Tag Archives: Easter

Passover vs. Easter: A Gluten-Free Showdown

Much fuss is made about how gluten-free-friendly Passover is. Grain-free foods line the grocery shelves more at this than any other time of year. Macaroons and gluten-free matzo everywhere. It’s great.

But . . . the holiday story is all about bread. Sure, there’s some stuff about plague, tyrants, blood of lambs, eldest sons, escape from persecution, miraculous divisions of seas, and so forth, but at heart the holiday comes down to unleavened bread. And while, with its dry, crumbly, not-quite breadiness, matzo certainly calls to mind gluten-free bread, it does usually contain gluten—just no yeast, or enough time for gluten to do its thing (since, in the story, there was no time to wait for bread to rise before fleeing Egypt).

In fact, according to many authorities, matzo must be made from wheat, rye, barley, spelt, or oats, the “five grains” mentioned in the Torah, all of which contain gluten, besides oats (though that’s debatable). Some authorities don’t even believe gluten-free matzoh should be allowed at the Passover Seder! Not so friendly, after all.

Passover s'mores made with matzo

Pastel-colored matzo s’mores, though remarkable, are also not entirely canonical.
Photo © Jasmin Fine | Flickr

Easter, on the other hand—that’s a real gluten-free holiday, and I’ll tell you why: Jesus is well known to have been a big bread eater. He consumed so much of the stuff he actually considered his body to be made of it! The very night before his death, he broke bread with his disciples and told them he was giving it up. I won’t speculate on what symptoms may have led him to that decision, but no matter—it was too little, too late.

As the story goes, Jesus died because a bunch of angry people nailed him to a cross (and because it was foretold), not because he ate too much wheat. Fair. But then, after three days in a tomb with no bread, he regained his energy to the point that he actually came back to life! Miracle from god, or miraculous gluten detox?

Unfortunately, the moment the stone rolled back from his tomb, Jesus proved old habits die harder than deities’ sons. His proof to his disciples that it was really him, alive again, was, in fact, “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35).

the Last Supper - Jesus breaking the bread

“Don’t eat it, Jesus! The doctor said…!”
Sigh. No one ever listens to the apostles.
Photo courtesy Waiting for the Word | Flickr

Soon enough, all that bread weakened Jesus again, enough that he had to be carried up to heaven, where he planned to sit (at his father’s right hand) for eternity. That sounds like some serious fatigue!

So you see, though manufacturers may not exactly be rushing to produce egg- and bunny-shaped Easter treats on separate lines the way they’ve stepped up to the Kosher for Passover plate, the Easter story is way more sprue. And as celiac celebs go, it doesn’t get much better than Jesus.

Naturally, the entire argument falls apart if you consider that the Easter story contains a commandment to eat bread in memory, just like the Passover story, and how unlikely it is that God would have sent his only son to Earth and then saddled him with a not-yet-discovered autoimmune disease. Classic literary criticism.

By the way, for anyone wondering—based on my reduced posting of late—whether I too have died, fear not: I live, and my posts shall come again next week, provided neither the Old nor the New Testament God smites me for blaspheming first. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll say it for you: hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

Regardless of which holiday you’re celebrating this year, I hope it’s a happy one! And if you’re celebrating neither, I’d wish you a happy spring, except that here in New York, it too seems to have died. Here’s hoping for a speedy resurrection.

happy Easter to our Christian friends, happy Passover to our Jewish friends, to our atheist friends...good luck

Thank you, Marsmettn Tallahassee of Flickr. You’re too kind.

For more blasphemy from me, read this oldie but goodie about sin. Alternatively, for more on why Passover actually is pretty cool for those with GRDs, try this article or this list of products to try, or just Google “Passover gluten-free,” because, seriously, the entire Internet has something to say about it. 

Do you stock up on Kosher for Passover gluten-free products? Will you be celebrating with friends or family this weekend? And what, in your opinion, is the best gluten-free holiday?

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A feast fit for a gluten-free, vegetarian king (of the North)?

Jon-Snow-S3The other day, I tweeted “What #GameofThrones-themed snacks can I make that are #glutenfree and #vegetarian?”

No one replied.

Maybe that’s because my (many and adoring) Twitter followers don’t watch Game of Thrones. (What percentage of people following a gluten-free diet also follow Game of Thrones? A statistic worth investigating.) Maybe my question got lost in the evening Twitter rush. Or maybe people didn’t think it could be done.

