The wind-up pitch before Passover is both exciting and disturbing to my family. Exciting because, due to our exuberant cleaning for the holiday- emptying drawers, overturning mattresses, and in general preparing the house for a visit by Better Homes & Gardens, we find all kinds of things that have been missing in action for months. So far, the kids have found about three weeks' allowance and some packets of stale candy under the bed. My daughter has no idea how this candy, a brand expressly forbidden by me, got to her room, but is sure that she had nothing to do with it.

The countervailing bad news here is that before Passover, my family must cope with some very strange and terrible dinners. This is because we keep kosher, and most of the food in the house is not Kosher for Passover. We need to eat it up before the holiday and not have it in our possession before this Festival of Freedom begins. But I hate to waste any food, and so recent dinners have been patched together by reaching back into the recesses of the freezer or pantry and improvising something that a generous person might say resembles a real meal.

My kids looked with horror at this sorry excuse for dinner The other night, I transformed one cleaned out freezer shelf into the following "meal" (perhaps this is a stretch) for the six of us: thirteen fish sticks, three pieces of pita bread with a terminal case of freezer burn, a cup and a half of roasted pistachios, a bowl of corn and three cheese blintzes. My kids looked with horror at this sorry excuse for a family dinner and begged for cereal, noting that we still had five boxes available. Of course, I buckled under pressure, and watched them practically run over one another to feast on Honeycombs, Crispix and milk.

During the rest of the year, as soon as the kids see me after school they call out to me, "Hi Ma WhatsFaDinna???" But in the days before Passover, they are too frightened to ask.

Last night, dinner descended another notch or two. "Okay, I've got eight falafel balls, a bowl of green beans, a can of kidney beans, four potato pancakes, a bag of pretzels and a can of mandarin oranges. Who's with me?"

My husband, who has learned a thing or two in sixteen years of marriage, just eats what's offered and keeps quiet. He knows that my mouth-watering brisket is just around the corner, on the night of the Seder. But the kids just throw themselves on the mercy of the court and plead for pizza. They are so desperate they even offer to do extremely uncharacteristic things, such as clean their own rooms and bathe without waiting for any parental threats or intimidation.

My husband just eats what's offered and keeps quiet And they know they will soon get their pizza, because at a certain point, I will run out of food. And then we, along with about 4,000 of our neighbors, start hitting the kosher pizza joints in the neighborhood. No one has leavened products in the house anymore. Everyone is turning their kitchens around to be kosher for Passover, and we will wait as long as it takes, sometimes for days, for a hot pizza and calzone.

Well, my pantry and freezer are pretty bare right now, so this will probably be the last night I can get away with serving another in the series of pathetic pre-Passover portions. Tonight we are having three thawed-out chicken drumsticks (age indeterminate), six bagels (with only moderate freezer burn), corn chips (only semi-stale), peanut butter, and canned peaches.

With Passover only days away, we're so close to repast redemption, I can almost smell the brisket now.