Inspired by Buzzfeed’s 25 Delicious Ways to Use Matzoh, I am running full speed ahead into Pesach. I have lists of vegan, Pesach-friendly recipes lining my cubicle at work and shopping lists ready that I’ve prepped already. Strawberry Rhubarb. Dark Chocolate Brei. Rosemary Crepes. Cookies Galore, spiced, promising to be fluffy. I am resolved to do my due diligence, deliciously.
In the past, I have kept kosher for Passover for approximately 2 days. Around the 48th hour, I could be found gripping my stomach and sighing dramatically. Blurry-eyed, I would beg friends and coworkers for spaghetti and sandwiches. I rather obviously love food, love cooking, and find great happiness in consuming whatever my little heart desires, whenever it so desires. Now I find it hard to admit how childlike I am in my desire – and in my indulgence. Coming from a secular family, having acquired no knowledge of, or discipline for, Pesach, I suppose it makes sense that I start to become bitter, frustrated, anticipatorily hungry, and then gluttonous.
This year, however, I’m approaching Pesach in an entirely different way, even ditching the chametz early. In successfully cutting meat from my diet last year, I began to think about the meaning of my consumption, and now my consumption on Pesach, differently. As I look back on myself gorging on those peanut butter tortillas last year, barefoot in the wee hours of morning, I don’t feel quite as bad. By the light of the refrigerator, pangs of hunger were simply replaced with pangs of guilt; I thought that it really shouldn’t be that hard to restrict myself from consuming chametz for just one week. Failure. Still I shoved those tortillas into my mouth, one after the other.
In temple, the chametz metaphor abounds as we transition to spring. We are reminded to live more simply, and to be grateful as our world yet again blooms, providing us with everything we need. I couldn’t have agreed with this more, and yet still I ended up stuffing my face. It was just me, myself, and my morning desperation; I called out for pheasant as I roamed the desert of my own life.
On Pesach, we are all called upon to reenact our exodus from Egypt. We are called upon to remember what it was to live as slaves, constrained, and we are to relive our journey to freedom – both physical and spiritual. Through the exodus, we were prepared to receive the Torah, and this is, in effect, what we should do and redo each year – remember and/or relearn what it means to engage with freedom, to shed the systems and processes and distractions that bind us to greater society, but limit our spirit.
Though the exodus was an arduous journey, it was safe. G-d provided for us – manna fell from the sky and it was enough. But not only was it enough. The rabbis of the Talmud have written that this manna was more than the basics – it, amazingly, tasted like whatever was desired. Still, the people Israel begged for pheasant, for the comforts provided to them in their captivity. It sounds much like my tortilla stuffing behavior. G-d did give the people their pheasant, but also a slow plague. The concept of self-destruction.
It seems to me there is freedom in discipline. Just as in ancient times, we must freely choose to humble ourselves and do what our spirit tells us is right, even if that means overriding conventional systems. Eating more mindfully is a practice that must be returned to with regularity. This year, though, and in years to come, I’m remembering that Pesach can still be sweet.
Vegan Garam-Masala Infused Chocolate Chip Cookies *Makes 2 dozen cookies
• 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) Earth Balance “butter,” room temperature
• 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
• 2 flax eggs
• ¼ cup coconut oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• 1/4 cup matzo meal
• 3/4 cup potato starch
• 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
• ¼ teaspoon agar powder
• 8 ounces vegan chocolate chips
• ¼ cup apple sauce
• garam masala, to taste
Directions 1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat Earth Balance butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in flax eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla. Add cocoa, matzo meal, agar powder, and salt. Beat until mixture just comes together. (It will have the consistency of frosting). 2) Fold in the chocolate chips. Stir. Let stand 15 minutes. 3)Scoop 2-inch balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack. Let cool completely.
Rachel Grossman graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Language and Literature. Having spent two years in Ukraine with the Peace Corps and one year in Russia for graduate school, she now lives and works in Washington D.C. She loves inventive cooking, photography, and rainbow knee high socks. An aspiring vegan, and full-time vegetarian, she is otherwise known as the [Heebavore] https://www.facebook.com/TheHeebavore). Read more about her Jewish journey here.