Jewish Journal


April 10, 2003

The Dayenu Diet


"Do these jeans make me look fat?"

Smart men don't answer that question. Smart women don't ask it. But all women think it. Especially single women who are trying to bag a boy. After all, a man's first impression is based on a woman's looks. And single men are looking at more than just our shayna punim.

We know you check out our top as we walk in, and our bottom as we walk out. Which is one reason why this Jew-Lo spends hours at the gym sculpting her curves. Pilates, spinning, weights and running. All in the name of a taut tuchis and a tiny waist.

This obsession over feeling fit is about more than meeting a man. It's about meeting several men. Actually, it's about leading an active, athletic lifestyle. I workout to feel healthy and strong and good about myself.

But how do I reconcile all this shaping and shvitzing with my Jewish lifestyle? Let's face it -- Jews have an eating problem. The problem is we like to eat a lot and we like to eat often.

Kugles and kreplach and knishes -- oh my! Every Jewish holiday is another "we fought, we survived, let's eat" celebration. We've got a celebratory starch for every occasion. Shabbat -- challah. Chanukah -- latkes. Purim -- hamantaschen. Yom Kippur -- an all-out lox, stock and bagel break-fast feast.

Which is why Passover, on the surface, seems like the single chick's ideal holiday. It's as if Atkins' trendy no-carb diet was actually inspired by our ancient ancestors who fled without bread. Pesach is the perfect week for a woman to watch her weight. It's an eight-day Exodus-endorsed break from carbohydrates. Yeah, right. And Eve was just looking to keep the doctor away.

Despite the divine ban on bread, I eat more carbs during Passover than during any other week of the year. If I ate matzah balls, but not matzah brie, dayenu. If I ate matzah pizza, but not matzah lasagna, dayenu. With string bikini season just weeks away, I'm scarfing down mandlen (soup nuts), mandelbread, macaroons -- just about any unleavened starch that begins with an "M." I'm in my kitchen baking flourless chocolate cake, chametz-free banana cheesecake and my mom's famous kosher-for-Passover strawberry whipped cream torte.

Why is this night different than all other nights? On all other nights I eat one dessert, but on this night I eat three. Then add on all the calories I consume throwing back the required four glasses of wine -- and I'm becoming a real Thighmaster.

And to make matters worse, I'm inhaling all this food at my friends' potluck Passover seder, where I'm supposed to be wooing eligible Jewish bachelors. I doubt they'll find my eating attractive. I've heard that men like women who nibble, but don't bite.

I know. If I'm so focused on staying slim, what's with all the eating? The last I checked, the haggadah doesn't mention Moses' $4.99 all-you-can-eat matzah-meal pancake breakfast. It just cites a few pieces of mandatory matzot. So why don't I just skip all the extra fressen? Because I can't. Because Pesach without noshing is like courting without kissing. No fun. When Carin is in seder land, I let my diet go.

Why? Because food is an important part of my Jewish identity and culture. The soul food that we eat contributes to our sense of community and spirituality, and enhances the feelings of comfort and warmth that make holiday gatherings so special. I love the Jew food my mom made for me growing up, and I take pride in cooking it now for my friends.

So this Passover, I'll eat what I want. Gefilte fish, tzimmis and matzah ball soup. Oh -- and apricot farfel kugel, toffee squares and chocolate covered matzah. But don't worry, boys, I won't be going zaftig on you. During Pesach, I'll just be sure to run a mile further, sprint the stairs a little faster, hit the gym a little harder. That way, I'll still look smokin' hot in my new strapless sundress. This single girl can have her (flourless) cake and her figure, too. 

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

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