Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Proliferation of Pesach Products

Every year I marvel at the number of Pesach products available for our consumption. It seems that it increases exponentially every year. Some of the products are rather ridiculous, in my opinion . Last year I saw Kosher L'Pesach Macaroni and Cheese, precooked and ready for the microwave. A few years before that it was Pesach pizza. And of course there is the Pesach pancakes and cereals. This year I spotted and $8 bottle of balsamic vinegar marinade for chicken and fish. I imagine that my average reader can remember the days when the number of special products for Pesach included a handful of different cakes, candies, macaroons, and condiments in addition to the basics.

As a non-consumer of these products (and a bit of a nerd :), I have to wonder what the profile is for the average consumer of these products. Is it people who would otherwise not keep a semblance of kashrut on Pesach? Is it the Orthodox community, or a specific subset thereof, devouring these products that appear as appetizing as the cardboard box on my table?

Assuming the average consumer of these products is Orthodox, what does it say about us as a community? Are we overworked and therefore "forced" to buy these products? Are we unable to change our children's diet for a week and therefore we end need Pesach Pizza and Cereal (don't laugh, a friend told me she had to buy the pizza because her kids could not go without pizza for that long)? Are we obsessed with novelty, even when the price is rather high?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Like I said above, we just don't buy these foods. We view them as unnecessary or as my husband says "It is only 8 days!" While I am not the one making Pesach this year, if I was we would be serving a meals and snacks that look a whole lot like our regular Shabbat and Yom Tov diet. For Yom Tov meals we would have some combination of salamon, vegetable soup, prasa and chicken, steamed or sauteed vegetables, and something with a potato. Dessert might be a flourless cake with a fresh fruit salad. Meals for chol hamoed might include a dairy matza lasange, tuna croquettes, pastel filled with spinach and feta, and soup. Breakfast might be matza brie or scrambled eggs. I'd have on hand sliced cheese, cottage cheese (available Kosher L'Pesach in many regular isles in your local supermarket), fresh fruits and vegetables, and cream cheese.

Last year I asked readers for tips on how they keep their Pesach under control and wrote my own list of the top 10 tips here. Please add your tips on keeping Pesach within a budget here. Based on the proliferation of products, I'm sure we could all use a reminder that being bnei horin shouldn't mean becoming a slave to Mastercard or Visa.


Selena said...

Apart from the obvious things, like Matza meal, potato starch, and gefilte fish, the only "kosher brand" Pesach stuff we buy is ketchup and mayonaisse. Cream cheese is available at Safeway for the regular price. Regular cheese we do buy as well.

I don't know anyone who buys this stuff, but people tell me they spend more than 400 for Pesach, NOT COUNTING meat!

David said...

The only expensive things I encounter for pesach are meat, wine, and shmura matzah, in that order. I totally don't get exactly what is so hard about just eating meat and vegetables...

mother in israel said...

I was planning a post on making a frugal Pesach, because I wasn't reading your blog last year! Thanks for saving me the trouble. There are one or two things I might add.First of all: Paper goods. People tend to rely on them both before and during Pesach, and surely they are mainly unnecessary if you plan well. Especially those aluminum pans. Another big expense is prepared foods for the days before Pesach, esp. Shabbat hagadol. Sometimes these expenses are worth it, but only if you are sure you don't need that money for other things. I so agree with the fruits and vegetables.

Anonymous said...

It's because of the great length's that people go to to make sure everything is kosher l'pesach that jokes like these are believable:

Kosher for Passover Gasoline

By Danielle Wolfbergand and Henry Lorman
Bergen County Jewish Times
Teaneck, New Jersey
March 1,2007

Yaniv Ban-Zaken, a local gas station owner, will be selling Kosher for
Passover gasoline during the holiday this year. The move, Ben-Zaken says, has
become necessary due to the increased ethanol content in gasoline required by
the government. The ethanol is typically derived from corn, which is a forbidden
food for Jews on Passover. And, according to Ben-Zaken, underJewish law, it is
also forbidden to derive any benefit from corn.

