Load shedding is a reality in South Africa. It is what it
is! When your suburb goes dark, what do you do? Do you complain or do you use
the opportunity of being disconnected from technology to reconnect with your
Once upon a time, there was a large majority of people in this country who lived permanently without electricity. They cooked over an open fire and children did their homework by candlelight!
Apparently we are now more advanced as most homes have electricity.
It must be so frustrating for parents who once lived like this. They did their schoolwork by candlelight, they cooked food either on an open fire or paraffin stove.
These parents now have to listen to their children complain about not having Wifi or TV/satellite and having to go to bed early because it is too dark to do their homework.
I know I get irritated when this happens in our home and I am one of those people privileged to have grown up in a home with electricity.
Sabbath for those of the Jewish faith begins on a Friday at sunset and ends on a Saturday after sunset, so usually around 25 hours.
During this time, as hard as it is for people to believe, we physically use no electronics, this means no cellphones, no TV, no radio. We refrain from using the stove or switching on lights. We don’t drive and we don’t go to the store.
In fact, we disconnect from the modern world and reconnect with a spiritual world and our friends and families.
We do make use of technology. Most families will have their main lights or individual lamps on time switches and an urn going for hot water for tea. The food is cooked before the Sabbath and then kept warm in a warmer/hostess trolley.
If you want a warm meal on Saturday, the slow cooker is turned on for the whole 25 hours.
Yes, it is
frustrating when the electricity goes out just before Sabbath and we have to
eat a cold supper in the dark.
In reality, though, it isn’t that difficult. I have, and I am sure many others too, made Sabbath dinner on the braai and kept it warm by wrapping it in newspaper and blankets, the food may not be piping hot but it is warm.
We live in South Africa, braaing is what we know.
Now I have a gas stove so my biggest complaint is that there
is no hot water for morning tea on Saturday.
We’re load shedding on purpose. I know there are families
out there, not Jewish families, who are doing similar things.
They are disconnecting from technology for a few hours each week as a family in order to reconnect.
We joke about meeting the people living in our homes and how nice they seem to be. I see it with my family all the time. Everyone is so busy with work and school that we don’t slow down to talk to each other.
Getting to know your family and friends
I love having visitors over on a Saturday for lunch and we actually talk, no one is watching their phones for messages.
Everyone is engaged in conversation. My teenagers often have friends over to play board games.
about Pesach is that most of us overdo the food.
sharing my thoughts on what we do to ourselves when preparing for Pesach.
Pesach is a
time of sadness for the Jewish people, we were slaves in Egypt. Pesach is also
a time of great joy. We became a free
nation, leaving Egypt to travel to the Promised Land.
How much is too much?
I have been
watching, reading and listening to all the adverts and Facebook posts, the
Telegram and WhatsApp conversations and I am wondering if we haven’t become
slaves to Pesach itself.
straining our wallets to buy products that we really don’t need and probably
don’t actually use during the rest of the year.
meals that are elaborate and overdone, when we don’t even do this on Shabbos.
The worst part is that guests at our tables don’t even eat half of it or they
eat it because we served it. After all the matzah and maror (lettuce) most of
our family and guests are so full that they really are only eating out of
really necessary for the meal to include 3 different fish starters, soup and
most often Kneidlach, a meat and a chicken dish with the accompanying side
dishes and salads and then a dessert before the afikomen?
By the time
soup is served we have already eaten, at least 3 pieces of Matzah along with a
lot of lettuce topped with charoset and a bowl of egg in salt water!
I couldn’t eat another bite
hostess for second night then also has guests who are still probably full from
having had a big lunch, chances are she is going to be stuck with plenty of
I belong to
a lot of WhatsApp, Facebook , Telegram and Pesach groups. I have been reading
and watching the posts and all I can think is, “what are we doing to ourselves?
We are making ourselves insane.”
speak to women anywhere, a large majority will tell you that Pesach is just
about their worst Chag. Most of it is not the cleaning and prep before, it is
the cooking and the shopping and the expense. It’s trying to find that elusive
new Pesach product and worrying about what to make.
truth is that we have done it to ourselves. By the time the Seder comes round
we are all too tired to enjoy it, to be excited for the plagues, to deal with
the tired and hungry children.
about how much food there is, is there too little or too much and will it your
guests enjoy it. The story of Pesach loses its significance. You have been on
your feet cooking and preparing for this special meal. Can the Seder just be
done so you can go to bed.
