I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in the Midwest, where Passover was taken seriously. My mom spent days preparing the kitchen for Passover—scrubbing the cupboards, the refrigerator shelves, cleaning the oven and removing all chametz from the kitchen to boxes in the basement. But we abstained from more than just bread, bagels and pasta during Passover.
We also excluded kitniyot (legumes) from our meals. I’m a child of the 1980s, and my parents were not hippies, so we did not eat the quantity of lentils and beans that are more commonplace in my home today. Hummus was not a staple in my diet then; in fact, I don’t recall eating it until my first trip to Israel in 1994.
For me, Passover meant eight days without peanut butter and jelly on a toasted English muffin (a favorite breakfast) and instead an overabundance of matzah with cream cheese and technicolor jellied fruit slices. Of course, my family’s tradition was to end Passover by going out for pizza, just like most other Jewish families.
Ever since having my own home, I’ve made my Passover rituals to fit into my family’s lifestyle. I embrace the deep cleaning of my kitchen, combining tasks to do a big spring cleaning of my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer. I rearrange my pantry, placing kosher-for-Passover ingredients on designated shelves. I prepare lots of fresh vegetables to enjoy over the course of the eight days, rather than relying on packaged Passover foods with an expiration date five years from now.
But what about kitniyot? This is the gray area when it comes to permissibility of foods during Passover. In the past decade or so, there has been significant chatter amongst my Conservative Jewish friends, about whether this broad category of foods is allowable or not during the holiday.
Despite the Conservative movement’s recent change in ruling on kitniyot, I side with tradition and keep them out of my meals during Passover. While some of my friends miss their beloved bagels and granola bars, I mourn the loss of legumes in my diet.
Chickpeas find their way into nearly every non-Passover meal that I eat at home. Each week, I make several batches of silky homemade hummus to enjoy with carrot sticks at lunchtime or as an afternoon snack. I bake socca to use in place of traditional pizza crust or as a base for a hefty schmear of Soom’s addictively delicious Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread (try the combination in place of baguette with Nutella—you’ll be a convert, too). I mash chickpeas with some chopped herbs and a few glugs of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for a simple lunchtime salad, inspired by a chunky hummus that I ate in Berlin a few summers ago.
Life without chickpeas is a tough existence in my house, but we manage to cope during the eight days of Passover. Sure, we miss the breads, crackers and other leavened foods, like everyone else, but legumes are such a prominent ingredient in my cooking and eight days without them can feel like an eternity. Luckily, I’ve memorized my favorite chickpea-focused recipes and can whip them up quickly as the last few hours of Passover are winding down. So while my parents are breaking their Passover at the local pizza parlor, you will find my family at home, indulging in our favorite legume.