"We will be providing a number of services to anyone interested in making
their motor vehicle Kosher for Passover," Ben-Zaken says. Services will include
sip honing off the non-Kosher gasoline and replacing it with the Kosher gasoline.
The entire process will be supervi sed by Rabbi Yitzchok Mendelbaum. A special
exemption to the EPA rule regarding the plant ethanol content of gasoline had to
be obtained from the government to allow for the use of this gasoline.

The move has created some controversy among local community leaders. Rabbi
Shalom Silver, of Congregation Ohel Emeth in Teaneck, has recommended to his
congregants that they not buy the gasoline. "Although Jews of Ashkenazi descent
are not permitted to eat corn on Pesach, they are permitted to derive benefit
from corn byproducts, such as gasoline with ethanol additives," he said.

However, Rabbi Mordechai Silver (no relation to Shalom Silver), of Yeshivas
Torah Ohr in nearby Englewood, disagrees, and maintains that while it might
technically be acceptable to use mass-produced gasoli ne, those who can afford to
purchase the new alternative should. "In Jewish law, we have a principle of
lifnim mshura s hadin--going above and beyond thebasic requirements of the law,"
he explained in an email. "Thank G-d, many people in the area can afford to do
so in this case."

Some local Jewish leaders have also complained about the high price of the
ethanol-free gas, which Ben-Zaken estimates will be $9.69 per gallon, but
Ben-Zaken insists that it is necessary. "The Kosher gas is made in small
quantities and not mass produced, so the costs are high." In fact, Ben-Zaken, an
immigrant from Israel who is not himself religious, claims that he will not be
making any profit on the sale of the Kosher gas. "I'm doing this more as a
community service. My hope is that people will be more likely to patronize my
station the rest of the year."

Julio Sanchez, one of Ben-Zakens employees, also expressed s ome concern over
the high price, explaining that it might drive away customers and reduce his
income from t ips. Co-worker Naveen Samhari disagreed, because, as he says,
"Orthodox Jews are among the best tippers in the area."

Ben-Zaken also says he will be contracting with a local car rental agency to
provide customers with a Kosher for Passover car if they would prefer not to use
their own. This will also save the time of having to clean chametz from the car
before Pesach--time that many local two-income families do not have. "Jews use
different dishes for Passover. They ought to be able to use a different car, as
well." Ben-Zaken says.

RaggedyMom said...

I think the massive amount of chametz-esque products made for Pesach relates to the way that nowadays, any change/discomfort/deviation is seen as a negative to be eliminated rather than a positive challenge to be enjoyed (though what is so challenging about no pizza for a week?!)

I do smile to myself when I see all of the non-gebrokts special products (though we do eat gebrokts) because I have a close friend who cannot eat gluten, and this is her big time of year to stock up on things that are hard to find gluten-free regularly.

I do remember growing up dreading that erev-Pesach meal - no chametz but no matzah - since I'm not a big mashed potato-yogurt-hard boiled egg fan.

Anonymous said...

WE're not Orthodox but do keep Kosher l'Pesach to some degree. My husband is a huge fan of all these "products" and I really wish he wasn't, but I go along to keep the peace. (We can afford them; it just seems like a big waste of money to me.) Oddly enough, every year we have this stuff left over because when it comes right down to it, both of us are pretty fond of matzah with cream cheese or some other topping, eggs, etc.

mother in israel said...

RM--Haaretz wrote that the gluten-sensitive people are upset because Elite started putting a gluten warning on everything (they were sued last year) even on kosher le-pesach products!! They can't claim it may have gluten when it has a pesach hashgacha!

Anonymous said...

My wife makes a mean Pesach Pizza from egg, matzah farfel, tomato sauce and cheese.

Anonymous said...

i don't really eat breads, pastas or processed foods all year round, so pesah is not a big problem for me. the only thing i really miss is heinz ketchup (the jewish brands in general are disgusting, more so on pesah).

many of the pesah foods are a waste of money both because they don't taste good and your hardly get anything for your money. i'll never forget the first time my mom brought home a few boxes of noodles. she was so upset when she opened one up because it was maybe 25% full.

as far as all the new products being marketed for non-orthodox ppl--no way. they would not eat this garbage.

ari kinsberg

Ariella's blog said...

