Sunday, June 04, 2023

The kosher food industry keeps getting bigger and bigger, no offense. There are new products coming out every day, and it’s hard to keep up. How does your store know that, for example, there’s a new kind of pareve corn dog? (They’re pareve because they’re not made out of real dog.) How does your school know that there’s been yet another attempt to make peanut butter without peanuts? (We’ve had it for years. It’s called butter.) How does your nursing home know there is a new kind of chocolate with pop rocks in it?

Enter Kosherfest. Kosherfest is the world’s largest and only kosher trade show (that I know of). You walk around for two days, and they give out samples. It’s like a marathon, but instead of water, they hand you food. It’s the least healthy marathon ever. (A couple of booths were giving out water, though. I got a bottle with four hashgachos on it.)

And there’s a huge variety of random booths, so you get to taste foods in weird combinations. For example, there was one booth for a company that sold tea, and every time I passed it, the people manning the booth were drinking their tea. That’s what they did all day. I don’t even think they went home that night—I think they just stayed straight through to the next day.

So on the second day, I was walking down the aisle eating an ice pop, when suddenly the tea guy popped out of his booth (he was wired on tea) and handed me a cup.

“Drink this!” he said, “It’s really good!”

Well, I’m not going to stop eating ice cream to drink tea, because I’m basically a 6-year-old. There is no tea that’s better than ice cream.

But he just stood there, waiting for my approval. So I said, “I’m eating ice cream. The tea isn’t going to taste right.” On the other hand, seeing as my mouth was cold from the ice cream, the hot tea probably couldn’t hurt. So I took a sip and I couldn’t taste anything.

“It’s really good!” I said.

“I know!” he said. And he hopped away to go ply people with more tea.

But I do go every year, as press, to find out what the new products are, and then I eat them. I also write about them, but seeing me walk around Kosherfest, with ice cream in one hand and tea in the other, you could not guess that that is anywhere near my main priority.

One big trend this year seemed to be travel foods. Travel food is very important, because people don’t have time for anything. That’s why we need products like the new EZ-Prep Gefilte Fish, made by a company called “The Heimishe Fisherman.” Because normally gefilte fish is so hard to prep. Why are we so spoiled? In the old days, they had to grind the ingredients from scratch. Whereas I don’t even know what the ingredients are. I’m too lazy to read the back of the package.

But according to their press materials, with EZ-Prep Gefilte Fish, you just pop it in hot water!

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “How is that different from regular gefilte fish?” According to the company spokesman, it’s different in that you don’t need to add seasonings.

Wait. We were supposed to add seasonings?

There’s also no point in adding seasoning to this fish, because the package locks in the flavor, seeing that it’s actually a heavy plastic tube that looks like kishke. So it’s important, during the “easy prep,” to make sure you’re paying attention and not mix things up, because otherwise you’re going to have some really awkward cholent.

So for example, one travel food that just came out is canned chicken. This way, if you’re travelling, you just need to bring along a can of chicken, plus a can opener. Also, you’re going to need to invest in a fleishig can opener.

I’m also not sure if you’re supposed to then strain out the liquid, or if the liquid is basically chicken soup. Maybe you only strain tuna because it’s tuna soup. But now you can have chicken on the road! (Insert your chicken-on-the-road jokes here.) It also makes an awesome addition to a sad, single guy’s Shabbos. You got your can of tuna, your can of chicken, a tube of travel mayonnaise, and you’re good to go. All you need is canned cholent.

And once you’re travelling, there’s now a company called Koshwhere, which can ensure that you get kosher food delivered anywhere in the world, as long as you arrange it beforehand. So, basically, if you’re ever going anywhere where you’re not sure if there’s going to be food—your kid’s graduation, teacher conferences, early morning shiurim—you can have food delivered, and then you can sit there pigging out and have everyone around you going, “Is that canned chicken? It smells like tuna.”

Snack foods were also big this year. For example, one company came out with kale chips, which is somehow possible, even though kale is a lettuce. This way, you can hate your life even when you’re snacking.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were companies that specialize in covering pretzels in chocolate. The pretzels come in all colors—pink for a baby girl, blue for a baby boy, yellow if you missed the shul announcement as to what the person had.

There was also a company advertising “non-dairy cookies,” like that’s a new concept (Pareve cookies! What will they think of next?) and they’re made with soy milk. I don’t really eat soy, unless it’s hiding in something else, because I don’t understand it. Soy beans are green, but soy sauce is black and soy milk is white.

And speaking of fake foods, there was a company that sells brownies that are 40 percent beans. Talk about an awkward cholent.

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].



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