My first memory of Passover happened at our synagogue in South Africa’s communal seder, when I decided I didn’t like the matzah ball soup.Unlike in the US, in South Africa, the soup was only brought out on Passover, maybe in deference to the tropical climate. In our first year in Canada, we visited my aunt in Florida for the seder, but after that year, we stayed and just did the seder with the three of us, and sometimes family friends. We even have a videotape of me at almost 8 years old, practicing reading the four questions and answering questions about them with my mom, who was at that point (and for much ofmy childhood) my Hebrew teacher. Once we moved to the US, we had a home seder for the first seder, and for the first time I could remember, we participated in a second seder, in the form of the annual community seder, one of the biggest events of the year in the congregation. It was a really enjoyable experience, and allowed us to participate in at least one seder, even during the years in high school when my mom was sick with chemo.
I loved all those seders, but that was often the extent of our food observance of Passover. I remember eating matzah sandwiches in high school, but with matzah hard to come by where we lived, sometimes we’d run out of matzah before the holiday was over, and we’d just go back to bread. My first year in college, I was surprised to see that the dorms had some Passover foods available all through the holiday.That minor experience combined with my growing understanding of kashrut meant that through my college years, I was working on my understanding of kashrut during Passover as well. By my senior year, my roommate and I were covering our counters with aluminum foil and buying as much kosher for Passover food as we could. I first found out about kitniyot when a friend asked if I had found anything in the convenience store by the dorm that didn’t have any corn syrup in it. I had no idea what she was talking about, and, once I found out, didn’t worry too much about it as I never really made a commitment to keep kosher for Passover, even as my roommate and I made an effort to make the apartment as kosher as possible for her sake.
It was during our year in Israel that really made me understand what it meant that R was teaching me about Sephardi kashrut, rather than Ashkenazi kashrut. I decided that year to see what the kitniyot thing was about. Israel was, of course, the perfect place to learn more about kitniyot – it was everywhere! Matzah, cheese and hummus sandwiches are amazing, kosher for Passover Doritos? Unbelievable! Back in America, without a strong family connection either way, I was more than happy to take on my husband’s kashrut practices in general, and kitniyot in particular. We make our own hummus with chickpeas, sort through the rice, and make sure we don’t serve kitniyot to anyone who doesn’t want it. Coming from a family with very little tradition for Passover, having fewer restrictions on foods for Passover has really been a blessing.