Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is That Kosh?

 Happy Passover to all of those celebrating the Jewish holiday.  As Dee Dee, from the hit children's television show The Rugrats explains, "Passover is a time for Jewish families to come together and re-tell the history of their people".  A brief and entertaining explanation of the Passover holiday can be provided by "A Rugrats Passover".  For those of you who do not know, Passover has very specific dietary restrictions for its 8 days.  The primary restrictions are of these five grains: Wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt.  Though, there are different types of practicing Jews, and there are different levels strictness.

As I write this post I sit in the kitchen to cook matzo ball soup, one of the traditional Jewish meals made for most holidays.  Personally, I celebrate Jewish holidays by making a certain food items, rather than following the traditional religious rituals that I am not as familiar with.  Though I was raised Jewish, I often don't spend the time on the religious affiliations as I used to when living at home with my family.  Let's just say I rarely paid attention in Hebrew School, but when it came to food I have always been able to remember.  I'm not sure the last time I was able to fast for the full 8 days of Passover because my parents were lenient on me, and as an adult I have not had the budget to throw away perfectly good bread!  So, I try to honor the holiday in the best way I can, by making a big pot of matzo ball soup.

As I was reading up about Passover for this blog post, it came to my attention in an article appropriately named "A Gentile's Guide to Keeping Kosher".  One specific paragraph about matzo read:
Matzo. For reasons that are unknown to most Jews, some people willingly eat matzo at other times of the year. These matzo boxes are labeled “not kosher for Passover” and should not be eaten as a part of observing the holiday. The difference? Rabbinic supervision to ensure that any matzo made for Passover is untainted by any leavening agents. 
As I read this excerpt, I decided to check the matzo meal I had just bought yesterday from Hannaford's to make my matzo balls with. Very small in the corner I read the words Not for Passover Use! 

Here I am, trying to make my small contribution by honoring the holiday, and I already feel like a failure.  Let's just say I was more than disappointed to find out my balls were not even kosher, especially because this was the only matzo meal at the grocery store and it was under the kosher section.  They are really putting it on the consumer to know their stuff.  Unfortunately as a college student I no longer have my mom and dad as a reference for what is and is not kosher to eat for Passover.  HOW WAS I SUPPOSE TO KNOW?

In my case, I just trusted that all matzo meal was going to be kosher, and I was not aware that there was a difference between kosher and kosher for Passover.  I'm sure there are many situations where either people have realized this factor too late, or never even realized at all.  This tiny little difference can mean a whole lot to someone trying to practice their religion.  But who's responsibility is it to make this clear?  Should we trust specific brand's?  Should we put the expectation on the consumer to know what they are buying?  This is very similar to other labeling laws such as GMO laws.  Can we expect the consumer to know everything about what they are buying?  It is not often that I get tricked by labeling, but I now see how easy it is to be slightly misinformed, and the large implications one simple label can have.

NP 3/26


  1. Live and learn. Your intentions were good and your soup looks great!

  2. Your Kosher conflict made me think about the current arguments against GMO labeling that you go on to mention. I think there is a responsibility of producers and retailers to be honest about their products- but the consumer ultimately has the will and the ability to research what they by and be aware of the ecological, health, and religious consequences. It seems that by putting this product in the Kosher section, though, is a misleading and irresponsible gesture on behalf of the grocery store, however.