Passover is about much more than a celebration of the Ten Commandments — both the epic Yul Brynner-Charlton Heston film face-off and the biblical tablets of morality — it's also a time for families to come together, and commemorate the Jewish liberation from slavery.
The eight-day festival, which begins in 2018 on Friday, March 30 at sundown and lasts until Saturday, April 7, begins with two traditional feasts known as seders, where anybody is welcome to come and dine. And with the millennia-long tradition comes certain dietary restrictions for Jewish people to observe. During Passover, kosher food preparation and regulation laws are expanded to include a temporary ban on chametz, which is leavened bread, and any product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt under its umbrella. In simpler terms, HuffPost Canada bloggers Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat have dubbed it, "the week of no flour."
This reasoning dates back to the notion that the then-freed Jewish slaves were fleeing the land of Egypt so quickly that they did not have enough time for their bread to rise.
There you have it: that's matzoh's origin story.
But these strict provisions also allow for some creativity in the kitchen, especially given the recent — and controversial! — change to Ashkenazi Jewish law. Back in 2016, the Jewish Conservative Rabbinical Assembly voted to allow Jewish people to eat kitniyot on Passover, reversing a nearly 800-year ban. Though Sephardic (Middle Eastern, Spanish or African) Jewish people did and do not have this restriction in place, Conservative Jewish people are now technically allowed to eat corn, legumes, rice, beans and peanuts on Passover.
Beyond that, kosher for Passover foods are also given a special blessing and certification from a mashgiach, or a kosher supervisor who observes and blesses food. Orthodox Ashkenazi Jewish people, who are typically more observant than Reform or Conservative Jewish people, do not necessarily abide by the same provisions and still abstain from kitniyot.
Having said that, here is a list of foods you should (or should not) "pass over" this holiday (other than bread and lobster, of course):
Sadly, this is one item that is not kosher for Passover. Even gluten-free options can still contain wheat, rye or barley, which qualifies as chametz and is thereby forbidden to eat during the holiday. However, some gluten-free options, if blessed appropriately, could meet the Passover test, but buckwheat or chickpea-based brews might be the only way to satisfy your foamy cravings.
Finally, yes! The new kitniyot provisions have opened up a whole new world of culinary possibilities for Passover.
Oats are considered chametz, and are not allowed during Passover. Some use matzoh farfel to make their own oatmeal-like concoctions during the holiday. Plus, a generous fruit topping can make for some great matzoh camouflage, especially in the later days of Passover.
Popcorn is now on the Passover menu, following the change in kitniyot policy.
Though quinoa is a grain-like food, its qualification has long been the subject of much debate within the Jewish community. It's now commonly seen as a vegetable, not a grain, and is considered kosher for Passover.
Wine is a Passover seder staple. Depending on your reading of the Haggadah, a Passover prayer book and instructional guide, guests are required to drink four cups of wine before eating the festive meal! Mevushal wine, or kosher wine, is prepared using a different boiling process than other wines and undergoes a different pasteurization process.
Sushi has long been popular in Israel during Passover, and now — barring the nature of the fish mixed in with the rice (shellfish is not, and never has been kosher) — thanks to the revised rules and acceptance of kitniyot, Conservative and Reform Ashkenazi Jews can enjoy it, too.
Cake requires flour and for dough to rise during the baking process, thereby rendering it not kosher for Passover. However, chocolate cake and several other desserts are often rendered kosher for the holiday through the use of matzoh meal as a flour substitute. While the dessert's density certainly changes from what one would typically expect, these modifications tend to yield quite delicious results.
If bread, chocolate cake and beer are off the table during Passover, pizza definitely is too. Gluten-free pizza or matzoh pizza are popular amongst Jewish people during the holidays.
Granola bars blend three families together: cookies, cereal and oatmeal. Like cookies, cereal and oatmeal, granola bars can contain flour and oats, and therefore are not kosher for Passover unless they are prepared using substituted ingredients.
Your typical ravioli? Not quite. Penne parmesan? Forget it. During Passover, Jewish people tend to indulge in potato-based pastas, or pasta derived from potato flour.
Most vodkas are potato-based, but it's worth double-checking the label to see if it is marked kosher, or to see if any grain alcohol is included in the fermenting process.
Read the label carefully. Canola oil is now allowed during Passover, but many chips contain traces of flour and should be avoided during the holiday.
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