Your Passover Primer

matzo
Photo: iStock
  1. Passover Primer

    Photo by Etsy

    Forget CliffsNotes, meet Nest Notes. Today’s topic? How to Ace Your First Passover.

    Jews everywhere will congregate at seders (translation: “order”) for the first night of Passover. If you’re not familiar with the holiday, or only know it as “the eight-day Atkins diet for all my Jewish friends” (one of the principles involves not eating bread), here’s a quickie to familiarize you with the key customs, and an introduction to the traditional foods (hint: no Peeps or chocolate eggs will be involved).

    I’m Nest Lauren, and I’ll be your resident expert for all things Passover on TheNest.com. I’ve got 25 years of experience with this stuff (read: life in a traditional, yet zany Jewish family), so I’m stepping up to help the uninformed navigate the matzo madness.

    Click here to learn more about Passover traditions

  2. The Food

    Photo by CarasCravings.blogspot.com

    Passover is a holiday with its own unique food rituals, namely the avoidance of anything “leavened.” What does that rule out? I’m not gonna lie -- a lot. Don’t worry, though. We don’t go hungry. Remember, we’re the people who originated the expression “Eat, eat, you’re skin and bones!” (even if you clearly aren’t). To prove it, I’ve scoured the web to bring you some of my favorite kosher-for-Passover recipes. Trust me, these are delish!

    Matzo brie

    Matzo pizza

    Charoset

    Potato kugel


    Charoset recipe courtesy of CarasCravings.blogspot.com

  3. The Seder

    Photo by Modern Tribe

    Passover lasts eight days, but on the first two nights everyone congregates for festive meals called seders. A traditional seder is broken up into 13 parts that are easy to keep track of because of a handy little book called the haggadah (picture it as a how-to guide for the meal).

    No matter what kind of seder you’re attending, here are the key points to remember:

    - You’re actually supposed to drink four glasses of wine (I know, right?).

    - Everyone is supposed to recline as much as possible (once again…awesome).

    - Only the children get to find the piece of matzo known as the afikomen for a prize (come one -- it can’t all be good news).

    - There will be an extra glass of wine on the table. Do not drink it. It is for Elijah, the prophet, who is said to visit every seder and sip from the cup.

    The door of the home may be slightly ajar to “let Elijah in.” So if you see it that way, don’t close it. It wouldn’t be a huge deal if you did, but it would qualify as a seder faux pas.

    The So Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah, $12, ModernTribe.com

  4. The Seder Plate

    Photo by Modern Tribe
    At the seder, there will be a large plate on the table with five symbolic foods. Like Elijah’s cup, the foods are only there to be seen, not eaten -- but there will probably also be small serving bowls of three items from the seder plate that you can eat.* Nervous about all these rules? Relax, this meal comes with lots of instructions, so you won’t be expected to know any of it by heart. When in doubt, you can always just mirror what everyone else is doing.

    Funky Lalo Seder Plate in Reds, $129, ModernTribe.com

    * At some seders, they do eat from the seder plate -- it depends on the size of the crowd.

  5. What's the Deal With Matzo?

    Photo by Amazon

    If there’s one key food that symbolizes Passover, it’s matzo. What is it, exactly? Matzo is bread that’s made without leavening, or yeast, in honor of bread not having time to rise before the Jews’ exodus from ancient Egypt. Though it comes in different varieties like honey, whole wheat, and even white grape, it can be a tad cardboard-like in taste and appearance, but there are ways to jazz it up.

    At the seder, you can make a “sandwich” out of matzo, charoset (a spread made of apples, nuts, and wine), and horseradish. It’s an acquired taste -- but lots of people love the combo of sweet and savory. My personal favorite way to improve matzo is to make matzo pizza. Come to think of it, there aren’t many foods that don’t taste better smothered in tomato sauce and mozzarella.

    Whole Wheat Matzos, $39/12 pack, Amazon.com