Thursday, April 7, 2011

Passover Musings: Fruit Gems are Neither Fruit, nor Gems...Discuss

Passover is just around the corner. Now, I don't know about you, but when I see the supermarket manager preparing the Passover aisle (which by the way was the first week of March-ridiculous) I literally break out into a sweat; I quake in my boots.  The fact that I'm wearing boots should tell you that the Passover aisle was out way too early in advance this year. Okay, it is what it is. 

I find the Passover aisle quite fascinating, actually, and I wonder, when did Fruit Gems trump Matzah and become the official symbol of Passover? I mean, if the Jews took fruit gems with them on their journey out of Egypt...Passover would have a whole different spin now, wouldn't it?

I couldn't believe how many boxes were on the shelf, so, let's talk fruit gems for a moment.  From a health perspective, these have to be the most egregious candy of them all and while they are my husband's favorite, I refused to buy them.  I just couldn't. Even the fruit were insulted. No apple, orange, lemon or lime could compete with those toxic neon-colored fruit gems.  My teeth ached just thinking about all that crystallized, crunchy sugar. My husband was not pleased with my fruit gem ban.  PUH-LEAZE!  " Look how many limitations your son has? Suck it up!"  I barked at him.  "Believe me, I am doing you a favor!"

He looked oh, so skeptical...and yet, there was no sardonic comeback, no sarcastic response, no witty repartee or obnoxious utterances.  Perhaps, I actually won an argument...Hmmm, I guess miracles really do exist on Passover.  Moses aint got nothing on me.

Passover is the hardest holiday for anyone with food limitations as it's a holiday that revolves around food.  Let's not even dwell on trying to stay healthy (though, I just did). For us, it's an egg/nut allergic son, a vegetarian and lactose intolerant daughter, not to mention a carnivore lovin' husband. 

I have really changed my tune over the years regarding Passover and food consumption.  It used to be a free for all, an eight day pass from eating like a normal person.  It was junk central that started with the Seders and continued to infinity and beyond.  It included baking, chocolate, matzah and cream cheese, matzah and butter, matzah and cheese, matzah and chocolate spread.  Basically, matzah was the vehicle to eat any kind of hydrogenated, fat, sugary, spicy, sweet, and/or chocolaty substance.  It's a shame that some of us don't eat peanut butter on Passover, because, I could have killed for PB&J matzah sandwich. 

I baked a lot.  I made platters of meringues, mandelbread, brownies, cookies, cakes, kugels, mousses and chocolate confections and I spread the wealth and brought them into friends' homes.  Dessert was my Seder territory and I loved it. 

Then, Ari was diagnosed with egg and nut allergies, the building blocks of Passover cooking.  I truly struggled in learning how to feed him.The first year, I was beside myself.  He was hungry all the time, he cried and couldn't sleep ( because he was so hungry).  He couldn't eat anything at the seder.  He was miserable and so was I.  By day four of the holiday, he completely shut down.  He was lethargic, cranky, and having loads of meltdowns, so, I made him oatmeal, and he perked up like a flower getting water after a long, drought.

Ari's experiences made me soul search a little further.  Why did Passover have to be the festival of fruit gems?  Why did I subject myself to consumptive Passover eating that in the end, only made me feel bad physically and emotionally? It really wasn't necessary.  So, I made a conscious decision, starting a few years back to STOP THE PASSOVER MADNESS.

No more muffin mixes, gone went the butter which I indulged in w/ matzah on an hourly basis.  I removed most desserts from my repertoire as well. It got to a point where Ari looked so sad when he saw platters of treats that he once ate but could no longer.  Besides, the leftovers lurking in the freezer taunted me well into May. I focused on more whole foods, veggies, fruits, Quinoa, whole wheat matzah, fish and chicken along with some occasional chocolate indulgences. I tried to keep my focus on the meaning of Passover, and making it special for the family in ways other than food.

I must say, that while I am certainly not perfect, the last few Passovers have been much better from a food perspective.  As I became more creative, Ari appeared less hungry. Moreover, I didn't feel like a slug suctioned to a bloated, beached whale.  That is definitely a good thing.

It's definitely a challenge when you have to try new things and it has taken a few years to make Passover "normal" with a nut and egg allergy.  But, in the end, we are all a little better for it.  I learned an important lesson from Ari.  You can give up certain things, and still feel like things are special.

My next Passover musing....Passover Pet Peeves...look for it soon!

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