The Ultimate Passover Seder versus Diabetes

My husband and I were invited to my friend Sid’s home for the first Passover seder this year. I know Sid from standup comedy. Actually we are the only two jews that I know of doing standup in our area. Sid always wears a keepah (yarmulkah), so it’s not a secret that he’s Orthodox.

The seder began around 8:30 p.m.– after Sid attended services. There were 22 people sitting at a very long table. There were 7 children under 18 and the rest older. Sid has five children. They were all very well behaved and inquisitive as they asked questions throughout the night in order to “Passover money” (larger than Monopoly money) with sayings and pictures on them.

As a diabetic attending a long religious seder I knew that there could be no special treatment for me, so I planned ahead. While I was home at 6:00p.m. I had a small dinner: 5 ounces of salmon and 6 ounces of sauteed quartered potatoes with some salad veggies on the side. I lowered my basal rate on my pump so I would not be getting too much insulin during the seder. Of course I also rely on my Dexcom for reading my blood sugars every five minutes. I glanced at the device throughout the meal to stay in good control.

Traditionally we do not eat until half of the Haggadah, the story of Passover, is read. In this case we were at least 2-2 1/2 hours in before eating a piece of matzo (unleavened bread). Also during the seder we drink glasses of sweet wine, which I rarely drink anymore. So I sipped it while others guzzeled it down. In addition, my blood sugars drop when I drink wine so I had a side cup of grape juice that was out for those who didn’t want wine. The grape juice kept my blood sugar from dropping. I had also put my insulin pump on “suspend” and had 3 glucose tabs in my pocket that I chewed throughout the seder.

It was a fun and educational evening and a blessing to spend it with my husband and a friend that I have gotten to know in the past two years. I have also befriended (also on Facebook) Sid’s mother, Esther, whom I have only seen at comedy shows and clubs. Esther has always worn modern everyday clothing to the shows, but on this night, she was dressed in traditional clothing of Orthodox Jewish women.

It was a long evening and we didn’t eat the festive meal until 11:00 p.m. The biggest treat for me was the special Passover matzo, large round sheets that were well done in the oven. They came in large pizza size boxes, shipped from New Jersey. On the box that it was specially handled from harvest to the box. There were no nutritional tables on the box so I took a guess…1/2 piece = 2 units of insulin. We ate them according to the Haggadah, with bitter herbs (lettuce and parsley), charoses and freshly grated horse radish root. Delicious after not eating for so many hours.

Everything that was served was Kosher for Passover. Sid’s family takes pride in being very strict about this therefore asking us not to bring anything with us. Dinner included gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket, chicken, potato and broccoli kugels and sauteed vegetables. When dessert time rolled around, Lila, Sid’s middle child, asked me what I would like and served me a tiny piece of chocolate covered matzo and a honey dessert. I was proud to maintain self control because there were a lot of choices. The best part was being served by Lila, an extremely well mannered, talkative and creative little girl. We were just finishing dinner and dessert after midnight and the children searched for the Afikomen. By this time my husband and I were getting so sleepy and we had to get up early for work the next morning. I asked the host, Sid, how long the second half of the seder would be. He replied “about an hour,” so excusing ourselves we thanked everyone for a wonderful evening and left. I am sorry that we couldn’t stay for the second half because I am sure it was just as interesting as the first.

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Comment by Gb on March 28, 2013 at 6:55pm
That sounds like quite an experience; thanks for sharing. Good for you that you per planned and stayed contoled.
Comment by Gerri on March 29, 2013 at 2:23am

Nothing like a seder with many guests. The best. When I was a kid, my aunt's seder lasted forever. My grandfather did it in three languages--Hebrew (of course), English & some Russian. You can picture how long that took! I didn't mind because I was drinking sweet wine & surrounded by the cozy warmth of family. I fell asleep towards the end, no doubt from being a bit drunk more than a tired child. No diabetes then & I could fill my tummy with kugel & matzo.

Comment by Brian (bsc) on March 29, 2013 at 6:54am

This year I was on travel and had my seder with 150 other people. It was a community seder hosted by the local synagogue and the university Hillel. It was a streamlined service, but it was great meeting new people.

Thanks for sharing your seder experience.

Comment by Brian Wittman on March 29, 2013 at 8:54am

I was invited to a Seder this year as well. As a Christian, I am honoured to be a guest of such a solemn and important ritual of my Jewish friends. I was concerned, as a diabetic, that I would have some issues with blood sugar, so I made sure that I was a bit high at the beginning of the meal/remembrance. I did pretty well with maintaing, but went a bit low after the meal, and during the sharing of the matzo and wine. Some extra candy on the table saved me, although I had glucose tabs nearby.

Comment by catlover on March 30, 2013 at 6:58am

You really shared in a Bona Fida seder. What a treat it must have been for you and your husband. The 2 seders m y husband & I attended this week were, of course, similar, but only lasted until 11 and 9:30 PM. Having been to many seders since becoming a D, I usually double bolus my insulin. One small dose before the reading of the Hagaddah and one large one at the serving of the meal. I am glad you enjoyed it. Cat =^..^=

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