Wednesday, March 25, 2009
If you come to Israel and visit any random supermarket at Pesach time, you will likely see this: Squinty-eyed people looking intently at products that you can't believe someone was actually paid to produce, like palm oil with actual palm floating on the bottom (Guaranteed to give you a heart attack in minutes!), or mayonnaise, which is an unnatural aberration to begin with, and the Pesach version resembles something out of a horror movie ("The Rokeach Blob that Ate Manhattan"), or "cookies" which, in my opinion, are neither "cook" nor "ies." The reason for the squinty-ness is that us poor, pathetic, unenlightened Ashkenazim are trying, for the life of us, to figure out whether the damn thing CONTAINS KITNIOS!!!!! You see, in Israel, many people - we'll call them "normal" - have figured out that, hey, just because a bijillion years ago there was corn flour stacked next to the wheat flour, that does not actually mean that corn is chametz! There are therefore many kitnios-containing products here. These lucky folks can merrily trip down the aisles, giving the packages a quick once-over to make sure they say the word "Pesach" somewhere, and then simply toss in the goodies without a second thought. Not us Ashkenazim. To make it even more difficult, there is no "industry standard" (that would be a shout-out to Ahava's new blog, www.onlineitallmatters.blogspot.com) for declaring whether a food does, in fact, contain the dreaded kitnios. ("Oh no! This grain of rice's ancestor may have at one point spoken to a stalk of wheat somewhere in a silo deep in Poland!") Some packages say "For kitnios eaters only." Bad. Others say, "No kitnios in here!" Great! Others say nothing. Hmmm. There was a "Get Ready for Pesach in Israel" session with a local Orthodox (aka "dati") rabbi two nights ago, but I'm in my pjs by 4:30, so that was just not happening. Instead, we're doing the Squint and then making it up as we go along. At least the making it up part we're used to.