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  • Miriam Green

Bread of Affliction


The holiday of Passover starts this week. But Alzheimer's sufferers will not recognize that Friday night will be different from all other nights.

When I saw Mom today, I sang some of the Passover songs she’d taught us as kids. There’s the song about frogs jumping on Pharoah’s bed; she remembered that one. My favorite is a haunting melody to Ha lachma anya (which translates to, "This is the bread of affliction...") that she learned in her choir many years ago that we’ve incorporated every year into our Seder. With my limited singing ability and Mom’s memory loss, we managed only the first few bars. I had to start the song several times until she sang along.

I often notice that if Mom is asked to do something and she thinks about it, she can’t do it—like sing a specific song, or drink from a cup. If she does it automatically, as many of us do with rote tasks, then the action comes unaided.

This is my first Passover in many years that we won’t have Mom with us at our Seder table. Even if she were there, she would be totally out of her element—no single point of focus, many voices around the table talking at once, several languages being spoken, interactive discussions beyond her comprehension.

I have come to accept that she will be better off having her routine dinner and bedtime without the pressure of having to figure out what’s happening around her. I hate that this is so, that this disease has robbed us of the ability to interact in an extended family setting.

I focus instead on the time that we do have together, the laughs and smiles and hugs, the silly songs we sing, the kisses she bestows on me.

And, of course, my memories. On the positive side, the first Seder we conducted with four generations. My oldest was two-years-old, and all my immediate family came to Beer Sheva for the Seder, including my brother Simon and his wife Sharon. My parents brought my grandparents. They were all living in Netanya at the time. The house got kind of crowded, especially when my grandmother elbowed her way into the kitchen to make her famous bubalehs, leaving a mess on almost every surface as she whipped and mixed the batter. I write about that in my book and share the recipe there.

Or more troubling memories from more recently. Mom opening the wrong cupboards and taking out the wrong plates. Mom getting stuck in the small bathroom because she must have automatically locked the door. Then she started banging repeatedly on the door, yelling and crying, her fear rising with each hard knock she gave it. We were all set to break down that door when she inexplicably managed to open it. To ensure that it didn’t happen again, we taped that sliding lock so tightly no one could move it.

Mom’s home will be serving matza for the week of Passover, so when we visit we’ll have a reference to bring up the holiday with her. Maybe we’ll even manage to get her to sing that rendition of Ha lachma anya.

I truly enjoy making quiche. Despite all the different elements that make up the whole, I find it easy to put together. It usually takes me about 20 minutes to get a quiche in the oven. Of course, preparing a Passover quiche requires a little bit more finesse, but the hurdle of no flour can be overcome. Here’s a recipe for broccoli quiche with a matza meal crust that, while not exactly the same, is still delicious.

Passover Broccoli Quiche

In truth, you can use any vegetable you like for this quiche. My standard recipe calls for fried onions. Adding broccoli is a nice change.

Crust:

1 cup matza meal

½ cup potato flour

1/3 to ½ oil

5 Tbsp water

1 tsp salt

Filling:

1½ cups Cheddar or American cheese, grated

1½ cups broccoli, steamed and chopped

Custard:

4 eggs

1½ cups milk

1 Tbsp matza meal

Salt and pepper to taste

Paprika

Directions:

Steam broccoli florets in a small amount of water. Chop when cooled. Meanwhile, mix crust ingredients in a large bowl adding oil liberally until a dough forms. Pat into round pie pan. Using the same bowl, mix custard ingredients. In pie pan, place layer of grated cheese at bottom of crust, then broccoli on top. Pour custard over broccoli. Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake for 45 minutes at 350° F / 180° C.

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