Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Shaking Out the Dust and the Breadcrumbs

Spring cleaning…….big sigh. For those of you who know me personally, you know I am not a clean freak. But……..
The sun came out last week. That’s what it felt like here in the Northwest where the winter rains broke all kinds of records. The snow pack is healthy in the mountains and California’s drought is relieved in some ways. It was a dreary four months and although the rains are not over yet, the sun is out more days now and everyone seems to be more upbeat.

So, there is more energy and the task to straighten, to clean, can no longer be postponed.

Why is there is tendency for cultures to have this spring cleaning ritual?  After being cooped up with shut windows for months, it is refreshing to let the breeze in and even though it is not warm, the air in the house brightens. Historically, we heated our homes with coal, wood and kerosene which produce an amazing amount of soot and yes, the house would be impossible to keep clean in the winter. With the sunlight we can see those dust bunnies better….so time to get to work.

This habit has long been part of civilization. It may amuse many people who are phobic about Muslims that the Persian New Year is the first day of spring and Iranians continue the practice of “khooneh tekouni” which literally means “shaking the house” just before the Persian new year. We’re talking thousands of years of culture here, people.

And not only that, but in the Jewish religion we have an intense time this week cleaning. Monday evening starts the holiday of Pesach-Passover. All bread crumbs must be cleaned out of the house, and so, every corner, every nook and cranny, is wiped and washed and altogether freshened up.

Chinese culture has long had a practice of pre-New Year’s cleaning. So interesting that three ancient cultures have recognized this practice is needed to healthy living.

Perhaps some people may not like this tidbit of history-that something they do is a Jewish or Muslim or Chinese custom. However, the rest of us will enjoy knowing we are indeed a multi-cultural community here and we can enjoy all aspects of sharing. Now, if only I can find someone who just LOVES to share the joys of vacuuming.




Because I Can

There’s a lot of cross-cultural activity in our home; we celebrate it all. God is God….the way you celebrate him is man-made, whether you attend a millennium-old religious practice or dance each full moon in the meadow.

My mom was particularly concerned when I told her I was going to be marrying Graham that I would be “lost” to the Jewish people. What has happened has been remarkable and I think she might even have appreciated it all.

David Bruno's wedding photos 104It started when the Episcopal priest in Pueblo, Colorado suggested we add a few Jewish symbols into the ceremony blessing our marriage. We made a chuppah of one of my mom’s lace tablecloths and Graham stomped on a glass. The priest explained it all the the crowd and one choir member thanked me after for inviting her because she “had never been to a Jewish wedding before.” After I told her she still had not been to one, Graham and I decided to hold a Passover Seder a few weeks later.

When I was young I had protested the Haggadah we used to my mom twice. Once, after my grandfather died. He had run the Seder in Hebrew for six hours and I have to say as a kid I never got much out of it except for timing how long it took for one of my aunts to get drunk on the wine.  I suggested, since Grandpa no longer would be the one to lead it,  to find another Haggadah that would make the ceremony more meaningful.

“Oh no, she said. This is the ONLY Haggadah!”  Really? This wine stained freebie from Manischevitz?passover-haggadah-big

I raised the point again when Dan and Lisa were about 2 and 4 years old. I suggested cutting the Seder to about 20 minutes would be something toddlers could handle. I got the same response.

So, for our first Seder together with Graham, I put together a new Haggadah. I found about 700 versions on the Internet and was able to take some from this and some from that to make something that not only was meaningful to me and our guests that year and in all the years since, but still followed all the guidelines and told the story. We have it down to 4 hours now, including dinner.  Each year we invite 12-20 people to share in the experience and have a great time.photo (48)

This year our Seder will be two days early. No, I don’t expect any lightning striking me. I am leaving on April 13 to fly to New York and on the 14th, the first day of Passover, I will be on a plane with Lisa, heading to India for her Golden Birthday trip. I am sure the Universe has no issue with this, although some people may.

I’ve started preparation. Putting together a Seder takes considerable attention to detail and time.

Buying some ingredients here in the beautiful agricultural lands of Oregon at least an hour from a Jewish congregation is a bit more of a challenge than when I was growing up in New Jersey. I have called a store near the Temple in Salem and will do some shopping when we visit a friend there and eat a meal together this weekend.

One of the most needed foods at this time is matza.  Because of the restriction of eating unleavened bread, it becomes an often used ingredient for many meals.  While our local store has some matza it is not Kosher for Passover. There are more rules on that so the foods have to be prepared specially for the Passover holiday.

But I got to thinking….matza is only flour and water.  I can bake! I read several recipes, learning that the matza must be baked within 18 minutes of mixing the ingredients. This time restriction is based on making sure no leavening takes place.

So, I baked some matzah and it was edible!!!
photo 2

Not square or round like the commercial brands. The fork holes are not evenly spaced, but I bet it will be the best matzah ever in this house and in this town!