Finding Order in Disorder & Chocolate Olive Oil Passover Cake

Chocolate Olive Oil Passover Cake

I’m still the same as when I last wrote-focused on COVID19 most of the day and trying, like everyone else, to function as best possible. Beyond the obvious irony of living in a pandemic during Passover, how I will celebrate it this year has been hard (beyond simply finding holiday foods).

I know that many of you, like me, struggle to find grounding and order in this surreal moment. For me, the idea of the order of a seder and all of the holiday’s beautiful rituals that take us out of our normal daily routines is confounding and challenging now. If Passover already turns my regular routine upside down by changing what I eat, and completely transforms my kitchen, already creating a disruption, how do I create a semblance of the “normalcy” of the holiday routine when nothing is normal now? And, how to celebrate the idea of freedom and liberation when there’s so much sadness, stress, and darkness in our lives? How are we not consumed by these emotions and recognize the potential to survive and embrace the beautiful things in the world?

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Nina’s Apple Cake

Nina’s apple cake

This is the story of an apple cake. But not the ingredients or how to make it. It’s the story of its maker—someone who brought warmth and joy to my family’s home for Shabbat meals and holidays and who selflessly cared for so many people (including painstakingly preparing a beloved cake for voracious eaters!) despite a past that was far from sweet.

The baker of the famous apple cake is Nina Merrick, an 89-year-old resident of Silver Spring, Maryland. She and her husband, Leon, have been friends of my family’s ever since I first began to study with her to prepare for my bat mitzvah, a connection that came about thanks to her lifelong commitment to teaching Judaism. Continue reading