Saturday, April 14, 2012

Please Sir, I Want Some More

Waiting in the grocery checkout line for 13 minutes to buy bread is not something I would typically tolerate.  But, as my options are limited, I’m willing to make adjustments (I know…how big of me, right?). 

Passover in Israel has (finally) just ended, and after a week without bread and pasta, I’m willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get my fill of wheat products…if you call waiting in line for 13 minutes an extraordinary length.  But as the ‘ban’ on leavened products was lifted yesterday evening, the only bad news was that by that time most stores were closing for Shabbat.  Thus, my extra-long search to find bread today. 
When I woke up longing for a peanut butter sandwich, I hurriedly walked to the nearby corner shops (the two that are open on Shabbat), only to find out that they don’t sell bread.  So I took a longer stroll to the only grocery store that was open in the neighborhood.  It was packed with people, and the bread section had already been well picked over, some bags of pita even having been torn through and left with only a few pieces.  I carefully selected a full bag of pita bread, pasta and couscous and then waited patiently to pay so I could walk home with my bag of goodies.
You might wonder why I would participate in Passover observance if I’m not Jewish.  Well, first off, I didn’t have too much of a choice.  I was rather surprised to find out that stores won’t even sell any products with leavening during Passover.  At the beginning of the week when we went grocery shopping, there were huge pieces of white plastic wrap covering the products that were forbidden to purchase – bread, flour, seasonings, cereal, pasta, condiments, soups, etc. Towards the end of the week, however, some of the plastic wrap had been torn a bit, peeked behind, or removed – which made all the grocery stores look completely disheveled.  I assumed people were ‘breaking’ under the pressure and removing the plastic wrap to get to their coveted, ‘can’t-live-without’ products.  But I quickly found out that wasn’t the case.
Covering up the non-kosher food items

I picked up a stray package that resembled a mushroom soup base from a bin at the end of an aisle, and continued to pick out fruit, vegetables and potatoes (ugh…more potatoes).  When I went to check out, the gal at the register couldn’t scan my mystery mushroom soup.  She proceeded to tell me since it wasn’t registering, it wasn’t a kosher product and she couldn’t sell it to me. 
The grocery stores fooled me.  I thought their idea to “cover it in plastic wrap” was a poor attempt to keep people from buying non-kosher products.  Let’s be real…nobody here would abide by that if they really wanted what was behind “door #3”.  But they’d outsmarted me, and also removed the UPCs from registering on their computer systems.  Touché, supermarkets.  You win.
The second, and more important reason, I chose to stick to Passover kosher foods was because I’ve been trying to adopt the “when-in-Rome” mentality.  Since I’m trying my hardest to fit in here, and adapt to this culture, I am trying to respect their holidays, traditions, and practices.  So although I could have pulled the uncooked pasta out of the back of the cabinet, I chose to refrain.  (Admittedly, we weren’t completely kosher – because you’re supposed to remove any food with leavening from your house, but I just can’t throw out and waste something that’s still perfectly good to eat in a week!!)
Plus, a week without bread and pasta meant I’d have to expand my horizons a bit, get outside my comfort zone (as if I’m not already), try some different things, and have a greater appreciation for products with leavening when I got them back.  But I must admit that the hardest part of my “non-wheat” week has been the inconvenience…typically my ‘cooking’ consists of pasta, or salad (with pasta in it to make it more substantial), or sandwiches.  My breakfasts consist of yogurt, or fruit, but almost always toast with peanut butter.  And when I’m on the go and need something fast, I usually buy a slice of pizza or falafel in pita bread.  So the no-wheat thing pretty much ruled out my normal routine.
Trying to copy Mom and Grandma's recipe

Luckily, Easter fell within Passover so I was inspired by my own traditions of deviled eggs and potato salad.  But the novelty of potatoes quickly wore off – hash browns, baked potatoes, thinly sliced and fried chips, diced and boiled in salads.  So last night, after the sun fell, I was quite content to be reunited with my toast and peanut butter. 

Breaking the bread fast...with PB!
And....(gasp) McDonald's...
SO happy to have a burger with REAL bread!

Although it’s a far cry from the same place, this week brought back fond memories of my time in Isandlwana, South Africa.  Sometimes it’s good to go without the luxuries and conveniences you’re used to.  If for no other reason, it definitely makes you appreciate them more. 
I challenge you to ‘go without’ for a few days.  Give up something you enjoy – whether it’s that precious daily stop at Starbucks that’s become routine rather than special, or your addiction to YouTube that’s got you feigning for the next version of “Jimmy Kimmel – I told my kids I at their Halloween candy” (which is amazing, I must admit).  And hopefully once you’ve gone without for a few days, then you’ll appreciate it more when you have it back.  And if you don’t….then you should probably spend your time and money elsewhere anyway! J


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