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The days before Passover are probably the busiest time of the year for Orthodox Jewish families. We need to clean our homes, cars, backpacks, etc. of any traces of chametz (leavened flour products.) The kitchen is the biggest part of the job. Everything is scoured, opened packages of foods are finished up or packed away, counters are covered, dishes are packed away, and special Passover utensils are unpacked. Some items can be kashered (made kosher for Passover) through the use of heat. Many families use a lot of disposables for the week. Then there’s another busy time when the holiday ends, and we need to put the kitchen back to normal.
Kashrut is even stricter this week than it is the rest of the year. Most products need special “Kosher for Passover” certification; even items that don’t require special certification during the year. Matzah is permitted, but anything else made from wheat, oats, rye, spelt, or barley is “chametz” and cannot be consumed. Ashkenazi Jews, those typically of Eastern European descent, also don’t eat legumes or rice for the week. Sephardic Jews, those of Southern European descent, don’t have that restriction, but they do have special rules about how those foods are prepared for the holiday.
A great many products are theoretically permitted for Passover use, but are not currently available with certification. This list includes ALL the sweeteners that are permitted to me. Honey and sugar are readily available for Passover, but those are both “avoids” on my food list. Agave and molasses should be acceptable for Passover, since molasses is made from sugar cane and agave is made from a desert plant. But I could find neither with Passover certification. That left me with two choices: don’t eat sweets for the holiday or compromise on compliance.
There were a few other special holiday foods that weren’t compliant. I used spelt matzah since rye matzah isn’t currently available. Charoset is a traditional food for the Passover Seder, representing the mortar the ancient Hebrews used during slavery in Egypt. Our family recipe is a mixture of apples, cinnamon, red wine, walnuts, and honey. I’m not supposed to have apples or honey. I could have substituted pears for the apples, but since I couldn’t find an alternative for the honey anyway, I went ahead with my traditional recipe and limited my own portions.
Other non-compliant goodies included marshmallows and coconut macaroons, and my 17 year old made chocolate/caramel covered matzah, chocolate muffins, and almond macaroons. The homemade treats were compliant except for the sugar, and fully compliant for the kids. I had a small taste of each treat but mostly eliminated all added sugars from my diet for the week. I also made almond milk for the week and had it in my daily yerba mate/cocoa beverage. My family doesn’t use rice on Passover, since we’re Ashkenazi. Without being able to use rice milk or molasses in my tea, I felt the need to add something to make my tea tastier. Since almonds are neutral for me, I figured that the damage from almond milk must be subtle, and felt it was a reasonable compromise for one week out of the year.
I ate far too much sugar the last few days of the holiday. That resulted, as usual, in eating too much food overall and never really feeling satisfied. But I did eat plenty of vegetables and meats, and managed to take a walk almost every day of the holiday. I’ve been eating clean since right after lunch the last day of the holiday, so nearly 2 full days now. Between the “less than perfect” diet and the late hours we were keeping, I got quite irritable and sore. I wasn’t in a full fibro-flare, but I didn’t feel particularly well either. I’m getting myself back on track now, and I hope to do better next Passover.
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