Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sundown, You Better Take Care

It is Passover week. Passover is the most observed Jewish Holiday, and Seder, Aramaic for order, is the most practiced of all Jewish rituals. It is a dinner dominated by pesach – an offering and maror; a bitter herb. For the more hardcore, Passover extends beyond the meal and watching Charlton Heston play Moses, it kicks off a week spent forgoing the usual and familiar foods.

To really oversimplify things, Jewish immigration in the US consists of 2 groups: the Askenazi, who are generally of Eastern European heritage, came to the US en masse in the late 19th Century during regional Pogroms. Comprising of 80% of the Jewish population, Askenazim bring us the Deli culture and many of the foods we think of as being Jewish. Sephardic Jews generally spent time in the Levant, North Africa or the Iberian Peninsula. Sephardim foods feature rice and legumes, which Askenazi customs prohibit the cooking and eating of legumes, rice, corn and some seeds during Passover.

For Passover, both branches go with chametz. What or what isn’t chametz is complicated and its definition seems to split already split hairs - often described as yeast or starter or sour, but at least according to my big book of Jewish foods, it is food that is in a state of decay or degradation. This is why the yeast in wine is cool, but yeasty beer is forbidden (not because of the yeast, rather the barley) yet yeast and barley-free pasta, not allowed. I don’t understand, but rest assured, at this point, the subject has been talked over and written about enough that I feel comfortable enough accepting what the experts have decided.

And it isn’t just cooking with chametz, it is getting caught with chametz on your person or worse in your household. Out of all the religions I could convert to, Judaism would be the hardest. Issues of theology aside, I think I could go without the pork; shellfish, now that would be really hard, and by extension never eating Asian food again, beyond difficult. But it is doing things like packing up flour and beer and putting in the garage for a week, because the garage is okay? It is all a little too much, casting God as not only one who dispenses judgment, but a detail obsessed lawyer as well.

If you are thinking about whipping up a Sederish meal. You can try brother Carl’s Parsley Salad recipe here. If you use the Scalloped chicken breast, dredge it in matzo, not flour. Other popular Passover include foods, fish, horseradish, roasted chicken, kugel (matzo and potato) carrot, the mortar-like apple and nut mixture of charoset and possibly special blintzes but made with matzo.

Speaking of Matzo, more on that later in the week. 

1 comment:

Diane said...

I was just listening to Gordon Lightfoot the other day and loving that song!!!