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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Costs of Keeping Kosher

No one ever said keeping kosher was easy -- or cheap. As we get closer to Passover, things like this become painfully apparent to anyone who's walking in the vicinity of any supermarket: small bottles of grape juice for $5? Marshmallows for $10!? And let's not even start with the matzah cakes....

(Although, of course, you could get all the matzah you need absolutely free -- just send us a few sentences about your favorite Passover!)

kosher pizza

This article about recession pizza specials in New York -- it focuses on the heated competition between a $1.00-a-slice pizza place and a $.99-a-slice place -- is one more reason for us kosher keepers to grumble. The cost of a lunch special at either of those restaurants ($2.75 for two slices and a beverage) is less than the price of a single slice at a kosher place. But, as the article says, it's a "basic fundamental of the city’s economy — charging as much as you can whenever and wherever you can."

On the other hand, pizza is notoriously bad for things like your heart and your fat glands. And, whether you're talking about Passover or the other 357 days of the year, kosher food can actually be a lot cheaper than non-kosher food -- just make it yourself. My family and I, hard-line fundamentalist zealots that we are, don't use any processed foods for Passover.* Our grocery receipt for the holiday reads like a shopping list in Odessa, 200 years ago: Onions. Beets. Radishes. Apples. Walnuts. Milk. Avocados. Quinoa. (Okay, maybe they didn't have quinoa or avocados back in Odessa -- but they're some necessary ingredients for a vegetarian Passover.) It wasn't originally intended this way -- mostly because they didn't have things like MSG or high-fructose corn syrup during the redacting of the Talmud -- but one aspect of keeping kosher is the simplicity of the food. No tallow. No solidifying fats. No additives. These days, kosher-food manufacturers are as bad as the rest of the world with that stuff (some are even worse, in the case of "pareve" foods that are about 90% fake-stuff). But the best kosher food -- like the best non-kosher food -- are the foods we make ourselves.

But, if you must eat in restaurants, console yourself with this: Kosher-keepers don't have to deal with the other, sinister side of restaurants: the ostentatious overpriced luxury-food places that sell thousand-dollar omelets.

* -- There are a few exceptions, of course: things that are necessary for the holiday, like wine and matzah, and a few things we can't easily make, like olive oil. (I know. We'll get an olive press, I promise. But probably not till next year.)

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