Sharing is caring if you can
Some of are
lucky enough to be able to ask friends and family to bring, but that isn’t
always the case. I look at people’s shopping carts and wonder is it worth
spending an entire month’s grocery budget for just one week? How do you do it
if you are on a tight budget?
exchange rate is ridiculous and a lot of the products we are choosing to buy
are imported so we are paying double and sometimes triple the normal price.
lucky here in South Africa that we have local companies, not just the kosher
businesses but the big chains that are prepared to make kosher products for a
minority demographic of their customer base.
privileged to be able to choose between local and overseas products for things
like margarine, oil, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, etc. Definitely the local goods
should get priority but cost must factor in, if the imported product is cheaper
(unlikely but possible) then that’s what we should be buying.
grape juice/ wine, which we can get locally and at a reasonable price, we don’t
have a choice about our matzah and therefore we have to pay the exorbitant
amount especially for the Shemurah matzah, but these are the most important
part of Pesach.
biscuits, cakes and chocolates that cost an absolute fortune are not a
necessity for Pesach, so why do we buy so much of it? Ask yourself, ‘do you
have those during the normal week, do you have cake and biscuits every day?’
A few years
ago, the way I did the Yom Teivim changed not just Pesach but all of them and
Shabbos too. It was costing too much we have a lot of guests for each meal.
Prep for Pesach
ago I came across a group on WhatsApp, called ‘Prep for Pesach’ run by Lindy
Fohrman, it is a group that doesn’t allow commenting. Lindy is the only one who
posts on the group and she starts in January.
posts, with little things you can do so that the final cost of Pesach is spread
over about 3 months instead of all at once.
One of the
most important things that came from the suggestions was to keep a book from
year to year, with numbers of people who service appliances or sell special
products or cheaper products. I did this and also wrote into my book at the end
of Pesach all the items that I am able keep for the next year. This meant that when I started shopping this
year, I already knew what I had and haven’t landed up buying double!
Is it worth
the cost to have all these Pesach food items that are so expensive, just for 7
days? Do you really need a small R70 cake? My ginger cake costs less than that
to make and is made in a foil roaster, so it is enough to last 2 days of Yom
children I understand the need for Shabbos and Yom Tov treats. Why not just buy
one slab of chocolate for each Yom Tov day and each person gets one or 2 pieces
instead of the whole slab. Make some fancy Pesach biscuit and use that as
beginning Pesach shopping there are a few things that you need to ask yourself.
How many people do I have coming for the Seder? Each person needs 3 pieces of
Shemura matzah, then buy only that amount. Buy normal matzah for the rest of Pesach.
One box of Matzah per day should be enough for a family of 4 and then 1 for
just in case.
Over time I
have worked out that you need on average one 750ml bottle of wine or grape
juice per adult, plus one for Shabbos. Now you know how much to buy.
worked out at 200- 250g per person but that is when it is part of a normal meal
and chicken is 1 breast or thigh per person, with all the Seder accoutrements
you could go down to 175g per person and if you have decided you are serving
meat and chicken then drop to 150g meat and 1 piece of chicken per person. I
promise this is enough food!
Eggs are an
item that needs to be bought in fairly large quantities. For the egg and salt
water at the Seder, ½ an egg per person is enough. Having a meal plan will also
tell you how many eggs you need for baking, breakfast and anything else you are
making. I personally use around 100 eggs for Pesach as almost everything is
homemade, so I need for mayonnaise, chopped herring, ginger cakes, matzah brei
Do you need it or do you want it?
really need cheese? For most of Pesach the meals are meat based, because there
are usually plenty of left over foods from the Seder. Fish and tuna based
dishes can be parev. Breakfasts don’t
need to be R100 boxes of cereal. Eggs and matzah or even as some of my family
enjoy (27 years into this marriage and it is still not something I will eat)
Matzah meal porridge.
porridge is simply matzah meal with either warm milk or water as you would make
any instant porridge and then they add honey, strawberry jam or sugar.
books abound with Pesach pancakes or waffles and other breakfast ideas.
plate is something else you need to make sure you have enough of. Instead of
parsley we use boiled potato, so I have worked out that we need one potato for
6-8 people. The lettuce works out to 2 or 3 large pieces per person, this is
about 1 pillow pack for 3 guests, if you buy too much you can use the left over
either in a salad or I have made lettuce soup (my family still thinks it was a
something my husband and son make every year, we often make enough to use
throughout the year and to give as gifts. If you are buying the bottles don’t
buy more than two unless you have big chain eaters.
