The Jewish Passover holiday has once again, past us over (well technically there are a few more nights left, but the festivities are a thing of memory). For those of you that are observant or, at least, invited to a seder, you know the drill: commemorate the Exodus then eat (or not) a vast array of symbolic foods. I just recently attended a seder this week at a storied and venerable location for such religious events (let’s just say it was in New York) and was moved to tears. Not by the services, but by the sorry and generally pitiful selection of food offerings that made up this holy night for people of the Jewish faith. Granted Gefilte fish, horseradish and startlingly sweet kosher wine is not everyone’s idea of fine dining, but the menu was not as much of the problem as were the packaged and processed kosher foods that occupied the table like an invading army of low expectations.
Kosher food, although often dismissed, obviously doesn’t have to be an exercise in tasteless, but religiously sanctioned, dining. Sure the Kosher certification is strict and exact, but how hard can it be to bring a little nutritional upgrade to the Passover plate and to Kosher food on the whole?
Well movement may be somewhat slow in this department, but every year the Kosher food industry introduces new food products to market, with an ever-increasing attention to healthy, organic, and sometimes gluten-free alternatives to the bland and nutritionally bankrupt status quo. An established matzot company, Matzot Aviv, just released a new line of organic matzah products including matzah farfel, matzah meal and cake meal. Also, Kedem, another venerable kosher foods company, has launched a new line of gluten-free Passover foods including cake, cookie and frosting mixes in addition to a line of cereals. And there are numerous other products like, Handmade Shmurah Matzah made with 100% certified organic spelt from Matzahonline.com and Four Gates Winery, which is located in the Santa Cruz Mountins in California, andproduces organic and Kosher chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, and cabernet franc.
In general, the Passover meal (or the Kosher meal for that matter) doesn’t have to be sub-par in nutrition, innovation, or general taste. The Passover meal in itself is, ideally, loaded with fresh vegetables, red wine, and very little gluten-heavy carbohydrates, and there are numerous ways to make the Kosher meal far healthier, and even greener, than meals of the past few decades. So, why is this night different from all other nights? Answer: Because we are trying to make it better and tastier.