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How kosher supermarkets bring together the whole congregation - Kayla Swartzberg

For many Jews living in places lacking kosher restaurants (“No restaurants?! Oy gevalt, time to bring out the crock-pot”), we must resort to supermarkets that carry kosher meats, cheeses, and other assorted yet absolutely necessary food-tchotchkes. These include—but aren’t limited to—a new saffron spice (“the Sephardi RAVE about it”), an organic brand of ketchup (“it’s better for us, bubbele”), a pareve dessert (“for Shabbos!”), and pretty much anything dairy-free. For obvious reasons.

What can we say? We LOVE our matzo-ball-mixing, brisket-making, deli-slicing, salmon-cooking, sushi-rolling markets.

And—like any person with a bit of SECHEL—the supermarkets’ CEOs recognized the need for a kosher section of their stores. A very smart business plan, as one can almost always count on the Jewish population to buy food (obviously the goyim buy food too… it’s just that we buy MORE—especially on our pre-Shabbos shopping days).

At the markets, every Friday is Black (Hat!) Friday. You never know who you’ll run into. In fact, it’s been a secret amongst our Jewish singles’ MOTHERS that the greatest matches are made at the supermarket.

It’s true! The mothers will return home from food-shopping and begin their spiel with “GUESS WHO I SAW?!” mostly directing the question at the “single-pringle” in the family. A Friday night dinner between the two families will most likely occur 1-5 business days after the interaction, with a 70-99.99% chance of a Shabbos lunch the following week.

From there, the mothers will send each other weekly “Shabbat Shalom” messages with a background filled with either (1) pink tulips, (2) cloudy mountaintops, or (3) a painting of elderly bearded rabbis and one small Jewish child with a colorful kippah praying at the Kotel.

And—of course—they’ll try to set up their children. After all, a shitach is a ticket straight to heaven.

For now, our heaven is the supermarket.

The salty-sweet smells of deli meats, lentil soup, and doughnuts all combine to create a scent of home. And it IS home. Everyone working in the kosher section is known BY NAME in the Jewish community. “Just ask ROB… tell him I sent you. He pre-heats the koegel BEFORE you buy it. A sweetheart!” or “Hi Dana! How was Maggie’s math test last week?... Lovely! I’ll get the usual.”

And like with any Jewish community, there are the younger, cooler, millennial Jews that purchase exclusively healthy foods. No fats, no carbs, no sugar, no FLAVOR. Their challahs have grains. Repeat: GRAINS. They come to the shops in pursuit of the next clean Jewish cuisine—whether it’s tofu matzo-balls (“Tastes JUST like the real thing”), oil-free sufganiyot (“BAKED, not fried”), or the good-old quinoa-instead-of-rice idea (“It has MORE protein!”).

Luckily, the stores still stock all the ingredients for cholent, brisket, and the classic Jewish cow-tongue for the more “traditional” Jews. They’ve got the cakes, the cookies, the crumbles. Fried, flipped, and flopped. Fish cuts, meat cuts, lamb cuts (on the special Shabboses). And BREAD!

Manna on earth. The kosher section is FILLED with bread. Sourdough loaves, whole-grain loaves (shoutout millennial Jews!), challahs (three-strand, six-strand, eight-strand, circular, cylinder, Star of David), bagels, bagels, more BAGELS. And the pastries! Rugelachs and cinnamon rolls and elephant ears… the CARBS we CRAVE. Baruch HaShem!

And the Jewish ADULTS are saying “Baruch HaShem” for the kosher alcohol section. Borei Pri Hagafen indeed. We got the grapes from France, Australia, and our Holy Land, Israel! It’s a mix-and-match situation at the kosher alcohol station; Everyone’s free to purchase different assortments of alcohol from the four corners of the earth. And sometimes… if you’re looking… there’s samples!

By the time Shabbos rolls in, the kosher section of the supermarket is as empty as a Jew’s stomach on Yom Kippur. The ONLY thing that’s still stocked to the brim… the dairy section.

But we still milk our shops for all their worth. What can we say? We’re JEWS, we’re FOODIES. We put the “SUPER” in “SUPERmarket.”


Kayla Swartzberg wrote this piece for Humans of the World (HOW)

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