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Monday, March 9, 2015

Passover Seder (part 2)

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By Julie Wiener
Associated Press

The food

Passover lasts eight days and begins with two nights of Seders. The menu varies greatly depending on a family's background. While many Ashkenazi Jews won't eat legumes, corn, rice, most other grains or products made from them, Sephardic Jews are more lenient. Ashkenazi Jews are descended from people who lived in Germany and Eastern European countries, while Sephardic Jews have roots in Spain and Portugal.

Most Jews eschew "the five species of grains" — wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt, all of which contain gluten.

The exception is matzo, which is made from wheat, but has not been allowed to ferment. Matzo must be baked within 18 minutes of the flour being combined with water.

Legumes also are forbidden, though Sephardic and Conservative Jews consume rice and legumes.

So what is allowed? Fruit is always a safe bet, as are potatoes and other root vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, eggs, fish, dairy and meat (although, in accordance with kosher laws, meat and dairy must be served separately).

If, like most American Jews, your hosts are of Ashkenazi descent, you are likely to start the meal with chicken-matzo ball soup, as well as gefilte fish (ground fish mixed with matzo meal, eggs and seasonings).

Other Passover favorites include brisket, roast lamb and a variety of side dishes, such as potato kugel, tzimmes (sweet potatoes and carrots) and assorted casseroles bound together with eggs and matzo meal.

For dessert, expect macaroons, fruit compote, candy and cakes and tortes made with ground nuts or other kosher-for-Passover flours. Beer and most other liquors are not allowed, but wine generally flows freely throughout the Seder.

The rituals

The Seder consists of 15 rituals, most of which occur before the meal is served. They include lighting candles, blessing wine, washing hands, breaking the matzo, dipping vegetables and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Usually, one of the hosts serves as the leader, but guests take turns reading sections from the Haggadah.

Interspersed are various traditional songs. Many Seders also feature contemporary readings on the themes of slavery and liberation.

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