For all of you last minute shoppers looking to stock up for Passover, I recently received an email from the folks at Shabtai Gourmet, a New York-based, Kosher, gluten-free bakery. (We reviewed Shabtai back in September 2008 – check out our thoughts here.) Shabtai’s wide range of GF goodies can be found at these supermarkets nationwide. Now, keep in mind that Passover starts at sundown tonight, and the cakes in particular will only be on display until then…so depending on what time zone you’re in when reading this, it may be too late for you. (Unless you’re not Jewish, or Jewish but not observing the Passover holiday, in which case you wouldn’t be bound by such restrictions.)
Also, an update from Andrew Itzkowitz at Shabtai about the bakery’s products: “I have sourced a non hydrogenated palm shortening, an evaporated cane juice, natural vanilla extract, and am working on other ingredients as well.” We applaud these changes, and wanted to say Bravo to Shabtai.
Lastly, an observation about the Passover holiday (admittedly coming from a Long Island boy raised Christian but with many good Jewish friends…): during the Passover holiday, Jews customarily are prohibited from eating, possessing, or otherwise benefiting from chametz. Chametz, in turn (to grossly oversimplify), is any leavened or fermented food containing wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats. (As opposed to unleavened foods, such as matzah.) I couldn’t help but notice that those five component ingredients are all sources (or potential sources, in the case of oats) of gluten. Conveniently enough, then, Passover tradition largely involves taking a big step toward eating gluten-free for the duration of the holiday. That’s not entirely accurate, since unleavened breads like matzah can be chock full of gluten. But without digging around and doing more research into the matter, I wonder (out loud…readers chime in here) if, in searching for recipes that would satisfy Jewish Passover custom, Jews unintentionally began baking gluten-free long before (as in thousands of years ago) gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease were ever on the radar screen? Or did they simply shift their food emphasis to unleavened Kosher foods that still contained gluten?
I’m treading in dangerous waters here, since I’m writing about a topic about which I have relatively little first-hand knowledge. But I’d genuinely be interested in learning the answers to my thought questions posed above. If you have any insights, please leave us a comment!