#blogExodus – Matzah

#blogExodus prompts

Rabbi Phyllis Sommer’s #blogExodus prompts

Ah, Matzah. The bread of affliction. Sales of Kosher for Passover prune juice soar at this time of year, as the flat bread made of white flour and water leads to widespread dietary distress among the faithful. It is particularly an issue for those who try to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle.

Matzah is quite literally the staple of Passover, with a requirement to eat at least an olive-sized piece at the Seder. For matzah to be kosher for Passover, it must be fully baked no later than 18 minutes after the flour was mixed with water. For the Seder, we will probably splurge on handmade “matzah shmurah”, carefully guarded from the time of harvest to make sure it never became damp and absorbed yeast from the air. I’ve also picked up a couple of boxes of spelt matzah – while spelt contains gluten, I’m told some people tolerate it better than wheat, and it is still acceptable for Seder use.

The canonical white wheat flour matzah contains no fibre and not much by way of taste. The danger is that it contains as much carbohydrate as a slice of bread, but because it is not very filling, people tend to eat more of it. My kids prefer egg matzah, made with eggs and grape juice as well as flour and water, which at least has some protein and fat in it. My younger ones subsist on matzah pizza for the eight days – matzah, tomato sauce, cheese!

There actually is such a thing as gluten-free “matzah”, although the manufacturers are careful to call it “matzah-style squares” and put in large letters on the box that it does not fulfil the requirement for the Seder. I looked at the box and read the ingredients: Tapioca starch, water, potato starch, potato flour, pressed palm oil, natural vinegar, egg yolks, honey, salt. I don’t see any advantage to my life in eating that.

In the past I have bought whole wheat matzah, which has a little fibre and quite a bit more substance than the usual cardboard. This year, however, aside from the Seder obligation, I am going to try to abstain from matzah altogether, with one exception.

All Jewish holidays centre about food – even the fast days, by its absence. Passover, however, goes above and beyond the usual “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat”. Many families have fond memories of particular foods that they only eat at that time of year. I absolutely must have some of my mother’s kneidlach, which I only make for Passover. The taste of her love will be worth a stomach ache.

What food tastes of love to you?

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