June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:23 PM
"Ten times Moses asked old Pharaoh to let his people go and nine times Pharaoh said Heck, no; I won't let 'em go. And each time he refused, Javeh (aka God) tried to show Pharaoh who's Boss by sending a plague to bedevil the local folks. Locusts, pestilence, boils - you name it - each one a bit worse than the one before. It wasn't until God said he was going to kill every firstborn child, except in the houses marked with x's to show they were to be passed over, that Pharaoh got the message and told Moses take his people and clear out, quickly. Of course, he changed his mind after a bit and wanted them back, but by then it was too late, and the rest, as they say, is history.Well, lately the good folks of the greater Seattle area are feeling a lot like Pharaoh, wondering What, oh Lord, will be visited upon us next? First the locusts, in the form of hordes of outsiders and protesters who came for WTO and left havoc in their wake, followed by the boils that came for fun during Mardi Gras week, then a major earthquake, ongoing drought, and now even God, here known as Boeing, has decided to abandon the place he virtually created in favor of friendlier folk. What, Seattleites cry, have we done to deserve this?You know the answer, if you think about it. What's almost always at the root of a big downfall; what always goeth before a fall? Pride, of course.For years now, Seattle has been surfing the big wave of pride, riding high on praise from every corner of the land. Best place to live, best place to work, best place to raise kids, best quality of life, best place to vacation, best this, that and the other thing. For two decades, I've watched the city I've loved ever since I can remember evolve into what now seems to be a combination of the worst aspects of San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, going all the way from Will the last person out of Seattle please turn out the lights: to Queen of the Pacific Northwest, somehow never believing that the transformation could be deadly. The monumental, crushing and seemingly insolvable traffic problems and the skyrocketing cost of housing are only the outward symptoms of the malignant disease that now plagues the once bright and shining Emerald City. Somehow, like Pharaoh, the powers that were and are in Seattle just didn't get the message. What, you may well ask, has this to do with us, who live on and love nearby peaceful, placid, rural Whidbey Island? Think about it.RecipesWhether or not you are having or attending a first night Seder or celebrating any aspect of Passover, there's no reason not to enjoy the many outstanding dishes that came about as a result of Passover rituals. One of our favorite soups all year long, for example, is Matzoh Ball Soup (recipes appeared last year in April column; if you want them e-mail me at email@example.com), and these Passover dessert recipes are a treat any time of the year.Matzo Buttercrunch6 unsalted matzos (look in the ethnic food section of your supermarket)1 cup unsalted butter (if you're Jewish, use the special Passover margarine)1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed1 cup coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (your preference)Toasted slivered almonds (or other nuts of your choice, coarsely chopped)1. Line a heavy jellyroll pan with foil, then a sheet of parchment paper. Use the matzos to make a solid layer in the pan, placing them as close together as possible and breaking up another matzo, if necessary, to fill in any gaps. Make as solid a layer as possible. 2. Heat the butter and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring to a medium boil (not a hard, rolling boil or you'll overcook it) for 3-4 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it over the matzos in the jellyroll pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until it has begun to set up. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate pieces over the top. Let stand until the chocolate has softened, then spread with a spatula to cover the surface. Sprinkle surface with nuts of choice, then place pan in the freezer for a half hour or so, until very firm. Break the buttercrunch into pieces to serve. If storing, place pieces in a single layer between layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap and keep cold.This Passover Nut Cake is very rich, and somewhat like baklava, so serve it in very small pieces. (From A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, which my shiksa sister gave me and I use often). Passover Nut Cake1 1/2 cups granulated sugar1/2 cup brown sugar1/2 cup vegetable oil6 eggs6 T. orange juice2 t. orange zest, finely minced1/2 t. salt1/2 t. cinnamon1 cup matzoh cake meal (available in ethnic foods section of most markets)1 cup finely chopped hazelnuts2 cups finely chopped walnutsFor the syrup1 cup granulated sugar1/3 cup honey1/2 cup orange juice1/4 cup water2 T. lemon juice1/2 t. cinnamon1. In a medium sized bowl, with a wire whisk, beat together the white and brown sugar, oil and eggs, beating until very thick and pale yellow. Stir in orange juice, zest, salt, cinnamon, cake meal and nuts. Pour batter into a well oiled 9x13 pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until top is light brown and set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before adding syrup.2. To make syrup: In a saucepan, heat the sugar, honey, orange juice, water, lemon juice and cinnamon, heating until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat and simmer about 8 to 10 minutes, until mixture becomes like syrup. Allow to cool, then use a long-tined fork to poke holes in the cake. Pour the syrup slowly over the cake, allowing syrup to absorb, then adding more. Refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours to allow it to absorb the syrup and firm up a bit, which makes it easier to cut. Cut into small squares or diamonds and arrange on a cake plate or platter (put pieces in paper muffin cups or on small paper doilies, if preferred, as they are quite sticky). Makes up to 20 servings, depending upon size of pieces you cut. "