Passover is almost here and we have lots to ponder –
After all these years of spreading peanut butter on matzah and pretending we are Sephardic, it’s now official! We can now legally eat kitniyot during Passover. This past December 2015, the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly voted 19-1 to end certain food restrictions that they said are no longer necessary.
Kitniyot is the term for foods that are traditionally eaten by Sephardic Jews – rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils and peanuts – but not by Ashkenazic Jews during Passover. These foods were staples of the Sephardic Mediterranean diet – so they didn’t cut them out. The prohibition against kitniyot began in 13th century France to avoid confusion about what was and was not hametz (food forbidden on Passover). Back then, who knew what else was mixed in the burlap sack along with your two rubles of rice?
In their recent ruling, the RA recognized that in modern times, most food stuff comes in a sealed package, the contents are inspected and regulated and consumers can reliably distinguish what might be hametz. They also stated that allowing people to eat rice and beans “would bring down the cost of making Pesah and support a healthier diet.”
So it took us only 700 years to be able to serve Spanish rice with roast chicken during the holiday.
There are still things to debate: Now that kitniyot is okay, what do we do with the Rice Chex? We usually banish it to the basement for the week of Passover, but maybe it’s technically OK this year. Rice is kitniyot, although we’ll feel funny having cold-cereal for breakfast during Passover. Once you’ve done fried matzah, bad breakfasts are one of the things to kvetch about on Pesach!
This whole new category of food made Passover shopping even more of an adventure this year. The ShopRite in the Promised Land of Cherry Hill, NJ, never disappoints with its variety and quantity of Passover items.
This year the Shop-Rite had a shelf of these newly approved products with a printed disclaimer that said, “Kitniyot for those who want it.”
We read that the official tally is 300 new food items that earned kosher for Passover certification this year. Some were expected, like Manischewitz’s new hazelnut chocolate macaroons and Gefen’s chunk light tuna. Others caught us by surprise, such as the “hamburger buns” from Chantilly Bakery in Flatbush, NY. Passover buns? How do they do that? They use grains that are gluten-free. Their buns look delicious, as did their frosted Passover Black Forest cake. With all the new gluten-free foods on the market, those who avoid gluten because of dietary concerns have many more choices; they are free to eat pesachdik granola bars. We’ve tried those once, and once was enough. You can have our share of the pesachdik granola bars.
Some other items we saw:
On the way to buying a gallon of sweet Manischewitz wine, which we use for haroset and for the teens and Bubbes who prefer a “sweeter” wine, we came across MANNAge a’trois beer from Shmaltz Brewing Company. They call it a “3-way IPA” just in time for Passover. We’re not sure if it’s kosher for Passover (beer usually isn’t), but they certainly produce some cleverly named beverages, including Cir Cum Session and Genesis ales.
We like it that the ShopRite sells a lot of Israeli products for Passover.
Along with the usual jams, jellies and spices and the chocolate Nutella-like spread we love, we found Israeli shampoo. There was a choice of pink and white liquid in the bottles. Which is the conditioner? Is the pink one for curly hair? We’ll never know because the labels are all in Hebrew.
When our kids were young, they loved to play Candyland. So when we saw the Kosherland board game, we bought it for them. But spinning the dice and trying “not to mix milk with meat” was not nearly as much fun at going to King Kandy’s ice cream cone castle. This year we came across “Cholent: The Game.” Oy! The manufacturer describes it as a “slow-cooking, fast-moving strategy card game.” Players have to collect cards with ingredients for their cholent recipe. We like that they included a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish words you might need when you’re cooking up your hearty stew. One word was shnorrer, the guest who will show up – uninvited – to eat your cholent.
Well, we won’t be making cholent for Pesach. We’ll be sticking with brisket and chicken and a lot of homemade haroset. One of us is hosting a seder for 20 where the highlight hopefully will be the 2016 edition of “Jewpardy,” in which the guests are asked to play a Pesach edition of the popular quiz show. The other one will pull out her bag of “vintage” Pesach masks. We wonder who will want to be the King of Kings this year.
Whether your seder is short or long, enjoy! The Word Mavens wish you a zissen (sweet) Pesach!
Preview Jewpardy question:
I’ll take “Jewish Before & After” for $400, Alex:
Q: In The Ten Commandments movie, he played Dathan the Jewish Overseer who was stranded on a desert island.
A: Who is Edward G. Robinson Crusoe?