Tag Archives: kosher for Passover

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?

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Is Kosher the Next Gluten-Free?

If your response to this post title was, “WTF, Molly? That makes no sense,” then your head is about where mine was when I read this headline on Forbes.com: “Is Kosher the Next Big Food Trend?”

Big trend? Kosher? I didn’t get it. Yes, some people of Jewish heritage and/or faith keep kosher, but by no means all (the majority of my Jewish acquaintances, for example, do not). How could something so very specific to the needs of a relatively small segment of the population become a big food trend?, I wondered.

Then the writer mentioned gluten. Oh, I thought. Right.

“Gluten-free,” arguably helpful only to the 1-ish percent of the population with celiac disease (and to others who may be gluten sensitive), has nonetheless managed to become a “big food trend” because American consumers are so dumb that you can put anything on a package label and they’ll assume it means “healthy.”

Kosher may be enjoying the same halo, bolstered by the sense that something “certified” must be more rigorously inspected and therefore purer than other products—regardless of what it’s actually being inspected for. (In the case of kosher, for pork, “unclean” animal meat, the mixture of milk and meat, etc.)

And gluten-free, too! Photo © marsmettnn tallahassee | Flickr

And gluten-free, too!
Photo © marsmettnn tallahassee | Flickr

Now, kosher and gluten-free aren’t totally dissimilar. One of my coworkers keeps kosher, and for an office potluck, she brought in a zucchini bread, with a clean kosher plastic knife that she asked everyone to use—“because otherwise I won’t be able to eat it.” I’d brought in a soup, which I dumped into a presumably gluten-contaminated pot to heat on the stove—except for the single serving I’d reserved in a clean gluten-free container to microwave for myself. Both she and I were too trendy to eat what the others had brought.

Additionally, for some people who don’t keep kosher, there are health-related advantages to choosing kosher foods. Vegetarians can be confident there’s no animal-derived rennet in kosher cheese, just as those with wheat allergies can be [fairly] confident there’s none of that in gluten-free foods. People who enjoy putting arbitrary restrictions on their food intake in hopes of losing weight are just as well off choosing kosher foods as gluten-free ones.

Plus, foods that are “Kosher for Passover” must be grain-free, and anything grain-free is automatically gluten-free (though the converse is not necessarily true). Many kosher-certified products are therefore certified GF, too—for example, such health foods as Katz cinnamon rugelach and chocolate-frosted donuts, and Glutino chocolate vanilla crème sandwich cookies.

On the subject of sandwich cookies, let’s consider the Oreo. A fine (though not gluten-free) occasional treat, at 160 calories in a serving of three (if you can stop at three), Oreos are predominantly composed of refined flour, oil, and high-fructose corn syrup, and offer little nutritional value. A health food, the Oreo is not.

But what it is, is kosher. In “probably the most expensive conversion of a company from non-kosher to kosher,” according to Prof. Joe Regenstein, Nabisco converted its cookie formula to cut out lard (derived from pork), and blowtorched all of its factory equipment to remove remaining traces on the lines (in the process destroying, and later replacing, some expensive equipment).

All that just to beat out Hydrox, a competing—kosher—brand that existed before Oreos. When Oreos cut out the lard, they gained enough new customers to cut Hydrox out of the sandwich cookie market. Today, many of us have never heard of Hydrox, and for good reason: it no longer exists.

The triumphant victor Photo © Stoffel Van Eeckhoudt | Flickr

The triumphant victor
Photo © Stoffel Van Eeckhoudt | Flickr

However, the fact that at least three brands of chocolate-and-crème sandwich cookies—not to mention marshmallows, hot dogs, soft drinks, and more—have been able to claim kosher certification exists as powerful evidence that “kosher” doesn’t mean “healthy.”

Similarly, though I love Katz and Glutino, I know that their gluten-free (and kosher) desserts are treats, not health foods. You know that, too, I’d wager. But does anyone want to place bets on how few people in the US and worldwide do?

The idea of kosher as the next health trend has been bubbling up for at least a few years. In 2010, the New York Times published “More People Choosing Kosher for Health,” and in 2012, Dr. Weil weighed in on the question “Are kosher foods better for you?” This puts the trend just a couple years behind gluten, which was getting NYT attention in 2007, and Dr. Weil’s in 2010. If the trajectory continues, then by sometime next year, one in three Americans just might be “trying to go kosher.”

Will that happen? To make a probably not kosher joke…dear G-d, I hope not.

I don't think this needs a caption, do you? Photo © ceetap | Flickr

I don’t think this needs a caption, do you?
Photo © ceetap | Flickr

What do you think? Is kosher poised to become the next big thing? Are there health benefits to it that I’m missing? What package labels make you think a food is healthier?

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