shoppingart.jpg Waking up at 5am really worked for me this morning.  I got to Fairfax at 8:15 am, expecting to avoid the long lines and empty shelves typical of pre-Passover.  Apparently, so thought all the other conscientious Jewish hausfraus. 

First, I run into Melissa between the tomatoes and avocados in the vegetable store. We know each other from when our children were in elementary school.  Her cart was already piled full with onions, carrots, celery, etc… each item meticulously checked off on the list in her hand.  Seeing her reminds me of old times, a sweet, sad longing for when our children were young. We hug. I’m a little embarrassed because Melissa, as always, looks beautiful and put together, while I look like a schmata (rag) in an old sweatshirt and sweatpants. 

We exchange news about our children and say good-bye. I move on to Western Kosher, a few doors down.  It’s the hub of kosher marketing on Fairfax. Clean and well-stocked, you can buy meat,  dairy, and just about every grocery item you might need for the holiday.  We shop there so often, that it might be cheaper just to pay rent and eat in the store. 

shopping_list.jpg Anyway, I knew, despite the extensive, well-crafted, time-sucking list I’d produced over the last few days, this, my first shop was just that:  only my first.  This proved true sooner than I’d imagined, since I was back there that very afternoon at 2:30pm.  But it’s good to have hope and I always do at the beginning. I feel powerful with my shopping list in hand. This document that says yes(!) with its neat columns of ingredients organized by category: meat, fish, dairy, vegetable, fruit, herbs, miscellaneous. 

Yes (!) it says with its clearly stated quantities of chicken legs (25), chicken in 8’s (20), lamb neck (15 lbs), turkey (20 lbs), shoulder roast (8 lbs).  Yes (!) it says;  I am feeding 19 people for 11 days and I can do it with style, panache, a computer and steroids.  “I am Balabusta (homemaker with a vengeance), hear me roar…” 

When I see Melissa waiting with a full cart in this line, we look at each other and smile ruefully.  It’s our job and we complain, but what delicious food we’ll make and won’t our families be happy!  I mean, I think they’ll be happy. I’ve raised them to expect big meals in an atmosphere of holiday. Holiday tension, fun, irritation, and togetherness.  My mom did this, I do this. 

shopping.jpg I don’t like a lot of it – it’s administrative attention to detail that makes it run smoothly.  I hate that stuff.  I’m an artist.  I’d rather be painting the kitchen with ketchup than figuring out how many bottles of it to buy.  But I want to see all my nieces and nephews and in-laws sit down with us at the table.  It’s magic when we sing. 

I’ve come through years of anger and questioning about the arduous nature of preparing Passover.  I finally accept that I don’t like this line of work, and that I’ll do it anyway.  So, when I saw Melissa in Western Kosher later that afternoon, we laughed and made jokes about living in the store. It’s probably going to be completely un-funny on the 5th trip.  Maybe by the eighth, I‘ll be in my pajamas, weeping on the floor of the cream cheese aisle.  But for now, it’s a good feeling to know my first two are behind me and that I might even see Melissa on the 10th. 

Evelyn Stettin is a visual artist in Los Angeles.  Her work, like her mind, attempts meaning-making despite confusion.  Her work can be seen at