Gluten-Free Passover: Restriction or Freedom?
The Jewish holiday of Passover centers on the symbolic use of food. The 8-day holiday prohibits Jews from eating grains, unless they have come into contact with water for less than 18 minutes and were prepared under strict Rabbinic supervision.
While Matzo (typically made from wheat) is a staple of the Passover diet, many products specially made for Passover contain potato and other creative mixes of non-grain ingredients. These are valuable products to those on a gluten-free diet, and they may only be found at this time of year.
Passover celebrates the journey of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, when they left Egypt with only unleavened dough on their backs. The holiday encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors, look at our own modern lives, and take action against oppression.
It’s an interesting dichotomy that we restrict what we eat to remember our ancestors, but at the same time we celebrate our many freedoms. We recall the stories and embrace the position we have come to enjoy as 21st century Americans.
But as I look at my own family, I can’t help but think of my daughter Molly, and how she lives every day as a slave to her disease. Not only is she restricted from the basic freedom to choose what she eats, but she also must opt out of many social situations because of cross-contamination concerns or a lack of acceptable food choices.
I am thankful, however, that Molly knows the face of her oppressor. Her diagnosis allows us to make accommodations that embrace her at our table. My Grandma Pauline was not so lucky. She sat out of many holidays and family celebrations due to (what I think was) undiagnosed celiac disease. She spent much of her 84 years not able to travel and not even able to leave her bathroom. She didn’t know the face of her enemy.
The Torah refers to Egypt as a narrow place. When I think of Molly eating alone in her dorm room every night while all other first-year students happily socialize in the dining hall, or I think of my grandmother sequestered to her tiny bathroom while our family tried to enjoy another Thanksgiving without her, I understand this narrow place in a whole new way.
Fortunately, even Matzo is now offered in gluten-free versions. I recently had the chance to test out Yehuda’s Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares. How did it go? Find out by reading my review at www.GlutenFreeHotProducts.com.
How do you celebrate gluten-free Passover in your home? Do you focus more on the restrictions or freedoms associated with the holiday?