Monday, April 21, 2008

Striving for a green Passover

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jews hoping to eat healthy this week are probably asking themselves the question, “Why is this week different from all other weeks?"

The answer, of course, is that it’s Passover, an eight-day holiday that started Saturday night in which Jews are not supposed to eat any leavened products because the Jews in ancient Egypt did not have time for their bread to rise while fleeing.

That means saying goodbye to bread, pizza and cereal and a host of other options that a Jew might choose to eat during a normal week.

On the bright side, that makes Passover “one of the easiest and most convenient holidays to eat healthy,” Naomi Winner, the wife of UA Chabad rabbi Yossi Winner, wrote in an e-mail.

Because all flours and grains besides matzah are omitted from an observant Jew’s diet, many of those calories are substituted with fruits and vegetables, Winner wrote. Also, Jews who strictly follow Passover’s dietary laws would likely prepare their food on their own, which is typically healthier than eating out.

“One can eat any fish, chicken or lean cut of meat prepared in a healthy way with any fruit or vegetable,” Winner wrote.

For a Jew looking to eat particularly healthy for Passover, Winner suggested buying whole wheat or spelt matzah instead of the white flour variety.

I’ve uploaded pictures from my family’s seder in Scottsdale, which was fairly healthy thanks in part to my mom, who brought asparagus and fruit.

However, I was very disappointed my grandma did not bake the matzah muffins she’s famous for.

Matzah is a hard cracker Jews eat instead of bread during the holiday, which tastes incredibly plain and dry unless cooked as part of something such as matzah brie (basically matzah soaked and cooked in eggs) or my grandma’s muffins, which are also pretty much eggs and matzah.

My grandma said she chose not to make them this year because nobody should be eating them based on how unhealthy they are (my mom says Grandma puts a whole stick of margarine in there), still a disappointment for me but understandable.

For those having a seder in the future I found this site that explains how to have a healthy Passover, with low carb Gefilte fish, low carb soup and low carb, low fat lemon ice cream.

I found another site on how to have a sustainable Passover. It includes tips such as buying and grating fresh horseradish, substituting a roasted beet for the roasted lamb shank on the seder plate, serving local and ethically sourced meat, buying vegetables at a farmer’s market and most interesting hosting a vegetarian or vegan seder to get rid of your “gastronomical chametz.”

The site says the menu could consist of “almond quinoa salad, matzah lasagna, vegetarian matzah ball soup, roasted new potatoes with rosemary, Israeli salad, borscht (and) garlic sautéed fiddleheads.”

My family certainly did not go that far, although matzah ball soup made up part of a menu that included not very green but incredibly tasty brisket.

As Winner wrote, eating green can be easier for a Jew during Passover because of all the bread-related products eliminated from people’s diets, making more room for fruits and vegetables.

Still, even for somebody trying to eat green, it couldn’t have hurt that much if Grandma had just made those delicious matzah muffins.

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