I didn’t go on some trendy LA diet, I’m not actively trying to lose weight, nor have I developed a sudden allergy to gluten. But what I’ve learned is that giving something up out of religious obligation is still a hot take in 2019, even amongst your own community.
Usually I try (and fail) to eat kosher for Passover. As a reform Jew, my group is typically the most liberal–even with our own religion– to the point where a chunk of us would describe themselves not as Jewish but as “Jew-ish.”
Many reform Jews don’t fast for Yom Kippur or keep kosher for Pesach, but recently I’ve done both. Like really recently. As in, it’s still Passover while I write this.
For a week I haven’t consumed leavened bread, pasta, tortillas, rice, corn, legumes, or anything like that. I haven’t had any oat milk lattes, no popcorn, no bagels, no penne alla vodka, etc…just a lot of salads and semi-creative/mainly shitty meals with some form of matzo.
(Not counting the eggplant salad or chicken I made with you, Mom. Love you)
In the process, I learned a lot about myself, my body, and about the company I keep.
One: I Get Hungry Every 5 Minutes Without Bread
I’m a hungry person and I eat a lot, but after two days of not eating any sort of bread-stuffs except matzo, I found that I was near ravenous All. The. Time.
Like I would make eggs and avocado for breakfast and then five minutes later I would be hungry still, so I would have some fruit. Then I would get hungry again, so I would have a sheet of matzo. Then I would STILL be hungry and I would be S.O.L. (shit out of luck) because I didn’t want to eat more matzo or more fruit.
Two: I Eat So Much Dairy!!!!
I definitely kind of knew that I could survive off cheese forever, but this confirms it. If there is suddenly a world-wide bread shortage, I can and will survive on string cheese and Babybels for the rest of my life. And enjoy it.
I have had more cheese this week than any other week in recent memory. You know who else loves cheese? Fellow Jew (and problematic AF) Courtney Love.
Three: The World Needs More Salad Options Without Croutons/Tortilla Strips
I get that it adds crunch, but more restaurants should offer salads without croutons/tortilla strips/wontons!!! What about our celiac brethren! People on medication with specific diets! Or people with a fear of tiny toasts! I don’t know!
The point is, there were hardly any salad options that weren’t covered in tiny bites of bread and I can imagine that if you are avoiding bread for any reason but want a salad, this makes your life a little harder.
While this is truly not anything terrible, I do have a very sad story about a crouton incident I once had in college:
When I was a junior and kosher for Passover I went to Panera and asked for a salad with no croutons. They gave it to me WITH croutons. I came back and tried to explain that I couldn’t eat the croutons. These croutons weren’t just like sprinkled on top, they were in and around and all over the salad, hiding under lettuce leaves– like the bread sprinkles from them were on the salad, making it impossible to eat if you’re K4P (kosher for Passover).
Instead of just saying they would make me a new one, the server was pissed off and asked me in a very rude tone, “do you want me to pick them out?”
“No,” I said through gritted teeth. “It’s fine.” And then I threw the salad out in a trash can in the back of the restaurant and left.
Yes, I feel guilty for not giving that salad to a hungry person. Thank you for asking.
I am telling you this story for no other reason than to say, fuck you whoever rude ass Columbia student was working at the Panera at State and Congress in Chicago!!!!!!!!
Four: People Want To Talk You Out Of It
“Just have some! I won’t tell!”
“Oh, I’m sure God won’t care if you take a little bite”
“Dude, just eat it!”
I’m sure God won’t care if I eat a bite of your sandwich, but I do. It’s called accountability–look it up!
But for real, this is me trying to be accountable for myself and actively attempting to be a part of the religion I claim to be a part of (though I’m sure I’m doing a shitty job). It’s nice that you want me to taste your food or maybe it’s rude that you don’t want to listen to me complain about how I can’t eat real pizza for three more days??? But also could you stop? lol
It’s a personal choice that doesn’t effect you and your discomfort with it is showing.
Five: People Think You’re More Religious Than You Actually Are
I’m not going for Super A+ Jew here or anything. I’m just not eating bread. I’m not even actually keeping kosher. I think the only certified Kosher food I’ve had is the matzo I’ve been eating all week. I can’t really even call myself K4P, I had shellfish at Disneyland!!
But in the week I haven’t been eating Br3adZ I’ve been told by Jewish friends that I’m a better Jew than they are and have had non-Jewish friends say they didn’t realize I was so religious. All because I am taking a week of my life to reflect on the suffering of the Jewish people, the story of Passover, and can’t eat nachos.
So WHY am I doing this?
Because honestly, it’s been a rough year. I know it’s only April but I guess I am referring to from last April to now. It’s been a rough two years, actually.
Little meditations like this remind me that suffering isn’t permanent. I could just get “this too shall pass” tatted above my ass, but a week without bread seemed cheaper.
Doing this, I not only remember the suffering of the Jews fleeing Egypt, I reflect on the suffering of my own life–admittedly not that there’s been much–but this Passover I want to be dedicated to mindfulness and the power of choice.
I want to engage in active remembrance of the passing of people I love, how hard things have been for people in my family, the end of relationships, jobs, moving, anything, everything. All the things that have been weighing me down.
Suffering isn’t a choice–no matter if you’re an enslaved person or your brain chemicals have decided to rage against you. However, choosing to remember and honor that suffering is.
So that’s why I did this. I wanted to sit with it for a week, feeling my stomach gurgle while I watched other people eat bagels, and make it count.
I thought about my sister. I thought about my Zayde. I thought about Andrew, who said this was like Jewish Whole 30 and therefore I am never doing that diet probably ever. I thought about my parents, and my friends, my Uncle, and anyone I had ever loved and lost or hurt and anyone who had ever hurt me. I didn’t ask for forgiveness or forgive, this isn’t Yom Kippur–but I thought about them to keep reminding myself why I was doing this.
Suffering isn’t permanent. The time you spent hurting deserves to be honored. Things could always be worse.