Junk Foods of Pesach

My colleague and friend Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder posted this photo and question on Facebook recently:

Good or Evil? Discuss.

In case you are wondering what’s actually in there:


The discussion that followed was very funny, with many different camps. Some people have wonderful childhood associations for these little slices of fruit flavored agar. Others were firm that they are “Evil!” Still others were torn – “Both!”

It set me to thinking about my own reaction to many processed Passover foods. I do not attach moral values to food, but golly, some of these things are weird if you didn’t grow up with them. For instance, to my mind, “Fruit Slices” are basically sugar that comes with glue to stick it between your teeth. There’s better candy to be had.

ChocMatzoMy favorite Passover junk food is chocolate covered matzah, which will probably be a mystery to many of my readers. How good it is depends mostly on the quality of the chocolate. This year I have bought Fair Trade Chocolate for Passover, which I know is (1) good chocolate and (2) ethically produced. I’m planning to dip the matzah in chocolate myself, then drizzle it with caramel. It will be delicious and not junk food at all, more of a Passover dessert!

Most of the processed Passover foods are junk, that is, foods without significant nutritional value. One exception is gefilte fish, which can be a good source of protein. A piece of gefilte fish has more protein than a large egg!

Passover is a festival of springtime. While the food manufacturers would like us to buy things in boxes labeled “Kosher for Passover,” I prefer to make it a festival of fruits and vegetables. The strawberries are often at their peak for Pesach. Asparagus is another food that’s just right at that time. Other goodies will be coming ripe, depending on where you live. Once the seder is over, I dispense with the matzah and just eat the lovely things that are growing this time of year.

Enjoy your Passover treats, be they fresh strawberries or chocolate matzah, or even Fruit Slices!

P.S. In case you are wondering, Maneschewitz, Osem, and the Fair Trade Chocolate people have not paid me to promote their products. The only product I recommend you buy is the Fair Trade Chocolate, since most chocolate on the market today is produced by enslaved persons, mostly children.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

17 thoughts on “Junk Foods of Pesach”

  1. I think it’s funny that so many folks react to not being able to eat leavened foods by piling on the sugar. Lots of these people don’t eat that much regular bread as part of their daily intake. If you’re avoiding starch and sugar then Pesach is the place (and time) to be! And if you are eating natural starches there’s the divine sweet potato that come close to being candy if you roast it.

    As always, thanks for the delightful message!

    1. I think a lot of the reaction is simply reverting to foods that were favorites in childhood Passovers … and we Baby Boomers all know what sorts of crazy food people ate in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s!

  2. I remember those jellie candies. Yum.But no longer. Way too sugary.I have been making my own chocolate covered matzah for years. Only the best!Pamela Fender 

    Pamela Fender
    Beside Myself:Recovery From My Family Betrayal and Estrangement – A Memoir

    1. Hi, Pamela!

      I just realized why your comments keep getting kicked back to me for approval – you have a lot of formatting attached to them. My guess is that you are commenting by hitting reply or something. The formatting comes through as garbage, and the links to your book and webpage are all embedded in the garbage. Just from a marketing point of view, it would be worth your time to fix it.

      Sounds like we have similar tastes. I’d have loved those slices when I was a child, but now I want no part of them. Chocolate matzah, though – yum!

  3. I have a cookbook, Lucky Peach presents 101 easy Asian Recipes. One is Jap Chae, a noodle dish made with sweet potato noodles and plenty of vegetables. This is one answer to what to eat during Pesach. It’ll be OK, folks.

      1. The new “fad” of making noodles out of any firm veggie like sweet potatoes or zucchini and the gifts that paleo dieters have given us with recipes for banana “pancakes” (just banana and egg) and cauliflower “rice” (for the kitniyot-free) and even cauliflower pizza crust should stand a lot of us in good stead for Pesach without a lot of food that comes in cardboard boxes. Pesach in the modern American household, rather than relying on the bounty of the re-greening world, seems to add to the burden on our earth with lots of extra trash and extra waste that has to be recycled. If we can avoid that *and* eat better, tastier and less cardboardy food, imagine how much more pleasant the holiday can be!

        1. Amen! The “Festival of Freedom” can free us from the subtle prison of habit. Thank you for commenting; I have long admired your words on Twitter.

  4. We used to go absolutely crazy shopping for Passover food. One year we filled three shopping carts with I don’t know what. I think my philosophy as a kid was to get one of everything. We also had to sell Barton’s chocolates for school so we had boxes full of chocolate lollipops and chocolate covered jell rings and chocolate covered marshmallows, and took it all as an eating challenge. My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

    1. I feel sick just reading about it, Rachel! The first year I kept Passover I went wild at the Passover store, and then there was all this terrible food. Kosher for Passover “corn flakes” are dreadful. I was so horrified at the food I found completely inedible that year that I’ve been pretty calm doing Pesach shopping ever since. (Of course, I started as a grownup with kids who were accustomed to (as one of them put it) “REAL Cereal, Mom.” )

      1. For some reason, Passover mayonnaise was the worst thing on the planet. I knew a family that loaded it with dill to cut the strange taste. And then there were the huge boxes of bazooka gum that turned to rock within hours. My Mom was horrified when we came home with all of this stuff, but we went shopping with my father and he would buy anything as long as it was in the Passover section of the store.

        1. I rarely take the trouble to make mayo from scratch except during Passover, but it’s really not hard to do provided you either have Wrists of Steel or an electric whisk. (I have the latter.) I whisk an egg yolk with a teeny bit of lemon juice and a bit of salt then continue to whisk wildly while slowly, slowly dripping one cup of olive oil into the egg. The slower you drip, the better. I’m sure there are better recipes available but it isn’t complicated, just a pain in the … wrist.

          I refuse to go near the KforP mayo when instead I can be “forced” to make luscious mayo-from-scratch, which is much better than any mayo from a jar but too much trouble most of the year.

  5. Chocolate covered matzah is good. And those raspberry jelly rings covered in chocolate are amazing.

    Sorry no one took up my last year’s suggestion of gummi plagues to keep the kids interested during Seder! Frogs, bugs… okay, I don’t know how you’d do darkness, maybe just a black agar square. Or fiery hail. But still.

  6. Don’t forget the wonderful cans of macaroons Maneschewitz makes!! Lol canned macaroons. As kids we didn’t care where they came from, we just knew they were delicious. And dipped in chocolate? To die for. So bad, yet so good!

    1. Yes! I had a paragraph about them and decided I was running too long. Glad you brought them up. “Canned cookies” definitely makes the beloved weird Passover food list?

    2. I saw those a couple of days ago in the store. Canned cookies! Why you wouldn’t just make a flourless chocolate cookie/cake is beyond me. Or how about a nice meringue? They also had the fruit squares, of course.

      1. Meringue!!! One of my favorite Passover desserts is to make little meringue cups and fill them with fresh berries, topped with creme fraische. Ooo!

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