Befallen with headache, fatigue and general achiness, I felt too lethargic to put fingers to keyboard for my weekly posts. Surely my dietary spring cleaning must be working. These are amongst the common symptoms one experiences temporarily when the body is ridding itself of toxins. As a result I ‘passed over’ Meatless Monday. Luckily it is officially Passover so I can spin my delinquency into a timely post.
Passover or Pesach is the holiday that commemorates the Israelites liberation from slavery in Pharaonic Egypt. The term ‘pass over’ is derived from one of the ten plagues that was inflicted upon the Egyptians by God.
As God’s messenger, Moses was sent to the Pharaoh with a message. If this were a musical, he would be singing the lyrics “Let my people go.” The Pharaoh did not listen and after several warnings, the wrath of the ten plagues was unleashed on the Egyptians. The last one was the killing of all first-born, which happened at midnight on the 15th of Nissan (Hebrew month). God ‘passed over’ the Children of Israel and they were spared this tenth plague.
With any significant event, there is always food to mark the occasion. The star of Passover Seder* is matza, an unleavened flat bread. In fleeing Egypt, the Israelites had no time to let their bread rise and thus took the bread with them as is; matza is symbolic of this. Any foods considered chametz** (certain grains that have fermented) are prohibited during Passover. The preparation of matza requires that a special Passover flour be cooked within 18 minutes of coming into contact with water.
**wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt and also corn, rice and legumes for some believers (i.e. the Ashkenazic Jews)
Other culinary features of the Passover Seder are the consumption of bitter herbs and the drinking of Passover wine. Many big cities or towns with a significant Jewish population will stock Passover-friendly food in the local supermarket.
Though not Jewish, I decided to partake in the consumption of certain Passover food and am currently working my recipe alchemy on creating vegetarian and vegan friendly interpretations of traditional offerings. And as an African-Canadian, I too can appreciate any commemoration to emancipation.
When is Passover in 2014?
The 8-day holiday begins midnight April 14th and finishes at nightfall on April 22nd.