Magic Jewball

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Jew & A – Passover Coke

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On June 20, 2008
At 2:00 pm
Comments :Comments Off

I’m in the midst of several things that will be fun to write about after they’re done (3 concerts in a row, marathon baking, bake sale) and thus don’t want to prematurely blogivate. Instead, I thought I’d change things up and actually answer someone’s Jew & A question in the same year they sent it to me. My, it feels strange!

Anyway, here we go.

Sharky writes:

So, I’ve heard about the Passover Coke, and I’ve seen soda that is sweetened with regular cane sugar labeled as Kosher, but what is it about regular soda that makes it not Kosher? Is it the high fructose corn syrup?

Passover ended a couple of months ago but questions about it can be answered year-round, luckily. First off, not sure if you meant it this way or just wrote it like that, but all Coke is Kosher, whether with HFCS or sugar. Passover is another matter, though, and has stricter rules.

Oh, Passover Coke, you food of the Gods! Er, God. That’s what we believe, yes. Because sugary coke just tastes better. For those who are unaware, the Coca-Cola company loves us Jews and makes us a special formula of Coke around Passover time. It’s like the Creme Eggs of our pantry. It (and Coke around the world except for the US) is indeed made with cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. But why would corn syrup be not fit for Passover?

Let’s examine what makes things Kosher For Passover and not so much. Everyone knows that the Israelites were in a rush to get out of Egypt when Pharaoh finally gave them the reluctant thumbs up to stop being his slaves and go home. This is because he was a notorious flip-flopper and they had to vamoose before he changed his royal mind. So when making their bread for the journey (there are no 7-11′s or WaWa’s between Egypt and Israel), they didn’t have time to let it rise and just took it all unleavened and flat-like. (As an aside, I just started making bread last year and if you do too, you’ll know the rising takes ages). To commemorate this, bread is not Kosher for Passover. Just matzah (unleavened bread).

The Jews are a “slippery slope” kind of people (I know you’ll understand this, Sharky, being all lawyery like you are) and everything is very strict constructionist to make sure we don’t fall down the slope. So, not only is wheat flour not Kosher For Passover unless it’s made into matzah, neither is anything that even resembles it. Those things are called kitniyot, from the Hebrew word katan, or small. So small-grainy things are also not Kosher for Passover. Things like rice, lentils, peas, beans, etc. I like to think that glasses technology must have really come a long way since when these rules were devised, but anyway. Different communities consider different things kitniyot (Sephardic Jews eat all kitniyot on Passover, this is why I dream of being adopted by a Sephardic family).

So, even though I’ve never in my life confused an ear of corn with wheat flour, it’s conceivable that if corn were Kosher for Passover, then so would cornmeal be and that can be kind of similar. And cornbread could be like regular bread, only more delicious and better with maple syrup. Thus, corn and all its derivatives are not permissible to be eaten on Passover by Ashkenazic Jews (loosely, Ashkenazi Jews were from most of Europe, Sephardi from Spain and Arab countries). And so, no HFCS, and so, no Coke.

Thankfully, no one in Talmudic times confused sugar with flour and you can’t make bread out of it so it’s all good. Thanks, Coca-Cola! Oh, and Pepsi makes a Kosher for Passover version too, if that’s the way you swing. Because eight days without cola may be too much for a human to deal with, doncha know.

Thanks for asking!



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