Reno resident Davida Skigen has caught the eye of CNN and The New York Times. Skigen published The When You Live in Hawaii, You Get Very Creative During Passover Cookbook on her computer desktop program 13 years ago and the cookbook, now in its second edition, continues to be heralded as one of the nation’s unique cooking guides. Skigen wrote the book while living in Hawaii, a state with a relatively low Jewish population. Buying food that was kosher-for-Passover—no foods prepared with leavened bread products or lentils are allowed—was a bit tricky, so Skigen wrote down some of her favorite Passover recipes and rounded up recipes from her fellow congregants. Her husband, Dennis, suggested the lengthy but very descriptive title, and the cookbook was born. It is available in Reno at Moxie Java, 465 S. Meadows Parkway.
What prompted you to write this cookbook?
Living in Hawaii, we did not have access to a lot of foods that are kosher … so we decided to put together some recipes that would bring out the best of Passover foods. It really does require a lot of creativity. Reno has the same kind of situation. We don’t have access to a lot of kosher-for-Passover foods. Some of the local supermarkets here and in Hawaii have kosher-for-Passover foods, but if we wanted something special, we had to make it ourselves. Here we can drive to San Francisco or Sacramento, but of course living on an island there was no place to drive.
What do Passover dietary restrictions symbolize for you?
We are sacrificing because we were slaves and now we’re free. This is to remind us of the time when we were slaves.
Can you find kosher-for-Passover foods in local stores?
If we lived in New York, yes, I could find ice cream that is marked kosher-for-Passover. There are a few dairy products [here] that are marked kosher-for-Passover. We found cottage cheese. If it’s not fresh [produce], it pretty much has to be marked.
Do you use these recipes at other times during the year?
Strange you should ask. Here’s one I use all year round [motioning to the cookbook]. It’s called Hawaiian Snowflakes [a meringue-like dessert]. And Max’s Apple Cobbler. The desserts in this book don’t taste like Passover desserts. I’m a dessert person. That’s one thing that’s really important to me.
Have people outside the Jewish community taken an interest in the book?
Oh, yes. Quite a few. In fact, some churches bought the cookbook because they were putting on [Passover] seders.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a sequel to this book. [The first one] just keeps coming back. Less than four years later they came out with a second [edition]. Just a few years after that it was on CNN, and last week it was in The New York Times. It’s like the cookbook that won’t die.