Guest Post: Passover – What’s a Gluten Free Jew to Do?

Melisa

Melisa

Passover is coming up, so I thought it would be great to share some of my Jewish friends’ perspectives on navigating this important holiday with dietary restrictions. This post comes from Melisa, who blogs at Magpie Eats. She’s been gluten-free over a year now, (but is not on the GAPS diet, so the recipes linked from this page are not GAPS legal). We met through the homeschooling community here in Portland, OR. She’s got three kids, is an ESL teacher, and loves real food!

Big fat disclaimer: I am not an Orthodox Jew, nor am I a rabbi. One of the wonderful things about Judaism is that there are almost as many interpretations of how to live Jewishly as there are Jews. The following is how I approach Passover as a gluten-free Jew. The thoughts expressed below are not endorsed by any Jewish movement or any rabbinic council but are purely my own.

It’s coming…the biggest food-focused holiday in the Jewish year!

If you are newly diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease you may be wondering where to start, how to prepare, what to cook, and how to keep everyone happy at Passover. You have already had to take in a mountain of new dietary information and adding in all the rules of Passover might feel just a tiny bit overwhelming. Don’t panic. It will be OK, I promise.

First off let me share a little secret: Passover is infinitely easier if you are already eating gluten free. Depending on your interpretation of the rules concerning Passover cleaning you may find there’s not much to do, especially if you no longer bring gluten in the house. Traditionally, Passover cleaning consists of a seemingly-endless search-and-destroy mission whose target chametz or any potentially leavened product. This includes any crumb of anything made from wheat, barley, spelt, oats, or rye. Many Ashkenazic Jews include anything made from corn, millet, rice, or legumes as potential chametz as well-this depends on your particular Jewish community and if you need clarification you should consult your local rabbi. In my family we follow Sephardic custom meaning the only problem ingredient is oats which I don’t keep in my kitchen cupboards so for us Passover cleaning is no longer an enormous task. Those following a grain-free, Paleo, Primal, or GAPS diet may find things similarly streamlined in terms of Passover preparation.

Another area in which Passover is easier gluten free is menu planning. We used to have all kinds of drama in the week following the seders trying to figure out what we could possibly eat that was kosher for Passover. I no longer have that problem because what I eat during Passover is pretty much what I eat all year long: vegetables , fruit, dairy, nuts, meat, and fish. I no longer buy special kosher-for-Passover oils, condiments, or baking ingredients since there is no longer any way for them to be contaminated by gluten in my kitchen. It works for me but if you aren’t comfortable, by all means go out and buy new.

The hard part might be giving up those old Passover classics made with matzo (along with matzo farfel and matzo meal). My first gluten free Passover I tried making my own matzo out of home ground certified gluten-free oat flour, strictly timed so that no more than 18 minutes passed between adding the water and baking. If you are looking for the original Bread of Affliction, this is it. On the other hand, if you want something edible there are commercial gluten free matzo products available online and even in some stores. Not all gluten free matzo is approved by the OU for sacramental purposes so make sure to check if this is important to you. You can make your own matzo meal with commercial gluten free matzo.

Macaroons

Macaroons

Passover is a great time to try out new gluten free ingredients. Now that I keep almond flour in the kitchen, my Passover cakes and brownies are so much better: moist, flavorful, and much more nutritious than when made with matzo meal. Almond flour also makes the most fantastic macaroons. All those years of blanching, skinning, and grinding the almonds myself….the commercial stuff, I am happy to say, makes a far better almond macaroon. Because my almond flour is certified gluten free I have no worries about it being appropriate for Passover.

Here’s the thing about being gluten free at Passover that’s hardest for me: I have always appreciated that the holiday brings us a chance to step out of the daily routine and do things a bit differently. I like having a fresh perspective on food for the week and I am grateful for the extra opportunity to be mindful of what we eat. Once I was gluten free, Passover felt almost like every other week and even though Passover preparation feels much easier than when I ate gluten, I miss that special feeling of doing things differently in honor of the holiday. It’s easy to get completely wrapped up in the food element of Passover, particularly with a special diet, but I know that I need to remember there’s more to it. When we clear the chametz from our homes we don’t focus only on old crumbs of bread. Passover is, after all, the festival of freedom, a time to celebrate liberation from slavery. As we prepare for Passover, regardless of what we eat, we can focus on the meaning of liberation. What is holding us down? What is keeping us from moving forward? How can we ensure that everyone is free? These are the questions you can ask as you prepare for Passover, at your seder, and throughout the week.

Wishing you and yours a zissen pesach, a sweet, happy, and healthy holiday!

Some of my favorite gluten free (not GAPS Legal) Passover recipes:

What are your favorite gluten-free or GAPS Legal Passover recipes?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursdays, Freaky Friday, Fat Tuesday.

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