Spice up Your Passover Menu With JNF-USA Virtual Cooking Class
By Rachel Jager
While our conventional holiday celebrations have been temporarily put on-hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, families and friends have found new ways to celebrate events and milestones. As Jewish families prepare for Passover, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) invites mothers, daughters, bubbes and home chefs everywhere in the U.S. to come together for a live, free, Passover cooking class with Debbie Kornberg, JNF-USA’s San Diego board president, founder of Spice it Up With Deb: A Live Cooking Experience and owner of SPICE + LEAF, a company specializing in curated spice blends that bring Mediterranean flavor and flare to home cooking. In addition to (pre-Covid) in-person cooking demonstrations, she has also been offering live virtual cooking classes on Zoom since 2018, where she teaches quick and easy methods to preparing complete meals, using spices as the secret weapon.
Debbie says that there are many benefits to participating in virtual cooking classes; for example, attendees can join regardless of their geographic location and are not limited by the physical confines of sharing a kitchen. “Virtual cooking classes allow people the benefits of being in their own kitchen, enabling them to make adjustments to a recipe that will result in a finished product that makes sense for their family,” she says. “For many, it is a luxury to be cooking with everything that you’re comfortable with in your own environment, as opposed to going to a live presentation and either watching a demonstration or doing a hands-on class that typically can’t be shared with your family.”
Even though there is no replacement for time spent together, Debbie also has suggestions for creating an enjoyable and meaningful virtual seder. When it comes to telling the story of Passover, Debbie says that her family always plans ahead to ensure a lively discussion that will include everyone at the table; this holds true even for hosting a virtual seder. To truly optimize the experience, Debbie suggests taking advantage of Zoom features that will keep guests engaged; for example, you can utilize Zoom’s polls to spark conversation, or use breakout rooms to divide into small discussion groups (for example, one for kids and one for adults), before coming back together as a group. She says that a virtual wine tasting is another way to add an activity to the seder that everyone can enjoy “together.” For the four cups of wine, you might want to have a selection of Israeli wines, or different color wines, or some with bubbles – you can coordinate ahead of time with your family or friends, so that everyone is tasting the same wine at the same time.
Preparing for the holiday also offers unique opportunities to bond with family members, as younger generations may find themselves making their own seder for the first time, and feel compelled to prepare the same dishes that their own mother or grandmother would traditionally serve. Debbie is particularly excited that the upcoming cooking class will give families another way to connect, cooking side-by-side in a new way. “I just love Passover,” she says. “There’s so much richness in our traditions, and so much that can be done to celebrate together even when we can’t be sitting at the same table.”
To register for Debbie’s live, virtual cooking class on March 17, please visit jnf.org/cookingwithdeb. This event is free to attend.