Myexodus from the Kingdom
ENGINEERING THE Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was a doddle compared with negotiating a shopping trolley down the aisles of Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green last Sunday lunchtime. Camels through eyes of needles don’t even come close. The trolleys are big (they need to be); the aisles are narrow (they also need to be). Never in the history of humanity has so much stuff been made for just eight days of the year — and never has so much been bought. Who are some of these people feeding — the five thousand?
Moses didn’t have this trouble. And nor did Hillel. When he invented the sandwich by eating bitter herbs and matzah together, he didn’t have to choose between a dozen varieties of matzah (including spelt matzah and egg matzah without yolks) and he didn’t have to worry about price differentials.
A woman in front of me was making an agonised phone call home. She wanted to tell her husband that the difference between bog standard matzah and the shemurah matzah from Brooklyn that he insisted on was £15 a box. “Well, the children and I are eating the Rakusen’s at 99p,” she told him. “It’s expensive to be frum,” I said. “I don’t care,” she replied, “he’s paying.”
Never mind Moses and Hillel, it certainly wasn’t like this when I was young. There were really only two kinds of matzah — Bonn’s and Rakusen’s. And doing Pesach shopping certainly didn’t involve being run down by 10-ton trolleys while I considered whether or not I needed to buy kosher hand cream. “But what if I lick my fingers?” I asked myself. “Well I won’t,” I answered.
You can get kosher Yorkshire Tea — slogan “let’s have a proper brew” (if they’d translated that into Yiddish I might have bought some) — and kosher Earl Grey (I didn’t even realise he was Jewish).
As for cheese — oy, what a variety! I can’t say I approve. When I was a boy it was Gouda or nothing. There was no other cheese, except a triangular portioned spread that you could never quite scrape off its silver paper. Matzah, butter and Gouda was the taste of Pesach. Now you can even have mozzarella if you want. Mozzarella, shmozzerella!
Then, after passing several hundred different sauces and relishes I came upon something utterly disgraceful — ready-made charoset in pots. Why is this night different from all other nights? Because we’ve made charoset. All the other Seder-night things we also do at one time or another throughout the year. Who doesn’t eat matzah or horseradish sauce or lean sideways during a heavy meal on other nights? Perhaps this charoset is for people too ill or infirm to chop apples or pour cinnamon. If so, it should be sold only on medical prescription.
Reaching the checkout was like the parting of the Red Sea. I walked out into the lunch-time sunshine, crossed the road to Grodzinski’s and bought a smoked-salmon bagel while I still could. A kosher Pesach and home-made charoset to all my readers!