my mother patiently explained.
Patience was not a commodity I possessed then – or even much of now, I confess. It’s still not easy to wait for “exactly the right moment.”
As my mother continued to stir the boiling, sugary ginger-carrot mixture, she managed to attend to other foods as well. Like most mothers, she was talented at multi-tasking. Finally, the magic moment arrived that we were longing for.
“Now it’s ready!” she announced.
Quickly she poured the hot, orange-hued mixture into an oiled pan and I waited anxiously until it cooled. Then she cut it into squares or enchanting-looking diamond shapes that hardened with a sugary crunch. At last, to my delight, she gave me a piece of long-awaited spicy sweetness. Naturally, I kept begging for more.
Last Pesach I managed to replicate my mother’s ginger-carrot candy recipe. As I savored each sweet bite, delicious memories melted in my mouth. Then I realized what her secret ingredients had really consisted of: a heap of patience and a generous helping of love.
3/4 cup brown or white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. walnut oil
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 lbs. medium size carrots, grated
Combine sugar, water, oil and ginger in a large pot; heat slowly, stirring constantly to boiling. Stir in carrots, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring several times, about 10 minutes longer or until mixture is thick and richly glazed. Pour into oiled pan, cool slightly, cut into squares or diamond shapes.