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Cereal, ice cream, and irrational thinking

May 26, 2011

Cereal is amazing. As a kid I used to read the boxes while eating their contents, a habit that lingers from time to time when the opportunity presents itself — except it doesn’t present itself, because cereal in Israel is not only severely limited in terms of selection, but it costs twice as much as I can in good conscience justify paying. My spouse, on the other hand, thinks it’s totally normal to spend just over $8 on a box of cereal that I’m used to getting in a three-for-ten-bucks sale, and is content with only having a dozen or so viable options to choose from, even at giant supermarkets.

I match his extravagance by spending just under $8 on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from time to time, so it’s not like he’s the only one being irresponsible. That’s just what it costs to eat certain things in Israel. For me, Ben and Jerry’s trumps cereal, though this hierarchy may be different if the frozen yogurt varieties weren’t available in Israel and Rice Chex were. For him, cereal is a non-negotiable part of breakfast, period, and that’s fine.

This makes Passover — a holiday that involves strictly abstaining from and even thoroughly eradicating one’s household of all unleavened foods — in Israel easier than anywhere else. While cereal may be expensive, at least it’s possible to get a completely kosher-for-Passover version, right down to the very last detail:

Kellogg's Cornflakes vs. Israeli kosher-for-Passover cornflakes

Here is all the information about the kosher-for-Passover cereal, in English on one side of the box and in Hebrew on the other:

The kosher-for-Passover explanation, in English and in Hebrew

As you can see, the Passover-kosher cereal “bares a unique shade formulated to rabbinic request”:

The difference in color between regular cereal and paprika'ed cereal

Yes, the kosher-for-Passover cereal is bright red not because it’s made of some weird un-cereal-like kosher-for-Passover ingredients like we originally thought, but because rabbis decided it should be visually distinguishable from the regular version. This ensures that any lingering doubts that the cereal you want to eat during Passover may have somehow accidentally been switched with something you shouldn’t be eating — even though the things you shouldn’t be eating have all literally been burned, scalded, and scoured away, and physically barricaded from stores — are not irrational and unnecessary doubts to be soothed with patient reminders of all those careful preparations, but rather deserving of a law that results in frankly very disgusting-looking breakfast food.

Which explains why it’s still sitting on the shelf in our kitchen so long after Passover.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Christopher Cotrell permalink
    May 27, 2011 3:19 am

    How do Jews who like to bake keep sourdough starter? Do they have to sell it to Gentiles during Passover?

    • May 27, 2011 10:05 am

      Yes, that’s the standard practice for those religious enough to insist on ridding their houses of all chametz (leavened things and things that may have been touched by leavened things and either can’t be cleaned or there’s no time to clean). This includes alcohol collections, baby strollers, and a lot of other things that I never thought of before — and there’s always the risk that the gentile may not want to give it back:


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