Eating Outside the Box

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As I write this, I’m trying to figure out what constitutes a “fatty meal.” A piece of cheese on a butter cracker? A spoonful of peanut butter along with my salad? How about pasta with alfredo sauce? Do I have to eat a whole plateful, or can it be a side dish?

Apparently, a medicine I’m on works better with fat, so I have to eat fatty meals twice a day, after which I take a capsule. I don’t normally eat a lot of fat — much less two meals a day for 14 days. It messes up my blood glucose because fat slows down carbohydrate absorption.

You’d think all those traditional Jewish foods I have around the house during Passover (Happy Passover to those who partake!) would satisfy the fatty meal requirement. Not quite. Chicken soup? You can make the broth ahead, chill it, and then skim off the fat. Tzimmes with brisket in it? Since the meat is simmered in liquid, it gets tender without having fat drip through it — so I take most of it off. Chopped liver is fatty — and yummy — so I guess I could eat more of that than usual.

I don’t know when it happened, but I guess I’ve worked on reducing the fat in my food for so long, it’s become second nature. Not that I don’t splurge once in awhile, but I don’t on a regular basis.

Passover can be problematic if you have diabetes. For one thing, your entire diet pretty much changes. Any grains that can be made into flour are a no-no. Take corn, for example: You can’t eat cornmeal and you can’t eat anything else with corn in it. No corn syrup, no corn oil, no corn (of course). Most prepared foods have at least one corn-based ingredient in them.

That means you have to cook from scratch, just like we did back in the day. Yes, I remember days without fast foods, microwaves, delis in the grocery stores, etc. Do you know how much exercise that entails? Instead of taking something out of the freezer and putting it in the microwave, you’re slicing, you’re chopping, you’re walking back and forth between the refrigerator, cupboard, stove, and sink. Do you know what activity does to your blood glucose? It drops it, that’s what.

Plus, for Passover you have to do a thorough cleaning of the whole, entire house. You can’t have any hidden grains there, you know. Traditionally, you put away the everyday dishes, cooking utensils, and such and take out the ones that are just for Passover. You rid your house of everything that has forbidden foods in it. Now, that really lowers your glucose!

After all of the cleaning, moving, and food preparation, you get to sit down at the table for the Passover Seder. During the Seder, you nibble here and there, as you eat foods that symbolize the events during the exodus from Egypt: some unleavened bread (matzo) here, a little something to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, something else to recall the mortar made by the slaves… (Now, that stuff is good! I make mine from apples, almonds, cinnamon, and wine. I like it best on a matzo with ground horseradish.)

Then you have the “festive meal.” Think groaning Thanksgiving table, albeit festooned with silver and crystal and candlelight. And without the green bean casserole.

And where is your glucose? Who knows? It’s dropping from the activity, jumping up from the noshing, then soaring from the “festive meal.” If you don’t time it right, you can get up a good case of hypoglycemia and yell at your husband, who is leading the Seder, to “hurry it up, darn it!” Not that I would ever do that.

Then, after you eat one last piece of matzo for “dessert,” you’re not supposed to eat anything else. Not that it’s a bad thing at that point, since you’ve wolfed down everything from matzo ball soup to almond-topped flourless double-chocolate cake.

Oh, yeah. Throw four glasses of wine into the mix.

The no-grains rule runs for eight days (seven in Israel). That could be a lot of cooking if I didn’t make plenty of food so I have plenty of leftovers.

Actually, Passover is one of my favorite holidays. I like the foods — many of which I only prepare on Passover. I like hearing my husband call out, “It smells like yom tov (a festival) in here!” when he comes home. I like the family time.

Oh, my. I’m salivating and, as I write this, it’s nowhere near Passover. However, it may just be time to plan my menu.

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