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Fighting through Passover

Ian Cropp

Passover is the Atkins diet for Jews. OK, it’s more than that, but this year the observance of Passover left me feeling like a card-carrying anti-carb crusader. During the eight days of Passover, Jews abstain from eating leavened bread to commemorate the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. (Little known fact: It also has an agricultural significance in that it marks the beginning of the harvest season in Israel.) Oh, but this spans further than you think. The rule states that you can’t eat chametz, which includes anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley oats and spelt) that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes of having come in contact with water. Ashkenzic Jews (those of Eastern European descent) and Orthodox Jews also abstain from eating rice, peanuts and legumes, as they can be used to make bread also. And if you are really religious, you can’t have these foods or even utensils used to cook these foods in your house, but most people don’t adhere to such strict procedures. Passover began last Wednesday evening, and like most observant Jews, I went to a Seder – a meal filled with prayers, and of course, copious amounts of wine. If you’ve never had gefilta fish (while it looks and tastes like something caught in the East River, it’s actually a compilation of several fish made into a gelatinous cake), you’re not exactly missing out. But those of us who welcome the strange taste and texture every year tend to top it off with horseradish and honey. Chopped liver is pure decadence, and I don’t care if it takes a few years off my life because it’s that good, and I know my bubbes (grandmothers) would not be happy if I turned some down. Matzah ball soup, brisket and the assorted other foods were served, and the quality of these will vary no matter where you go, but the one Passover constant is good old Manny (Manischewitz – a kosher wine that’s about as sweet as a port, but poured like water on this night). You’re supposed to drink four glasses of this stuff, and I always make a point to add one for good measure.The next morning when my Manny hangover wore off, I cracked open a few eggs and watched them fry, knowing that this would be the routine for the following seven days. Lunch didn’t prove to be any more of a culinary delight, as I cooked some chicken and ate it. No sauce, no side dish. Nothing. It wasn’t even one day without carbs, and I lost my will to creatively eat. By dinner I had reached the nadir of my food depression, and I can’t even recall what I ate.A few days into the ordeal, I decided I needed to get some carbs in my life, regardless if they tasted like cardboard. Yes, I made a conscious decision to buy matzah – the flat bread that non Jews taste and say, “Oh, it’s not that bad,” then proceed to take a big bite out of a delicious turkey and Swiss on rye with mustard. So I went to the City Market in Avon, and cruised down the “ethnic food” isle.When I located the matzah, I took a close look at the box, only to realize it wasn’t kosher for Passover. (There are different regulations for kosher and kosher for Passover). In fact, all three varieties weren’t kosher for Passover. Perfect. Why would you have matzah that’s not kosher for Passover? I mean, I know that’s all I want to eat on the other 358 days of the year. Wasn’t it just last month when I got out of matzah rehab after that terrible matzah bender I went on? Come on, who sells matzah that’s not kosher for Passover?Well, I figured I could be exonerated for eating said matzah, as consuming it is a mitzvah (a good deed) in of itself.To flavor things up a bit, I made matzah granola. And just to assure my friends back East that I’m a true hippy Jew, I made it barefoot while listening to Phish. It sated my appetite for a bread-like product and recouped some of my food creativity. With my newly found energy, I made salmon for dinner. As good as the salmon tasted, it just wasn’t the same as served over a bed of rice. When Thursday night came, I hardly noticed it was the end of Passover. I had thought I’d gorge on a loaf of bread, but I just settled for a piece of rubbery leftover chicken. I was a broken man. I didn’t care about carb-filled bread products anymore. I just methodically scooped protein or roughage into my mouth, chewed and moved on. On Friday morning when I went to find some eggs, I noticed I had exhausted my supply. There was an English muffin left from the days of yore, and I thought, “Hey, this is a breakfast food.” One bite and I was back.Passover is a meaningful holiday, don’t get me wrong. But if there’s one thing it teaches me, it’s that I’ll never subscribe to the Atkins diet. Carbs are just too much fun.Vail, Colorado


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