You don’t have to break the bank
From one of
the many kosher food groups I belong to on various social media channels, I
found that there are people who don’t break the bank for Pesach, because
alongside what they serve as part of the actual Seder, their meal is very
simple. There is one course and that is soup, fish or meat, not extra fancy
desserts, no big 3 course meals.
like to thank all the Pesach groups and the local companies that have made
Pesach easier for us here in South Africa.
To help everyone recover from the cost of Pesach I am hosting a meal planning and budgeting workshop on the 5th of May. You can book now https://qkt.io/Planning
happens every year and yet; how the speed at which it arrives has so many of us
running in panic.
for me for the first time, there was no panic and, as expensive as Pesach is,
the cost was spread out over 3 months.
The reason for this is the ingenuity of a few ladies. The first is Lindy Fohrman and her WhatsApp group called Prep for Pesach.
This group was started 5 years ago and has grown tremendously. There are 2 other admins on the group, as well as 2 Telegram groups for Pesach Recipes and Pesach shopping.
in 2017 and was very useful , even though I didn’t use it to its full
potential. In 2018 I used her weekly
postings and Pesach arrived with about half the stress it normally does.
start in January and even though it seems so far away and that prepping for
Pesach in January seems illogical, it works.
off with a small school note book, which you can use each year to make notes of
suppliers you found. After Pesach you make
a list of the non-perishables you can use for the next year as you will already
have them in your Pesach cupboard.
week starts off with checking your kitchen for food items that need to be used
up before Pesach.
This is where
meal planning works well. Having an
inventory of everything, allows you to create meals with what you already
have. It avoids wasting food that would
need to be thrown out just before Pesach.
The next is
to look at your disposables; items such
as tin foil, plastic wrap, storage bags and disposable cutlery and plates that
get taken to work during Pesach.
appliances and replace or repair what you can. I have a simple gas stove for
Pesach so I have had my tanks refilled now and won’t have to worry about there
being a shortage when the rush starts or running out half way through cooking.
This has happened previously.
possible, try and put away a little
money each week in preparation for that big final shop!
second week Lindy reminds us to buy our toiletries; items such as mouthwash ,
toothpaste and new toothbrushes.
Also it is
time to measure your kitchen counters to buy the plastic you are going to use with
which to cover them. If you have precut
tops for your counters that can be reused, make sure the ants haven’t gotten in
and that they are not damaged.
and it is time to buy candles for Yom Tov and Shabbat as well as Yartzheit
candle, matches and lighters.
Pesach, a word that often brings tears to Jewish households everywhere. Not only tears for the story of Pesach but also tears at the thought of all that needs to be done.
I know we are still two months away but Pesach is an expensive endeavour to do properly and for those starting out it can be quite daunting. Starting early can reduce the stress a lot.
During the year I build my Pesach fund by using WUHU deals and SNAPnSAVE as much as possible. Usually by the time Pesach comes around I have a few hundred rand saved and shopping vouchers from my points on WUHU.
I am one of those lucky people who have a separate kitchen, so when I see something on special that I will be able to use during Pesach I buy it and put it away.
Please check with your Rabbi for items that may be used during Pesach without the hechsher.
I have a little gas stove for Pesach so as soon as the week is over I fill it up. It is one less thing to worry about for the next year.
I am also able to store my spices in the small freezer to use again, without needing to buy more.
Last year a lot of supermarkets put the previous years stock on sale for amazing prices and I stocked up. I am watching carefully for this year.
One of the ways is to buy early and store is to use a trommel (trunk) that can be used to store your purchases. Air tight containers to keep spices fresh in your normal freezer are a good idea if you have the space.
I always have a list at the end of each Pesach of things I would like for the next one. The wish list doesn’t always get fulfilled but I sometimes manage to get one or two items.
One day I would like to go on one of those Pesach retreats where I wouldn’t have to worry about, cleaning or preparing for the Seder’s. After 25 years of hosting Seders though I am not sure I would know what to do with myself!
If you live in certain areas of the country, you may have noticed that Pick n Pay Hypermarkets, in some areas, have aisles set aside with really odd foodstuffs that have ridiculous prices! This is the beginning of the madness called Pesach or Passover.
Pesach is a Jewish festival lasting 7 days in Israel and 8 days in the rest of the world. For non-Jews, this is recognisable by the boxes of Matzos on the shelves.
