Return to the Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families
Cooking for Passover is fun and, depending on how far into it you get, it can be complicated. The prohibition on using any leavened foods and the grains that even have the potential to become leavened has provided an opportunity for Jewish culinary invention. Something to keep in mind – especially for families that are new at Passover – is that the traditional rules for observing the holiday are filled with dozens of details, especially around keeping the kitchen kosher for Passover. For some families, the rules can feel so overwhelming that trying to keep all of them gets in the way of enjoying the festival and its main themes – liberation, hope, and rededication to pursue freedom for all oppressed people everywhere. Our advice is to talk as a family about how much of the various rules and customs you feel ready to take on, and then do your best to meet your goals, while being forgiving of yourself and each other if you have lapses or make mistakes.
The main Passover restriction is on five grains – wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and oats – that might be ground into flour and fermented with yeast to rise. The exception is, of course, matzah. Matzah is a large flat bread made of wheat flour or other grains permitted on Passover. Matzah bakers mix the flour with water and bake it immediately in a hot oven so that it does not have a chance to rise.
Jews have a long tradition of grinding Matzah into a flour-like consistency, called Matzah meal, to make ersatz versions of non-Passover foods. It can be very confusing to go into a supermarket and find Passover cereal, Passover pasta and Passover cake mix, when you know that traditional Jews are avoiding regular cold cereal, pasta and cake mix. This is just the modern version of Jews rising to the culinary challenge of Passover, to keep the laws that commemorate the Exodus from Egypt without giving up all of life’s goodies.
By the way, for years when Easter falls during the week of Passover, if your family (or extended family) needs a way to have a kosher-for-Passover Easter meal, we have resources for that too.
Also, for a variety of traditional and innovative Passover recipes, see our Passover Recipes index.
The Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families is also available in a beautiful PDF