Today is the beginning of Pesach, which marks the beginning of an eight day journey where Bear’s and my religion clash so that we unwittingly make faux pas to each other even after all this time as a couple. It’s a strange moment for us as a few years ago we abandoned our seder after a gut feeling I’d had, having spoken to my mother earlier in the day. We arrived at hers to find her so gravely ill we called an ambulance.
Bear spent last night baking his own matzo, which spared us a trip to a supermarket only to return disappointed as the crackers prove not to be easy to find at times, and even more likely in quarantine. During Passover, followers of the Jewish faith are not allowed to eat food made from grain or water that has been allowed to rise so bread, pasta, and beer’s out, which means I’m out, and Bear will have to fend for himself until the 16th.
I’d brought some pork belly out of the freezer, but in the spirit of compromise that won’t be eaten until Saturday (as we navigate the start of Passover as well as the upcoming Good Friday)... I’ve also scrapped my initial proposal of lasagne on Easter Sunday for a roast chicken, which will mean we have to make a trip to Gaillac before the weekend.
We venture to the local Wednesday market for the second time during the quarantine and find the situation greatly changed. Where once we found just the vendors in front of their wares are now concert queue style barricades with clearly signposted entrances and exits.
Everyone — vendors and shoppers — appear to be adorned with masks apart from a few (us included). We don’t stay long as we only want fish for Friday as well as a handful of the vegetables on offer. On autopilot, I reach for a plastic bag to pick up my shallots but am tackled by a masked crusader with plastic gloves who informs me we’re no longer allowed to touch anything. We make our way down the line, pointing to our requests, and he fills the bag with our purchases. I’m forced to utilise more of my French when he tries to give me a bunch of parsley that’s doing a back-bend to rival a professional high jumper, and insist that he swap it out for something fresher. There are more people than the last time we braved the market and it’s a welcome opportunity to catch up with faces we haven’t seen for a while.
The upcoming Holy days make me assess the dining table for the first time since the only and only dinner party we’ve thrown following the Christmas/New Year season. I reach for a white table cloth and a runner with a botanical theme as it mirrors the shifting vista outside where apple and cherry blossoms adorn the trees, and wisteria and tulips vie for attention in front of people’s homes. Nature outside us is marking the passing times even if every day feels the same, and time appear to have stopped, now that we are holed up indoors.
Quarantine is tough, even when we spend our days looking out at the river, at a skyline peppered with trees and a moving canvas of birds. I remember all too well the claustrophobia of not so long ago passed days in the city; looking out at only more buildings, desperate for a postage stamp patch of a milky sky.
We have a garden we can escape to when many are going stir crazy in high rises. We have an empty attic upstairs, where in London I was driven to near murder every weekend as I could hear each footstep our neighbour took over our heads… I knew when she did the laundry (her running washing machine turned our kitchen lights into a nightclub), I knew when her meals were ready in her pinging microwave machine, and I knew when she’d come back in from a run. I’m aware of how we’ve escaped truly being locked in when I speak with friends in these city situations. Fortunately, we all have the internet keeping us from losing it entirely as memes are viral videos are passed around hors d’oeuvres at an apero.
Bear handles our meal though tempers are wearing thin as we perform a clumsy ballet in the kitchen. (He likes complete solo occupation of the room while he cooks, while thinking nothing of grabbing me from behind while I’m julienning some carrot with the sharpest of our knives.)
We go through the seder ceremony, looking at the plate we set out for the prophet Elijah, and are thankful for what we have as we make our toasts and dip our parsley into the sea. We make our endive and mustard (our substitute for horseradish) sandwiches from Bear’s matzo, which is delicious and so much better than the store bought variety.
We polish off our boiled eggs before tucking into a dinner of Greek style lamb, potatoes, mixed greens and grilled red peppers.
This series was first published on Medium