MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2011
Passover on South Beach
Pesach in South Beach
When we conduct the Seder, matza is called ‘the bread of affliction.’
Because strictly observing the commandment in Deuteronomy does not just mean eating matza instead of bread–if you take it seriously, Passover means no products made from any dough, or anything that is cooked with water and swells. That means no pasta, no noodles, no rice, no barley, no cookies, no corn,no soybeans or soy products, nothing made with corn syrup, only specially prepared extracts because regular extracts are made with grain alchohol. Oh, yes, and the swelling in water thing means no beans, no peas, no legumes of any sort.*
Matza is dense, and dry,and leaves an unbelievable amount of crumbs around the house. It can’t be toasted, and it does not satisfy the appetite. It breaks erratically, and scratches the roof of your mouth if you are not careful. Because it does not absorb water very well, it does not flow smoothly through the digestive tract.
This is why we call it the ‘bread of affliction’ a couple of days AFTER the Seder.
One thing about matza, though; it is an exquisite platform for good butter, or cream cheese with a good jam on top. This may be why two common problems Jews have with Passover are constipation and weight gain.
But you know what? Going through my old computer files, I found this, which I wrote in 2006.
I usually lose weight on Pesach. Last Pesach, I lost 5 pounds. The Pesach before that, I lost 3.
How do I do that, you ask? Between the matzo and the macaroons, the Jell-rings and the fruit slices and the blandishments of Barton’s Candy?
Simple. Give up carbs during the holiday.
I started this practice about 15 years ago, when I was working at Common Ground with a macrobiotic cook. When we were talking about Passover, she made a very interesting remark: “So you give up yeast for a week? How healthy!” Then she spoke about all the things people eat when they can’t eat yeast because of something called Candida, or when they can’t eat wheat, and that got me to thinking about why I ate as much Matza on Passover as I did, and the only answer was: “because I always have.”
Well, feh on that! Here I was in California, mistress of my own household! I was tired of the weight gain on Passover, tired of the cycle of running to the chocolate because I felt sorry for myself eating matza, Also tired of the natural consequence of all that matza.
So I gave up the perforated bread of affliction, and brought nuts and dried fruit and cottage cheese for lunch at the store instead of matza pizza, had scrambled eggs with veggies for breakfast instead of matza brie, and instead of serving matza kugel with our dinners of Seder leftovers, I steamed a bunch of broccoli and green beans (or carrots), instead.
Giving up matza and substituting fruits and vegetables involves a lot of trimming of produce, but I had 3 compost devices going at the time, so that was no problem.
When the low-carbohydrate craze of South Beach hit in 2000-something, I wasn’t surprised at all, I just nodded my head and said “Aha, I’ve been spending Pesach on South Beach all these years.”
How to have a Low-Carb Passover
Make sure you have containers on hand for your leftovers and pre-cut produce before the holiday starts.
Serve a roast turkey, a roast beef, and baked instead of gefilte fish at your seder, for lots of convenient leftovers. You may not have to turn your oven on for the rest of week.
Only make enough Matza balls for the seder. Floaters or sinkers, they are too good to resist, so restrict yourself.
Have a couple of cans of stewed tomatoes around for making a good soup from the turkey carcass.
Have lots of eggs and/or egg substitute in the house.
Keep containers of peeled and cut carrots, cucumbers, celery, jicama, snow peas, and other family favorites in the fridge, like melon (I have a lot of melon memories). Put the vegetables out after school on plates with some dip available, and the kids will eat them.
Remember California is the land of fruits and nuts. Eat those.
Do not check your cholesterol.
What to do with leftover Matza:
Put it in the compost pile
Use it as mulch
Leave on the ground in front of the windows to act as an inexpensive audible burglar alarm and thief tracking system.
*because, frankly, the rabbis who wrote these rules in Europe in the 1400s were ascetic sadists who lived on an entirely different plane of existence than the poor women who actually had to live with these rules, bearing endless children and maintaining businesses to feed everyone. I’m amazed that this lifestyle persists among the Orthodox Jewish community to this day.