The Jewish holiday is a remembrance of the years of slavery, the 10 plagues and the exodus from Egypt in the time of Moses and Pharaoh. The Israelite nation had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that the dough the women were preparing did not have time to rise into loaves of bread. Since then Jews are forbidden to eat any leavened bread during Pesach. The stringency is so exact that observant Jews change everything in their entire kitchen for those 8 days.
The first 2 nights of this Jewish holiday find families sitting together for the Seder (festival dinner). There is a special order to the way the meal is eaten as well as food to represent those different aspects of that time in Egypt.
The focal points of the Seder are:
Eating bitter herbs—to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice—a royal drink to celebrate our newfound freedom.
The recitation of the Haggadah which is a book that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfilment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.
A different set of crockery and cutlery is used during this time, matzo is eaten instead of bread and no products containing flour are allowed to be eaten or brought into your house!
Unusual foods are eaten at this time such as, Danish herring, matzo balls in chicken soup, horseradish and minced fish (gefilte fish), chopped herring, hardboiled eggs in warm salt water (delicious!) and much more. here are links to my recipes.
We are coming up to Pesach, and what would Pesach be without Kneidlach/ Matzo balls? Jewish or not this is a great meal, when served with the traditional chicken soup or even with a thick tomato or butternut soup.
Here is a quick and easy way to make the perfect soup accompaniment. This recipe is fast, easy and practically fail proof.
30 mls of oil or schmaltz (chicken fat)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of cinnamon (1/8 tsp)
3/4 cup matzo meal
In a bowl, lightly beat your eggs, oil, seasoning and cinnamon together. Add the matzo meal and mix well, it should form a soft dough, that you can roll into balls.
Take a teaspoonful of dough and roll into a small ball, remember the balls will double in size as they cook.
Add to rapidly boiling salt water or a large pot of soup and allow to cook for a minimum of 20 minutes, the longer they cook to softer they are.
It is very important that the soup or salt water that you will be cooking your kneidlach in, is actively boiling when you put your balls in otherwise, they break apart. Matzo balls should be soft and fluffy, and cut easily with your soup spoon.
My youngest daughter and I went to my favourite coffee place. Jozi Blue, a small unassuming coffee shop, in the heart of Glenhazel, Johannesburg.
I must admit, I am not a great coffee drinker at all, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you about the different beans and their flavours that are on offer for you to drink there, but the aficionado’s rave about the choices. It is not the décor that draws me to this shop either, because that is mostly plastic tables and chairs. It is the vibe, to use a much abused cliché.
When you walk in, you are greeted like an old friend, whether you were there yesterday, 6 months ago or it is your first time!
I have to admit that it feels like Jozi Blue has always been around, but that’s possibly because of the accolades they have already accumulated in the fairly short time they have been open. They celebrated their 3rd birthday this year.
They have certainly made their impact on the coffee world here in Johannesburg!
Pippa Rowney of Coffey and Cake blog, visited Jozi Blue on trip to Jo’burg and raved about it in her blog http://www.coffeyandcake.com/2014/08/jozi–blue! Listed as one of the top 10 coffee shops in Jo’burg by Travelstart http://www.travelstart.co.za/blog/10-best-johannesburg-coffee-shops/. Listed at #2 on the Tripadvisor website for coffee and tea places in Johannesburg, how can anyone not want to try their coffee?
Shmuel and his staff really seem to enjoy what they do.
One thing you can’t do is leave without eating. They are not a restaurant and do not claim to be, they are a coffee shop that offers food, and what yummy food it is too.
I absolutely love their muffins, the caramel muffin is my best, actually maybe it is the Bar One muffin, or maybe the Top Deck muffin, I can’t really tell you as I like them all, however, it usually takes me a while to finish one if I am eating it on my own as they are enormous.
Today I had a pizza, not a regular pizza, but a banting pizza. If you don’t know what banting is, you obviously don’t live in South Africa, it is a new phenomenon of low carb, high fat eating for weight loss developed by controversial Dr. Tim Noaks.
My daughter had an ice tea.
The owner, Shmuel Montrose introduced a brilliant idea, or rather 2 brilliant ideas. The first a pre-loaded card, this is basically a card that you put money into and you can then get your coffee using that, the more money you pre-load the bigger your coffee discount, so when you don’t have cash, you can still get coffee. Snapscan is also available to pay with your smartphone.