Game of Thrones food is roughly based on medieval European cuisine. For most people, this calls to mind crusty loaves and legs of mutton—oh, and don’t forget the ale. Gluten-free vegetarian medieval food sounds almost oxymoronical. Throw in “Easter” as an additional theme and you’ve got yourself an impossibility, right?

Not exactly. Medieval cuisine might be linked in the modern imagination with meat and bread, but especially in tough times and among the lower classes, they weren’t as ubiquitous as we think.

Photo © Jakob van Santen | Flickr

Photo © Jakob van Santen | Flickr

Let’s start with meat. It wasn’t until the Black Death killed off most of Europe that meat became more available to commoners, because the shrunken labor force drove up wages and swathes of abandoned land became available for pasturing livestock. But in George R. R. Martin’s universe, so far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a plague precisely like the Black Death. The closest thing to it was the grey plague, a scourge that was successfully quarantined to a single city and therefore didn’t have as vast of an effect as the real-life plague. This suggests that at the time of telling, the majority of poorer people would have eaten mainly plant foods, not meat.

So medieval!

So medieval!

And gluten? Though grains made up much of the medieval diet, wheat was actually rather expensive. Barley, rye, buckwheat, millet, and oats were the most common choices (a couple of which are, as you know, gluten-free!). Plus, particularly after a lean harvest, it would have been common to use nut, pea, or bean flours along with grain flours to create bread. From there, it doesn’t require too much of a leap to get to the gluten-free flour blends of today. (Legumes, by the way, were not considered good for you, contrary to prevailing nutrition opinion today, which designates many former “peasant” foods as staples of a healthful diet.) Finally, although beer was a popular choice in this age of unfiltered water, wine was common, too, and that’s naturally gluten-free. (Plus vegetarian, as long as you choose a kind that wasn’t made using fish bladder…ew.)

A-Feast-of-Ice-Fire-Official-Game-of-Thrones-CookbookLike the medieval culture on which it is loosely based, the cuisine of Westeros does include gluten-free and plant-based options—enough, certainly, for a solid viewing party spread. Flipping through the contents of both the official and unofficial Game of Thrones cookbooks turns up lots of ideas: dried beans and nuts at the Wall, root cellar apples and veggies in the North, honeycomb from the Vale, leeks and greens from the lush Riverlands, stunning fruit desserts in the Reach, citrus and fiery spices in Dorne, and all of them coming together in the melting pot that is King’s Landing. I think I’ll pass on the fried locusts from across the Narrow Sea.

ed95_unofficial_game_of_thrones_cookbookWhat will I be making this Sunday? I’m not hosting the party, so I’ve got some conferring to do with the friend in charge. But I’ve put on my thinking cap (a warm one, since, you know, winter is coming). “Doran’s Favorite Chickpea Paste” sounds an awful lot like hummus, a classic GF-veg staple, and stuffed peppers and dates would please any palate, fantasy or modern-day. Throw in a cheese plate and some GF flatbread and you’ve pretty much got yourself a party. Oh, except for dessert. We’re considering hot-cross buns, which are vaguely medieval and perfect for Easter. There are some great GF recipes out there, and my new kitchen scale is just dying to pledge fealty to a proprietary GF blend. I am also tempted to try these hilarious (spoiler alert!) cake pops, but I’ll probably be too lazy.

Stay tuned and I’ll update you on the final menu sometime next week. In the meantime, know that you can be meat- and gluten-free in Westeros without being options-free. You just…might need to be a peasant. 

For this post, I sourced my medieval food facts from Wikipedia (which in turn sourced its info largely from Melitta Weiss Adamson’s Food in the Middle Ages, Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe, and Food in Medieval Times). Though to give credit where credit’s really due, I’m pretty sure I heard most of it from my dad first (he blogs about food here). I pulled ideas for Sunday’s menu from the two books I linked to above and also wanted to call out the blog that spawned the official cookbook, Inn at the Crossroads, a must-read for fans of Game of Thrones and sustenance. Finally, I feel compelled here to admit that I have not read the books; I just watch the show. This runs contrary to all my media consumption principles, but those books are thick, and I keep pretty busy writing about gluten.

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Any favorite foods from the series? Any other shows you’re excited for this season? Do you enjoy viewing parties and cooking themed menus, or do you consider your food restrictions theme enough? Alternatively, what have you got going on for Easter this weekend?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: