Passover -- a family-focused, festive holiday that celebrates freedom and hopes for the future -- begins at sundown tonight. Out here in the rural Southwest I hear almost nothing about it, and I haven't been to a seder since 1992 (just before I left Philly to head west), but every year I think about it and this year might share some of the traditions with my kids. Even better would be to attend a seder again... of course, my various "high-maintenance dietary issues" (no gluten, no unfermented dairy, no alcohol -- good God my innards are finicky) would make me a difficult guest, but guess what? A quick Google search of "gluten-free Passover" brought up lots of recipes and product ideas because, of course, gluten-free has become a marketing trend, like vegan and organic. Trendy as it may be at the moment, gluten-free is not just a "lifestyle choice" for some of us. Nonetheless, thanks to growing awareness of gluten intolerance I am a bit less embarrassed to be one of those "oh, I'm sorry, I can't eat that" people everyone hates to invite to dinner and am relieved to be able to find both ready-made products and basic ingredients to revamp my pantry. I've done gluten-free birthdays and other holidays; shall I try to bake some gluten-free matzoh this year?
Kiddush cup and tray by Lia Rosen
As for the wine, when I was a kid (my family converted to Judaism for a few years when I was 9 or so, in case you're wondering why a total white-bread girl like me is writing about Passover) I was given red grape juice at seder; now, if I took my own in a lovely decanter, would I still be able to participate? I also remember being asked to present one of the questions one year and was able to do so in Hebrew after just half a year of Hebrew school two afternoons a week. I can barely remember a full prayer or other phrase now but was quite fluent there for a while. Hebrew school was also where I first learned to sing, something I didn't know I could do and have greatly enjoyed ever since. So, even though I felt a bit weird sitting out during "regular-school" Christmas and other programs, I learned about a whole new culture from the inside and built a broader foundation for a spirituality that is anything but narrow. Weird and shifting lately, for sure, but definitely not narrow.
So... politicsand religion in one week? I know, I'm pushing it... And now I'm off to pour some pomegranate juice (no grape on hand) and prepare fresh parsley, salt water, and hard-boiled eggs for a mini-not-really-seder to share with the kids.