The second thing he introduced is the Whatsapp order, you order your coffee via the Whatsapp line and then he will reply to say your order was received, all you have to do is drive passed and fetch it! I’ve driven passed in the mornings and seen them bring the coffee out to the people in their cars.
Go in early and it is filled with people having meetings, mid-morning its more meetings and ladies having coffee, in fact it seems to be full most of the day. There are plenty of plugs for your computers and WiFi available too. I have actually gone to work there when my ADSL line went down for a few days.
They have spent their time investing in their main ingredient, coffee, so if you want a chic, fancy coffee shop, don’t go there, however, if you want good coffee and tasty eats, it’s the place to go.
They also offer a fish braai (barbecue) every Sunday, which smelled absolutely amazing when I was there today. I may have to dump the kids (they don’t like fish) and take myself out to lunch one day. I might take my husband, we’ll see.
For those who want it, they also offer a non-dairy option and Chalov Yisroel.
It is December and that means Chanukah for the Jews and Christmas for the Christians. Thank you to the person who gave me the information to write about Chistmas.
The story of Chanukah
Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of lights. It is an eight day celebration of a miracle that occurred 2000 years ago. The Jews were attacked by the Syrian-Greek Empire under the rule of Antiochus III who tried, and failed, to steal the money stored in the Temple. Antiochus III was killed by Antiochus IV, known as the madman; he decided that his kingdom must have only one religion and placed his own priest in the Temple to collect the money that was being paid as taxes. The Jews rebelled, and when he heard this, he attacked them and killed thousands of people. He then forbade Jewish worship and the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. Sabbath rest, circumcision and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death.
The Jews, who did not want to convert, hid in the hills and caves of Judea and were killed. Antiochus sent a henchman to the city of Modin and tried to get an old Jewish priest named Mattitiyahu to light a sacrifice to their idols. When he refused, a Jew who had become an Hellenic worshiper, tried to light the pagan sacrafice and was killed by Mattitiyahu. The Syrians were then attacked and, either killed or chased away, and the alter was destroyed. Mattitiyahu, his sons and followers then hid in the Judean hills. Before his death he made his sons leaders of the Maccabees to defend their religion. They returned to Jerusalem and went to the Temple to clean it out and get rid of all the idols and rededicated the Temple. A Menorah was made to replace the one stolen by the Syrian army and the new 8 branched candelabra was lit However, there was only enough pure olive oil to last for a day b but, by a miracle, the oil burned for 8 days and 8 nights, which was long enough for new olive oil to be made. The Rabbi’s (priests) declared an 8 day celebration to commemorate this miracle.
It is not a religious celebration like we normally have with big meals and synagogue attendance, rather it is a celebration where we light a new and extra candle each night, sing songs and play games. Each night of the festival children are given gifts, usually of money and, what would a Jewish celebration be without food? As we are celebrating a miracle that involved the use of oil, we make special food that is fried in oil. The two main foods that are made and eaten are sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes).
The story of Christmas
A few hundred years before King Herod ruled Judea. A young woman named Mary became pregnant through divine intervention. She and her intended, whose name was Joseph, got married. At the same time Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was also pregnant and later had a baby boy named John.
Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Joseph came from, to comply with the Roman decree of being counted where you were born. Because so many people had come to be counted there was nowhere for them to stay. The only place they could find was where the animals where kept. This stable is where she gave birth to the boy known as Jesus. Far away 3 wise men saw a new star in the sky. They followed the star to Jerusalem as they understood what this meant. They started asking questions and King Herod heard this and thought that the king they were talking about was going to try and take over his kingdom. He ordered the wise men to find the baby king. The wise men followed the star to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph with their baby, Jesus. They brought gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh and gold for the baby king and then returned home.
Joseph was told by an angel, in a dream, to go with his family to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died. They then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth.
The reason we give gifts at Christmas is to symbolise the gifts given by the 3 wise men. These gifts each had a meaning, they weren’t random (I won’t go into this as I don’t know enough about it and my blog is the wrong forum).
In my personal opinion but both Chanukah and Christmas are losing out to the commercialism of the modern world and we have forgotten their spiritual meaning. They have, to a certain extent, become about the presents and not about why we have these two holidays.
On this note I leave you to think about why you are buying in to the practice of extravagant gifts and forgetting that no religion is about monetary or physical possession, but rather about respect and understanding and love.
So if you are going to give a gift, make it one you can afford and not one that you think the person wants.