Taking the flavor out of Passover
It started with matza balls becoming a regular staple in restaurants whose menus were based on East European Jewish cuisine.
bread [illustrative] Photo: Reuters
Modern technology and culinary experimentation have joined forces to take the
flavor out of Passover. Once upon a time, there were certain foods that we ate
only during Passover, but that has gradually been changing to the extent that
now, except for the fact that matza is still available, Passover is no longer
It started with matza balls becoming a regular staple in
restaurants whose menus were based on East European Jewish cuisine. Diners had a
choice of noodles or matza balls or even both in their chicken
Admittedly, they seem to taste a little different on Passover, just
as cholent never tastes the same on a weekday as it does on Shabbat – but making
matza balls a year-round option was already a downhill step.
matza balls were appearing on a daily basis, certain Passover foods have all but
disappeared, though presumably, some women still follow the traditions of their
mothers and grandmothers and prepare certain time-worn Passover
My mother used to make chremslech and bubelech, though some
people confuse the two, and many kosher cookbooks provide the recipe for
bubelech – pancakes made with matza meal mixed with egg yolks and folded into
whipped egg whites – under the heading of chremslech. In our household
chremslech were light-as-a-feather potato croquettes that we put in the chicken
soup as an alternative to matza balls.
They were made with mashed
potatoes, potato flour, eggs and seasoning and were fried in rendered chicken
fat. No-one cared about cholesterol on Passover.
Dessert was always a
high-standing, airy sponge cake, which owed both its height and its lightness to
between 12-14 eggs.
My mother also used to make a special Passover egg
salad which I have never been able to emulate, because I only ate it. I never
watched her make it. But it was so good that as a child I used to sneak to the
refrigerator when my parents were asleep to indulge in some of that salad on a
crisp matza. It was something to die for. The only cookies we ate on
Passover were macaroons.
There was no attempt to find a way of making
regular year-round food suitable for Passover consumption. But in recent
years, traditional foods have gone down the drain to be replaced with food that
looks and tastes like leavened products.
Anyone that walked passed
eateries in the nation’s malls on Passover could see what looked, and actually
tasted like, regular bread rolls. There was also pizza which looked like, but
didn’t quite taste like the genuine article. The variety of cakes and cookies
available in pastry shops was mind-blowing, but none of the offerings I saw
included an old-fashioned sponge cake, although in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox)
neighborhoods and a few other places they were selling reasonably tasty cakes
that were maybe three or four centimeters high.
Among the other Kosher
for Passover products in the supermarkets were breakfast cereals to replace the
traditional matza brie that you used to have in another era. There were also
Passover noodles that looked exactly like leavened noodles, and what was most
aggravating was that in many supermarkets there was insufficient separation –
even during the intermediate days of Passover – between Kosher for Passover
products and those that were not.
There is a halachic prohibition known
as “Marat Ayin,” roughly translated as what the eye can see or what is visible
to the eye. Thus what looks like a bread roll and tastes like a bread roll, even
though it isn’t strictly speaking a bread roll, comes within the category of
forbidden food, simply because it is easy to confuse it with a genuine bread
roll. Someone not familiar with the difference who sees people whose attire
designates them as being religiously observant buying or consuming such a
product, may be forgiven for believing that bread is permissible on
By the same token, men who wear kippot (skull caps) all the
time, but who bend the rules when it comes to drinking coffee in a non-kosher
establishment, are asked by the rabbis to remove their kippot before entering in
case a passer-by who sees them makes the mistake of thinking the establishment
Perhaps the rabbinical authorities who approve the new
generation of food products designed to prevent us from yearning for what we
cannot have during the Passover week will think twice about approving them next
Passover, and in so doing will put the flavor back into the festival.