The Fattest Holiday of Them All? Purim, Pesach, Shavuot or Hanukah?

by Brian on February 28, 2013

in Food,Jewish Holidays and Culture,Just For Fun

Roladin hamentaschenPurim may now be behind us, but some of the sweets still remain. The holiday, which is officially about retelling the story of how the Jews were almost annihilated in ancient Persia, is perhaps best remembered going forward by one’s increased belly size after partaking of one too many hamentaschen – the classic triangular-shaped Purim cookie

Ah, if it were only hamentaschen, maybe we’d be OK. But this year, in the tradition of giving gifts to friends to celebrate the holiday, some of our friends went a bit overboard.

We received everything from foreign imports (Toblerone chocolate bars and pumpkin shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – left over from Halloween, I guess); homemade mulled wine (best served slightly warmed, the note said); cinnamon spiced muffins and a Bavarian coffee cake; sushi (!) complete with wasabi and soy sauce; walnut-stuffed dates; and…a plant. That one didn’t hit the sweet tooth but will probably have the longest impact.

After driving my sugar intake to absurd levels this year, I got to wondering about the candied ark of the Jewish year and which is the fattiest of our many holidays.

Purim, with its All Hallow’s Eve flourish of costumes and Snickers Bars, would seem the favorite, but there are clear contenders. Hanukah, of course, features sufganiyot – the ubiquitous winter donut – prominently in its culinary excesses and the bakeries are even more creative in December than at Purim time. You can also buy sufganiyot earlier – starting at some establishments as early as the day after Simchat Torah – whereas hamentaschenstick relatively close to the Megillah reading.

Shavuot is more of a concentrated eating day – while cheesecake is the preferred dessert, there aren’t weeks of decadent dairy tastings prior to this holiday, which marks the giving of the Torah – otherwise, it’s unlikely Moses would have had the stamina to stagger up Mount Sinai.

But the very worst, as I see it, is really the next to come: Passover. It’s not the overt sweets that will do you in (how many chocolate covered macaroons can one person eat, after all) but the hidden calories in all that matza, so deceptive in size, yet so dense in consistency.

Shmear a slab of butter on top and you’ve just downed a double sufganiyot-cheesecake-hamentaschen infusion while thinking you were just having a little nosh. And to that the fact that matza has this small side effect (how shall I put it delicately…you won’t be visiting the bathroom for the duration of the holiday, that’s the eleventh plague), and even if you don’t gain weight, you’ll feel like it.

Jewish dieters view the year as a cycle of cringe and binge. There’s exactly one month between Purim and Pesach – is that enough time to slim down before the next fat fest begins? And another seven weeks from Pesach until Shavuot – surely, you can get things under control by then. And if all else fails, there’s always Tisha B’av and the other three fast days on the Jewish calendar.

The cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have come up with a better incentive towards keeping in shape. This year, both are holding their annual Marathons in the coming weeks (Jerusalem this Friday, Tel Aviv March 15). And with tens of thousands of runners from Israel and around the world descending on the Holy Land, at least some of our country’s collective carbs stand to be burned off.

I first posed my fatty question yesterday on Israelity.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Akiva Belk March 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

Brian, the chocolate covered macaroons and the wine get me every Pesach. My wife, Revi and I enjoy ordering special wines each Pesach. It’s not only Passover but it’s a bit of wine tasting also. Then if one includes a little Slivovitz from Hungary / Slovakia…

Eggs, what about all the eggs in Matzah brei? Then the Saintly Deviled eggs…

Ooh you are right about all the hidden calories in matza…

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk
B’nai Noach Torah Institute, LLC

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