I’m a bit late on this but if you knew me in real life, you’d know I’m late on most things. Oops. Anyway, despite this blog existing for a few cycles of the Jewish calendar, there’s actually a holiday I haven’t discussed. It’s Tu B’Shevat, the new year for trees, and it was Tuesday. No seriously! It’s a lot more fun than Arbor Day. I know, because I have no idea when Arbor Day even is. How fun could it be?
When I was a kid, we celebrated in school by being given a baggie full of Israeli fruit (none of which I ever liked, I wasn’t really a date and fig girl) and by a contest to sell trees in Israel. You never got to see the actual tree which was only represented by a certificate with a picture of a tree on it as well as who it was in honor or in memory of. They used to be $3 but I’m guessing they’re a bit more now – I have to guess because the website wouldn’t work for me. Yes, you can now plant by web! Which would have shocked me as a child, not because we didn’t have the Interweb then, and we didn’t, but because I always imagined Israel as being wall-to-wall trees based on how many were sold then. Why would they still need to sell them now? I mean, I’d been there but I just figured the trees must be slightly beyond my view.
Don’t try clicking this button! It’s fake. The real one’s over on the Jewish National Fund site.
While we’re in the Judaism category, I am both delighted and weirded out by various Consumerist posts lately on Kashrut (that’s the noun for Kosher) or how it has related to some consumery topics. Exhibit A is this story on how the Chinese are seeking Kosher certification for some of their products on the theory that they will be less poison-filled. When I was in college, we had some Asian non-Jewish students who ate in the Kosher dining hall because they felt Kosher food was purer. Joke was on them! Our cook was an Iranian refugee who only had two recipes, both based on beef chunks. But I digress. The truth is, I don’t think a Kosher symbol is going to derail the Chinese poison train. It’s fun to try, though!
Second up, is a story about a complaint letter written by a vegetarian who couldn’t seem to understand the concept of reading ingredient lists and was horrified to find that Rice-A-Roni contains meat in most of its mixes. After she had eaten them! But the real treat, for me at least, was the letter written back from the Rice-A-Roni people suggesting she try the Near East family of mixes. The letter reads as follows:
We wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about another line of pasta and rice dishes called Near East. While not labeled specifically for vegetarians, the products are labeled for Kosher certification. Some vegetarians find the Kosher labeling helpful in keeping to their dietary preferences.
Kosher Law is based on the Jewish book of the Torah, and precludes the use of meat and dairy products in the same meal. While a product may contain meat and also be Kosher, it must be labeled as containing meat products to prevent accidentally being mixed with dairy. Below is guide to some symbols you can watch for on our packages of Near East.
And then proceeds to list all the symbols and their meanings. Imagine that! Jennifer at Quaker Consumer Response schooling some poor shiksa on Torah laws. It kind of boggled my mind. Not enough to not share with you that Near East does indeed have delicious dishes, though. I’m making their tabboule tomorrow!
Lastly but most tangentially, is this post about the recent demise of Hydrox cookies (I know! So sad!). The article itself doesn’t mention it but several of the commenters (who incidentally never seem to read each other’s comments because they all made this point separately) declared that the only reason Hydrox were ever popular were that they had no lard and all the Kosher people could eat them. Then, when Oreo went with vegetable shortening, it was over. Now, it’s true, we only ate Hydrox cookies when I was a kid and it was terrifically thrilling to finally be able to eat Oreos, but do you know what percentage of the population is Jewish? And of that, how many are Kosher? Do you really think all ten of us were keeping Hydrox afloat? And, in light of the last story, maybe it was all those vegetarians, which none of them mention. Or maybe Hydrox just dropped the marketing ball and became the WordPerfect of the cookie world. I dunno, I only ever ate the insides anyway.
Strangely, they don’t have Joyce Kilmer poems on Napster.