Myex­o­dus from the King­dom

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - David Rob­son

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!

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