The Passover Rules – What’s Allowed On the Menu In The Diaspora?
Firstly let’s get the definitions out of the way. The Passover is a Jewish ritual celebration which recognizes the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt where according to biblical reference they has been enslaved by Pharaoh. After the plagues were visited on Egypt, Pharaoh finally relented and agreed to the demand of Moses that he ‘let my people go’.
Pharaoh demanded that the Jews, who had been slaves for generations begin their journey out of the land of Egypt within 24 hours and due to this requirement the preparations for what would prove to be a 40 year trip to The Promised Land were hurried. There was no time for the preparation of leavened bread – bread that had time to rise – known in Hebrew as Chametz.
For this reason one of the main dietary restrictions during the Passover period is that Jews refrain from eating products produced from leaved or fermented grain
The guiding principle governing which products made from grains are allowable during the Passover period is known as the ‘rule of 18’. In short the water that is added to the mix cannot be part of the mixture for longer than 18 minutes prior to baking. This ensures that the dough does not rise and that it is not therefore considered ‘leavened’.
The rules cover a variety of different products and are not limited to bread. Also affected by the dietary restrictions are types of pasta and obviously many types of pastries that use dough that rises.
This can also include both savory and sweet pies and many other foodstuffs. In fact many brands of beer and other products are also prohibited during this period.
Instead Jews will eat Matzoh (the spelling differs all over the world – many people know this unleavened bread as ‘Matzo’).
For certain segments of the Jewish community other foodstuffs are also prohibited during Passover and at seder These can include rice and corn products. Why this should be so is unclear. The prohibition of these products is usually limited to Ashkenazi Jews who have their origins in Central and Eastern Europe. It is believed that these foodstuffs resemble grains and that this is the origin of their prohibition during Passover among Ashkenazi Jews.
Whatever the reason for these dietary restrictions they are viewed as a reason for celebration, rather than a hardship by most Jews. And Matzoh has now become a mainstream food for many outside of the Jewish community, and is used in many preparations such as a matzo ball soup Add this to the humble Bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon and the contribution of the Jewish community to global cuisine is assured.