Passover is almost here, and, for many Jewish families, that means stress. Before the holiday begins, lots of cleaning and cooking must be done to prepare for the eight-day-long festival. Here’s where I’ll admit, I don’t tidy up to the extent of other Jewish families, and I’m fortunate my mother is the one who cooks for and hosts the family seders, or ritual meals which mark the start of the holiday.
Whether you vacuum and scrub every inch of your home, or barely clean at all, if you are a family who observes the holiday, there is one thing which can cause lots of anxiety: figuring out how to get through eight whole days of no bread, no “real” pasta, no pizza and all the other yeasty foods most picky eaters love.
If you already have healthy, adventurous eaters, Passover is probably not much of a challenge. Kids who love to eat their vegetables and fruit as well as most proteins are going to be fine this holiday as they are at any other. Count your blessings and enjoy.
For those of us whose children are a bit more selective about their food choices, Passover is the most difficult holiday to get through. Though the Passover-friendly food market has grown, and it is amazing how people have managed to produce everything from cereal to cookies, the holiday can still be hard for kids who only eat a limited amount of food.
We parents need to do what we have to to get ourselves and our kids through the holiday, and not like the stress of food ruin anyone’s experience. To help you make the best of the restrictions, here are my tips for surviving Passover with your picky eater.
1. Get creative
Assuming your children eat matzoh, you can prepare a lot of fun dishes both savory and sweet. In recent years, some delicious recipe ideas have made their way around the Internet. Some ideas to try can be found here.
2. Let them eat the same food every day
If the only thing relatively substantial your kids will eat is matzoh pizza, then let them. I think I gave this to my son for lunch every day after we came home from my parents’ house last year. Your child might only want yogurt, or carrots, or that weird “cereal” that I personally feel tastes like cardboard. Whatever it is, stock up on it, and ride it out.
3. Accept the help (and the food) relatives give you
As I mentioned earlier, we spend the first few nights of Passover with my parents. Though we don’t have a huge crowd, my mom always out does herself cooking a variety of food to satisfy the divergent tastes of her guests. Better than I ever could, she is able to produce some tasty, Passover-friendly versions of my kids’ favorite dishes, and if I am lucky, will have some for us to bring home.
4. Remember, lots of meals can be adjusted for Passover
The food industry in general has made amazing strides when it comes to producing alternatives to things like your basic wheat pasta — a no-no on Passover. Depending on your customs, varieties made of chickpeas or rice might work, or the old egg noodle staple can always do well. My eldest loves meatballs, so we just swap out our usual bread crumbs with ones made with matzoh. Sure, it isn’t exactly the same as the real deal, but with a little sauce, my son enjoys them just fine.
5. Forget the “food rules”
Passover is not the time to obsess over how many sweets your children consume on a given day. Growing up, I loved Passover because of all the junk food I got to eat while I was home on Spring Break. Our house was full of chocolate, candy and chips — things which we would rarely have during the rest of the year. Remember, this is a special occasion, maybe not quite like a vacation, though many families do travel this week, but still not an ordinary time, and sometimes we need to relax our standards to make it pleasant for everyone. So, if your children want an extra scoop of ice cream, let them have it.
Passover is a time to reflect on the story of the Jewish people’s redemption from Egypt. It is a time to gather with family and share traditions. Passover is a beautiful holiday full of wonderful rituals to spread across generations. Hopefully this post will make it easier to focus on the beauty of the holiday and worry less about what your kids will eat.