Haley’s comments: The cheater’s guide to Kosher for Passover

The traditional route: gefilte fish versus  “fudged” flourless chocolate. Photos courtesy of photographer and chef Liana Stein-Ben-Ze’ev.

By Haley Abramson, Senior, John Burroughs School

Keeping kosher for Passover isn’t always a walk in the park. For those of us who are not gluten-free, it’s more like long walk in the desert. For this reason, many Jews are turning to a variety of substitutes in order to maintain the pleasure of eating the forbidden foods.

Much like our motivation to sneak out of synagogue during the rabbi’s sermon, modern-day Jewish families have established effortless ways to skirt the rules. 

Whether this provides bright ideas for next year or sparks traditional angst is entirely at your discretion. Regardless, Passover-friendly rolls and breads are sweeping the nation.

If we only had matzah, that would be enough. If we only had Passover lasagna, that would be enough. If we only had Passover bagels, that would be enough. Dayenu.

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Luckily, we have all of these items and more. Instead of suffering like our ancestors, as the holiday directs, we can rather casually cook up some Passover toast while mumbling, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Carbs taste better after two hours of flour fluffing and yeast rising, and sometimes a matzah-charoset-horseradish sandwich simply does not cut it. Truth be told, even the matzah that is not kosher for Passover tastes better than the cardboard on the shelves during the spring holiday. As a result, Jews will flex their interpretations of the Exodus, combining a variety of flavors. 

In all seriousness, the debate centers on the degree to which we want to connect our Passover experience to the Bible, and whether that link can be made purely spiritually or requires a physical catalyst such as matzah and an eight-day diet of bland food. Some argue the point is to suffer by casting away leavened bread and its matzah meal alternatives and venturing, albeit briefly and hypothetically, into the lives of the Jews trekking across the desert. Others, in a more celebratory manor, embrace modern cuisines that honor our progress rather than remember the anguish of the slaves in Egypt. 

As the old saying proclaims, to each his own as we reach the end of Passover this year. Although your personal debate between two valid options —matzah meal every meal or strict to the books — may be frustrating and distracting, next year may you truly be free.