Bintel Blog

Offbeat Israel: Why Passover Cakes Are Still Flying Off Shelves

By Nathan Jeffay

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Israel is back to the grindstone this week, with schools open again and many people returning to work after the Passover holidays. But there’s a silver lining — normal “leavened” food is on the shelves again after a week of only “kosher for Passover” products.

You see, Passover here takes its toll on the secular stomach and the religious stomach alike, as most shops and restaurants, even non-kosher ones, stop selling leavened food during the festival. So everyone is glad to see the back of those odd-tasting potato-flour cakes, the flour-free breakfast cereals and the special Passover pasta.

Well not quite everyone.

Picture this bizarre scene witnessed a few days ago in a Jerusalem supermarket. A man walks past the shelves of freshly baked, delicious-smelling regular cakes and breads, and makes a beeline for the leftover Passover cakes. He proceeds to pile his shopping cart with dozens of them.

It’s not a way of getting cheaper cakes that nobody else wants; they’re not even reduced yet. Rather, the shopper has a child with gluten intolerance.

For the gluten intolerant and their families, Passover is increasingly becoming the best time of the year for shopping.

As a result of the religious restrictions of Passover, there’s no wheat flour in products, except in matza and matza meal. Food manufacturers are moving away from using matza meal, which has a thoroughly indelicate taste, and towards other solutions that, so it happens, are great for those who are gluten intolerant. Using their research, they are producing an ever-expanding range of products, and coming up with things that taste increasingly “normal”.

Scenes like the man piling his cart with Passover cakes are, for this reason, becoming increasingly common. Leftovers of Passover cakes and pastas, once “dead stock” that shops had great difficulty getting rid of, now pose little worry to most shopkeepers.

In restaurants too, as most diners are only too happy that the menu has reverted from the leaven-free one to the normal one, gluten intolerants look back on Passover with fondness. For them, it gave them a chance to enjoy simple pleasures the rest of us take for granted, such as going for pizza, which for Passover is made (to most diners’ dismay) on a potato base, and dining at pasta restaurants that switch to Pasover pasta or gnocchi for the holiday.


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