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Bread, I Love You

March 29, 2010

The simple pleasure of a hot loaf of pain d’epi with a healthy smear of Pamplie butter is too great to bear.  The butter melts on contact with the light yeasty crumb, and the crust offers such a satisfying crunch before it yields to the warm soft center below.

I have loved bread for a long time.

And not just fancy bread with French names.  As a young child I remember loving the soft fluffy indulgence of Wonder bread.  In college I would sit down with a loaf of sandwich bread and a tub of margarine and just eat until I couldn’t eat any more.  Even today, one of my favorite anytime snacks is toast.

I find the smell of toast to be intoxicating.  In fact, now that I have started eating toast, my father-in-law is eating it too.  On a recent visit he found the smell of bread toasting impossible to resist.

Of course I mention all of this because tonight is the first night of Passover, and it will be eight days until I can enjoy these delectable delights again.

Tonight we will have a seder, the festive holiday meal that retells the story of when we were slaves in Egypt.  There will be matzoh ball soup, there will be gefilte fish, and there will be brisket.

Although instead of bread there will be matzoh.

Matzoh also has another name.  It is lovingly called The Bread of Affliction.  And usually around this time of year, people who don’t observe Passover will say, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about, I think matzoh is tasty.”

And you know what, on that first day it is tasty.  Maybe it will even be tasty the second day with plenty of butter and jam.  Plus it’s likely been a full year since you’ve made matzoh brei, which may carry you through the third day.  But by day four, the affliction has certainly set in.

The story I will tell tonight, and the one I will teach my children, is the story I was told as a boy.  In its simplest form, Moses asked Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery.  Pharaoh declined, but after the tenth plague was visited on the Egyptians, Pharaoh finally relented.  The Israelites fled as quickly as they could, which didn’t allow them enough time for their bread to rise before heading off into the desert.

Which means that to commemorate the exodus from Egypt we refrain from eating bread for a week.  And bread is used loosely because we refrain from eating a whole host of other treats too.

The official line is that all Jews who observe the holiday are to avoid all forms of the five grains that are referred to as hametz: wheat, barley, spelt (also known as farro), oats, and rye.  However depending on your background and level of observance one may also omit the additional foods known as kitniyot which include rice, millet, legumes, peas, caraway, fennel seed, mustard, garlic, corn, soybeans, and peanuts.

Passover is like heaven for someone on the Atkins diet.

I’ve always thought these dietary observances were strange.  The Israelites didn’t have time to make matzoh ball soup or braise their brisket for hours either, yet we have no problem eating those delicious morsels on the holiday.

I will miss pizza, I will miss donuts, and I will miss oatmeal.  But I will miss bread the most.  This past weekend I had a cider donut, poached eggs on toast, and a whole mess of oatmeal.  Last night I gorged on pizza and a breaded chicken parmesan sandwich.  Today I will enjoy some toast in between doing last minute errands picking up the last few items for the seder that have still not made it into the house.

While it seems like eight days shouldn’t be that long, I know that by the time Tuesday, April 6 rolls around, I will welcome bread back into my life with open arms.

Cue music.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2010 1:03 pm

    Ha! When I first read matzoh that’s exactly what I thought! But I will refrain from saying it.

    Have you ever made your own? That could be a fun project.

  2. March 29, 2010 2:14 pm

    We have a rule in our house called “The Toast Rule” it states that if anyone is making toast for any purpose they have to make a piece for me. I have never knowingly not desired toast after smelling that someone has been making it!

  3. Ellen Whitby permalink
    March 30, 2010 4:35 pm

    Happy Passover.

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