Saturday, April 19, 2008

Passover Preparation

Keeping kosher is tough enough during the year. However, preparing for the Passover holiday is the biggest challenge. The usual laws separating meat and dairy dishes still apply. But add to that the additional rejoinder that one cannot have anything that contains bread or grains or is not made especially for the eight days of Passover and you can get an idea how much more difficult it is to maintain the practice. When I lived in Cleveland, there were at least two different kosher butchers and bakers whose businesses were within walking distance. There also was a large supermarket that carried large numbers of kosher foods next door. Here in the kosher hinterland of Bayou country, there is really only one source: Joel Brown's Kosher Cajun New York Deli and Grocery. About a month before the holiday, Joel's staff begins turning over his selections to include only "kosher for Passover" foods. All of the meats, frozen dinners, and Passover menu items like matzah (unleaved bread) all carry labels that certify they are acceptable. Even the soft drinks like Coca Cola carry a small designation that shows they are prepared with real sugar and not with corn syrup solids. If you are a Coke drinker, Passover time is when you stock up your pantry to enjoy the real Coke, the formula that the company stopped making once the New Coke bombed. When the Coca Cola bottlers responded to consumer pressure to bring back the Original Formula, they neglected to inform the public they were converting the formula from the more expensive sugar to high fructose corn syrup. Real Coke enthusiasts could tell the difference and many still bemoan the conversion, but their entreaties and finger pointing were ignored by company top executives who saw a way to recoup benefits from an unprecedented financial disaster and public relations bomb. The swing into full Passover mode begins in earnest today just before midday because all traces of unacceptable food items (i.e. breads, liquors distilled from grains, etc.) must be sold, disposed of, sold or burned. It's not easy to do, but millions of people do. So today I will begin enjoying the daunting taste of matzah and matzah ball soup as well as gefilte fish. My cabinets containing chometz have been secured and what items I could not dispose of were "sold" to a third party via my rabbi, who could legally claim them if they so desired. The fact that the third party is in Nashville, Tennessee makes that very unlikely. The major part of the holiday is the seder meal, which begins tonight after sundown and will continue into the very wee morning hours in observant homes. For the youngest children it is a special time: a night when they can stay up well past their bedtimes. It is also a time of singing and games and a time I recall vividly as a youth seeing my whole family gather together to recall the redemption from slavery to freedom. To all my Jewish friends I wish you the best of holidays.

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