By Josette Keelor
The Jewish season of Passover begins with a seder meal at sunset on April 14.
Passover, or "Pesach" in Hebrew, lasts for eight days in remembrance of the Exodus of Jews from Egypt.
The seder, sometimes also celebrated by Christians remembering Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles during the season of Lent, contains many foods restrictions for Jews who follow a kosher diet for Passover; however, those planning to celebrate this year can find most ingredients they need without leaving the valley.
According to Rabbi Scott Sperling of Beth El Congregation in Winchester, almost everything to furnish a seder meal can be found at area grocery stores.
He shops at Martins Food Store on Pleasant Valley in Winchester to find items like matzah, a flat bread made from flour and water, without yeast.
In previous years, he said, Martins has had "the largest selection of Passover goods, and that seems to be the case this year."
The tradition of choosing unleavened bread for seder commemorates the Exodus, when Jews leaving Egypt didn't have time to wait for the bread to rise before they packed up and left.
Matzah bread also excludes chametz -- anything that comes from wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt not completely cooked within 18 minutes after first coming in contact with water, according to the website www.jewfaq.org. In the case of Orthodox Jews of Ashkenazic background, the restriction also includes rice, corn, peanuts, legumes and some other foods.
Since Sperling buys whole-wheat matzah for himself and gluten-free matzah for his wife, "I'm really excited that those broader varieties of matzah are available."
Still, finding matzah packaged in convenient amounts can be a challenge.
"Most of the stores of course much prefer that you buy the five pack," Sperling said, but he's had success asking stores to separate packages in to more manageable numbers.
"I can barely get through two boxes during Passover," he said.
Items on the seder plate are placed specifically, beginning with lettuce at the bottom and moving clockwise around the plate with a vegetable, roasted egg, roasted bone and nuts and dates, with bitter herbs in the center, the website www.aish.com explains.
But though matzah may be prevalent locally, Sperling said finding fresh meat for the seder plate is a different challenge.
"There's not enough of a market to support it," he said.
He said the number of area families interested in buying fresh kosher meat -- which has no contact with surfaces or equipment contaminated by leavened foods or grains -- is small.
Martins carries frozen kosher meat, Sperling said, but for fresh meat, he has had to travel to Wegmans in Leesburg or to Baltimore.
As for kosher wine that uses cane sugar instead of corn syrup, he said D'Vine Wines and Beer, at 3103 Valley Ave., Suite 104, Winchester, offers a great selection, but he usually buys Manischewitz wine at a grocery store.
D'Vine Wines owner Michael Janow does a good business during Passover when he features kosher wines on their own display in his store at Creekside Station.
Though he doesn't sell the Manischewitz brand, he said he stocks two wines similar to the semi-sweet style of wine folks celebrating Passover are looking to buy -- one by Cantina Gabrielle and one by Italian importer Victor Wines.
"Our reputation for carrying wine for Passover had grown in previous years," he said.
"I do acquire a selection of wines that are kosher from France, Argentina, Chile and Italy."
Contact D'Vine Wines and Beer at 540-662-9463 or visit 3103 Valley Ave., Winchester.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or email@example.com