Thursday, April 17, 2008

Passover 101

image Besides watching the now-deceased Charlton Heston play a hottie Moses in The Ten Commandments, most non-Jews are probably unsure of what exactly Pesach, or Passover is.

But never fear, Passover 101 is here!

Passover refers to g-d "passing over" the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt in the final plague, as told in the book of Exodus.

Makes you feel warm and fuzzy, eh?

image Jews around the world celebrate Passover by ditching "chametz" and having seders. The removal of "chametz," which is: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes - pretty much any carb excluding potatoes- from our home sucks but it's an important part of the holiday.

image Besides torturing us carb lovers, no chametz refers to the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise before Pharoh changed his mind and wanted to enslave us again.


Crafty Jewish mothers have come up with many inventive ways to use matzah. You can buy matzah flour and potatoe starch for cakes and cookies, matzah meal for a bread crumb substitute and there are a variety of packaged crackers, cereals, desserts and other products available too.


These subs are  never as good as the real thing (with the exception of Crispy-O's and chocolate covered matzah) but I have to hand it to balabustas around the world who get creative with their Passover fare.  Classics include, matzah brei (a mix of matzah and eggs) and Italian/Jewish fusions such as matzah pizza and matzah lasagna.

image Besides battling constipation and overdosing on the only filling things you can eat for 8 days: eggs and potatoes, the first two nights of Pesach are very pleasant. On the first 2 nights of Passover, we have a special family meal called a seder, which means "order" in Hebrew.

The seder meal is carried out in a specific order with certain songs and blessings coinciding with eating certain symbolic foods from the seder plate, such as charoset, a delicious mix of chopped walnuts, sweet wine, apples and cinnamon, which resembles the mortar the Jews used to build bricks with when they were slaves in Egypt.


image The rich symbolism and tradition of Passover makes carrying out the seder meal a special experience to share with multiple generations of the fam. I love singing the Hebrew songs in the hagadah, the book that outlines the order of the seder, and despite being cranky from a lack of toast and pasta, I understand it's a part of my heritage that I should honour.

As Passover unfolds this weekend (the first seder is Saturday, April 19 and the holidays ends on the 27th), I will be sharing chametz-free recipes, seder decor ideas and other tid bits about the spring holiday...just don't mention your pasta dinners in the comments please!

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