I saw an for kosher lePesach baby wipes. I kid you not!

Anonymous said...

Mother-in-Israel --

I think that any product containing wheat will have gluten in it, including matzah. It's the main protein found in all wheats.

Anonymous said...

Ariella, I am using baby wipes for the first time this year as I'm a new mommy but I understand that baby wipes for pesach may not have alcohol in them. What dog would eat a baby wipe, I don't know, but there you have it.

Chaim B. said...

Easy to talk about too many Pesach products when Sefardim get to have their rice, corn, etc. Ashkenazim forced onto an all potatoe meal diet will pay any price for some variety : )

Orthonomics said...

Hello Chaim B. I'm sure you are aware that many Sephardim from the maarav don't get to eat kitniyot, although we are more "lenient" on many things. :) Chacham Yosef says that we should all annul our vows and eat rice. I agree. Unfortunately, my husband isn't so enthusiastic.

We are aheaded to Ashkenazi family for Pesach, so even our matzah ashira treats are out (at least in the presence certain family members).

We find our variety with various vegetable dishes. Do you eat garlic or not? Ashkenazim who don't eat garlic are extremely limited,since that is the base of nearly every soup.

Shmilda said...

I think Chaim B hit it: these products appeal most to those who don't eat the ever expanding list of kitniyot, don't eat gebrokts, and avoid an ever expanding list of household products. Sure, that leaves meat, potatoes, plain matza, and some vegetables, but it cuts out alot. For these and other reasons, I suspect the products sell mostly in Brooklyn and Nassau County.

mother in israel said...

quiet ann--
Don't know what happened to my earlier response. Of course you are right and matzah products have gluten by definition. The parents were concerned about the snack foods that usually contain gluten during the year (wheat starch?) and are not made with matzah meal so they should definitely be gluten-fere.

Charlie Hall said...

'dreading that erev-Pesach meal - no chametz but no matzah '

My wife and I feast on rice and popcorn ever erev pesach -- on our Pesadik kelim. (Yes, we are Ashkenazic, and yes, my rav approved.)

'Ashkenazim forced onto an all potatoe meal diet '

I don't eat that stuff. We eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our diet is probably healthier on Pesach than during the rest of the year! The only major expense is the matzah -- my wife eats the oat matzah since she can't eat wheat, and it is very expensive.

"so even our matzah ashira treats are out "

What is the problem?

"Ashkenazim who don't eat garlic "

We are Ashkenzim who eat huge amounts of garlic.

"don't eat the ever expanding list of kitniyot, don't eat gebrokts"

We don't enhance the list of alleged kitniyot. Quinoa can be very delicious prepared properly. And we do eat gebrokts.

Lion of Zion said...

Anonymous said...

Orthonomics said...

Me-"so even our matzah ashira treats are out "

CharlieHall-What is the problem?

I don't know what the problem is. But my BIL and SIL don't eat it and we are forced to follow their rules in their house.

Charlie, if you eat kitniyot on Erev Pesach, as I always have done, do you have to check it 3 times for chametz. My husband and I are having a machlochet. I'm trying to reach our Rabbi, but I'm curious of the details.

Orthonomics said...

Ari and Anon-Thanks for the links.

Scraps said...

Personally, I think that most of the kosher l'Pesach "fake-chametz" products are nasty and overpriced. My mother has a tendency to overbuy, but my sister and I are trying to get her to refrain from buying too much, even of the things we will eat. For instance, do we really need three containers of cottage cheese, when we'll probably eat only one? If we really need more, we'll run out to the store and buy another.

Charlie Hall said...

'do you have to check it 3 times for chametz'

My Rav did not mention it. We only eat plain rice, though -- my understanding is that enriched rice may contain real chametz. Popcorn shouldn't be any problem all as we pop it ourselves from raw kernels, and corn doesn't look anything like any of the five grains. What did your rabbi say?