These posts are getting increasingly difficult to write because I’m covering content that’s less focused on stocking your pantry and feeding yourself, and more on the emotional repercussions of COVID-19 affecting mental health, which in turn impacts our lifestyle choices and what we eat.
Passover is a (very big and important) Jewish holiday that recounts the Jews exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt. Two consecutive family feasts that are full of religious rituals, traditional foods, and dynamic storytelling start an eight day period that’s meant to be free from all foods with flour in them, except Matzah, the traditional “bread.” Last year I was in Lebanon during this holiday, video calling into the dinner at 2am local time (check the time stamp in the cover photo). I had a rough time missing out on festivities and the gathering of family of friends even though I was so happy to be traveling through Lebanon. I kept to Passover’s dietary customs, as it was a way to honor my heritage and to be cognizant that I was missing a major holiday, especially since I could have gone to celebrate with family in Israel. I was really looking forward to celebrating this year in the ways I’m accustomed to, and though I can still video chat with my family, I’m in good health, and I have a wonderful roommate, I can’t shake the feeling of sadness that’s now enshrouding the holiday. I know that many people are feeling this sense of grief, of loss. Easter is around the corner. People are physically separated from their loves ones, and we’re all preoccupied with what the future will look like.
It’s okay to feel sad. We’re all trying to retain a sense of normalcy when nothing is as it was and everything is uncertain. In Montreal, people are putting signs on their window of a rainbow with writing underneath it “ça va bien aller” which translates to: it’s going to be alright/it will get better. I love the beauty and optimism that these decorations provide, reinforcing comfort through solidarity.
Matzah is the holy grail of traditional Passover foods; unleavened bread that didn’t have time to rise before the Israelites fled from their homes. Instead, they put the dough on their backs, and it baked in the hot Egyptian sun (or so the story goes). It’d be unwise for me to go into a store that sells Jewish foods this year, meaning that I’d also be deprived of my favorite holiday food – matzah balls. Thankfully, food bloggers are wonderful and creative and I’ve found several recipes for making them at home. It looks easy, fun, and straightforward, but I’m extra excited because one of the recipes suggests rolling out the “cracker” in a pasta machine and then cooking it on a baking stone. Anytime I get to break out my kitchen gadgets, I am a happy happy young lady.
The Seder is steeped in tradition. Every year my mom and I discuss what the menu should be before always always settling on the same dishes – veggie chop liver, charoset, a vegetable platter (to snack on before the main meal), mock chicken soup & matzah balls, sweet and sour tofu, coconut ginger rice, roasted vegetables, flourless chocolate cake, chocolate chip meringue cookies, matzah buttercrunch, and chocolate covered strawberries.
I’m definitely going to make some of those foods in order to bring a sense of normalcy to the holiday, which I’ll eat while zooming with family, but I’ve been thinking about ways to get culinarily creative and make gluten-free foods for the remainder of the days to satisfy my carby cravings. I’m thinking chia pudding with berry compote, oatmeal with almond butter and apples, and buckwheat crepes for breakfast, hummus and oven fries, vegetable fried rice, and barley stuffed vegetables for lunch, and arepas with black beans and pico de gallo, carrot and cauliflower pakoras with dahl, and rice noodle stir fry with crispy tofu for dinner.
There are two ethnic branches of Judaism – Sephardic Jews (from the Middle East, Southern Europe, and North Africa) and the Ashkenazi Jews (whose ancestry is European – like myself). Ashkenazim don’t typically eat grains or beans during Passover for fear that it was milled on the same equipment as wheat and is contaminated. I choose to not abide by that view, instead keeping Passover as an act of mindfulness. I eat so much bread and gluten-ladened foods, because they are delicious and so fun and easy to make, that having to pause before mindlessly eating for eight days is a really good reset. It’s an internal spring cleaning to my mind and stomach in addition to honoring my heritage. This year, just like the last when I stuck to Passover’s dietary requirements in Lebanon, will also provide a constant reminder that these days are not like the rest. Regardless of my ability to physically be with my loved ones, if I choose to honor the holiday, then that has to be enough.
What I’ve cooked since the last blog post:
Bashed cucumber salad with radishes and cilantro
Homemade dumplings (mushroom, cabbage, carrot, spinach, vermicelli, and egg) with peanut butter sauce
Mojitos (with take out vegetarian burritos filled with beans, rice, guacamole, corn, and cheese)
Oatmeal with apples and almond butter
Penne with asparagus, pepper, tomato sauce and garlic bread
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