Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Here is an article about the health of the Seder Meal. . .

March 29, 2010

Passover health: Matzoh, soup and family

Posted: 05:05 PM ET

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

For Jews, Passover is somewhat like Thanksgiving: Families and friends gather to eat a lot of food. This holiday, commemorating the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, began Monday and lasts for eight days, during which observers do not eat any leavened bread or various grains. Some traditionally also avoid beans, corn, and other starches.

The Passover meal - called a "seder," meaning "order," - traditionally happens on the first night, during which participants go through a series of symbolic foods representing elements of the Passover story. Some families have a seder on the second night also.

Some seder foods carry health benefits. And one, perhaps the best known of the seder elements, may cause some digestive issues.

Matzoh, which Passover observers eat to symbolize the Jewish people fleeing their homes without enough time for their bread to rise, is actually quite constipating, although no one knows exactly why. There's only about 1 gram of fiber per piece of matzoh, so it's certainly not helping in that area. But dried fruit, thought to be an antidote, is also kosher for Passover, notes Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "As long as you drink enough water and eat enough fiber to move things, you’re probably OK," says Dr. Lisa Bernstein, assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine. There is also whole wheat matzoh available, contributing to good carbs and healthy fats, she says.

Matzoh ball soup: A 2009 study in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that chicken soup, otherwise known as "Jewish penicillin," may have medicinal properties. Researchers gave proteins from chicken legs' collagen to rats. In the rats used to model hypertension, blood pressure went down, researchers said. This line of research is credible and may explain the benefits of this "Jewish penicillin," Regenstein said.

Charoset, a paste made of apples and nuts, symbolizes the mortar used to lay bricks in Egypt (legend has it that Jewish slaves built pyramids; some historians have debunked this, and it remains controversial). Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, Bernstein notes, which have been shown to be good for your heart, vision, and even memory. If this is your first seder and you are allergic to nuts, though, make sure to steer clear.

Family, as with any major food-focused holiday, is a big part of Passover. There are always some issues with that - dealing with relatives you haven't seen a long time, making sure everyone gets along - but for most people, having the family reunited is a positive thing. A 2002 review of research on family routines and rituals, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that family rituals, including Passover and Thanksgiving, contribute to stability in stressful times. These, as well as routines such as a family mealtime, are linked with everything from academic success to children's health and strong family ties.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London Museum Re-creates the smell of Chicken Soup

Check out this London Museum that re-creates the smell of chicken soup. . .

London Jewish Museum reopens after major facelift

LONDON — They are icons of Britain: a Victorian-era statesman, a World War I soldier-poet, fish and chips.

They're also Jewish — evidence of the 1,000-year history of Jews in Britain, whose story is told in a museum reopening this week after a 10 million pound ($15 million) expansion.

"Fish and chips, which everyone thinks of as very English, is in fact Sephardic Jewish," said celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who helped relaunch the London Jewish Museum on Tuesday after a two-year closure. Many believe that Britain's national dish has its origins in fried fish introduced to the country by Spanish and Portuguese Jews.

Food and the nature of Britishness both play a significant part in the museum, which has expanded from a Victorian house in London's Camden Town to a former piano factory next door, tripling its floorspace. Among the interactive displays is a chance to smell chicken soup cooking in a recreated East End immigrant's kitchen.

There also is a cavalcade of historical figures, both famous and obscure, including 19th-century Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; war poet Isaac Rosenberg, killed on the Western Front; and Daniel Mendoza, an 18th-century boxing champion of England.

Their stories sit alongside those of humbler figures — laborers, seamstresses, trade unionists, entertainers.

"We're telling the story of the Jewish community in London, but we're also telling the story of London," said Sarah Jillings, the museum's exhibition project director.

Britain's 300,000-strong Jewish community stretches back to 1066, when the first Jews arrived with William the Conqueror's invading Norman army.

The museum attests to a thriving medieval community. One of its star displays is a 13th-century mikvah, or ritual bath, uncovered in what is now the heart of London's financial district.

England's entire Jewish population was expelled by King Edward I in 1290 after years of anti-Semitic violence, and Jews were only readmitted in 1656 under Oliver Cromwell, who had overthrown the monarchy.

From there, the museum tells an evocative tale — common to many immigrant communities — of dislocation and hard work, prejudice and resistance, and the gradual move from inner-city tenements to greater prosperity in the suburbs.

"There are many Jewish museums, Holocaust museums — extraordinary places — around the world," said Alan Yentob, creative director of the BBC and a patron of the museum. "But this is one that tells the story of an immigrant culture, and therefore chimes with many people around the world today."

One gallery is devoted to the Holocaust, focusing on the experience of one British survivor of Auschwitz, while another holds a large display of Jewish ceremonial art.

The venue calls itself the only museum in London dedicated to a minority group.

Its curators acknowledge that the history of Briton's Jews is also the history of anti-Semitism. For centuries Jews were barred from many professions, including serving in Parliament — Disraeli was allowed because he had converted to Christianity as a teenager. A century ago, the press ran sensationalist headlines about "alien" newcomers as tens of thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe settled in Britain.

In recent years Jewish community leaders have reported a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, attributed in part to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dwindling number of people with memories of the Holocaust.

The museum sees its role as helping to build social cohesion. It predicts that a majority of the 65,000 visitors expected this year will not be Jewish, and will include many groups of schoolchildren.

Lawson said the history of the Jewish community is "deeply interwoven with the fabric of this country" — and is primarily a positive story.

"The history of the Jews is very much told in terms of persecution," she said. "It's interesting to question that."