By Mordechai Schmutter
I love new foods. Every time I go shopping, I come home with some kind of product that wasn’t on the shopping list because we didn’t know it existed.
“What’s this?” my wife asks.
“It’s new!” I say, like that answers everything. Though more specifically, it’s usually some kind of sauce to put on the chicken.
“We already have chicken sauce,” my wife says, opening the fridge to reveal about 35 different bottles, each with maybe three teaspoons of sauce in it. “How are we going to fit the chicken in the fridge?”
I actually invent new sauces all the time. Once in a while, I mix all 35 bottles together, smear it on the chicken, and it’s delicious. The sad thing is that I know I will never be able to have that recipe again, because even if I remember the combination, it would come out very expensive to duplicate it. “What’s this?” my wife would ask, when I walked into the house with 35 bottles of sauce.
I’m beginning to think that’s the story behind all these new sauces. Someone is mixing all the other sauces, actually writing down what they did, and then reselling them. And then I’m buying them and mixing them back together.
But even besides for sauce inbreeding, there are new products coming out every year. I know this, because I go to Kosherfest.
Kosherfest is an annual trade show where people in the supermarket business, the restaurant business, and the sitting-at-home-and-praying-for-an-article-topic business walk around and taste new products and decide whether it would be worth it to find room for them in our stores, restaurant displays, or crowded refrigerators.
But it’s not just a free-for-all. For example, there’s a right way and a wrong way to sample the products. The right way is to go through the show and try all the milchig items, wait a half hour, and then go through the show and sample the fleishigs, and then, on the way home, remember that you didn’t actually conduct any business while you were there. This is why Kosherfest is two days.
I did it the wrong way. I got there, ate some cheese, and then someone came over to me and said, “You like it? It’s aged 30 months!” So I couldn’t try meat until the last half hour of the show. And then I came home to my poor wife who, every year, makes a pareve supper that night just for me, and I didn’t eat much of it, because I’d just spent the last half hour making up for lost time.
(Another way to sample products wrong is to swig a small cup of something and realize it was olive oil. Don’t ask.)
Nevertheless, I will do my best to inform you of what new foods and food-related products are hitting stores in the near future, except for the fleishigs, so you can be ready for them, and make all the necessary preparations.
A lot of people ask me: Besides for sauces, how can there be new products every year? Haven’t they pretty much come out with all the foods already? Are they discovering new ingredients?
The answer is yes. For example, there’s a new product called Miracle Noodles, which is made out of nothing. Seriously. It has no fat, no calories, no carbs, no flavor, you don’t have to cook it, and it basically tastes like whatever interesting new sauces you put on it. I think it’s mainly for people who show up at a simcha and say, “I don’t really want to eat anything.”
This year there have been several advances in the area of fake foods.
OK, so they’re all real foods, except for the noodles. But they’re definitely not what they’re pretending to be. For example, one company was selling meatballs made out of gefilte fish, while another was selling gefilte loaves made out of meat. You want to know why no one eats in anyone else’s house anymore?
Another booth was serving something called “meatless knishes.” I’ve had meatless knishes before. They’re filled with potato, and they’re awesome. But these knishes went out of their way to be meatless. It’s like, “How much can we get it to taste like meat but not actually be meat? We’re close, right?” I still like potato better.
I also passed a booth where I heard someone enthusiastically saying, “It tastes exactly like cheese!” I don’t want things that taste like cheese. The only thing I want to taste like cheese is cheese. If something else tastes like cheese, especially aged cheese, my general policy is to throw it out. I have the same rule with fish.
There were also a whole bunch of innovations in the field of challah. (I will pause here for a moment while you picture a field of challah.)
For years, challah was pretty much going unsung. It was basically something we got through to get to the other foods. But now everyone’s wondering what to add to our menus that doesn’t already exist, and people are saying, “How about we do something with the challah?”
People are actually thinking about challah now. For example, one booth I came across was selling napkins that looked like challah covers with “L’kavod Shabbos v’yom tov” printed on them. This is a great invention, because a lot of times you’re at a simcha, eating nothing, and everyone has their own little challah on their plates. Then, about halfway through Kiddush, it suddenly dawns on everyone that the challahs aren’t covered, and there’s a mad rush of people grabbing napkins, flipping over plates, or diving on top of the tables and shielding them with their bodies, all so the challahs won’t be embarrassed. But this way, there’s a handy reminder right on the napkin.
Another company came out with an innovation to make it easier to make challah—it’s a baking pan that is actually shaped like a challah mold, lumps and all. Because, apparently, braiding is the hardest part of making challah. How about something that washes the flour off the ceiling?
Why is it the fun part of making challah that we want to cut out—the part that makes our kids come home all excited to help? (“Ma, can we help braid the challah?” “Sure. We’re just going to pour it into this pan.” “Oh. Wow.”)
But even if you have no use for the pan, challah-wise, you can still use it to make enormous ice cubes. Or jello, for that matter. Or you can melt down thousands of chocolate chips and make a solid chocolate challah. Or a challah-shaped cake. The possibilities are endless.
Oh, and p’tcha!
All right, I went too far.
But speaking of chocolate, another company was selling 37 different flavors of mail-order challah, including chocolate, cherry, chocolate cherry, apple cinnamon, mixed berry, egg, water, rocky road, and even cookie dough (though once you bake it into the challah, isn’t it just cookies?) They even have a french toast–flavored challah, even though most people only ever eat french toast to get rid of their leftover challah after Shabbos.
They also have an “everything” flavor. I don’t want to know.
But flavored challah! What a novel concept! Though it probably tastes a lot like sandwiches. It’s kind of like pizza-flavored cheese, isn’t it? Which, by the way, I did see at Kosherfest. As a professional reporter, I probably should have asked some hard-hitting questions at that point, like, “If I put pizza-flavored cheese on my pizza, does it taste even more like pizza? Does it taste like I took a slice of pizza and put another slice of pizza on top of it?
But I didn’t think of that question until the drive home. Too bad Kosherfest isn’t three days. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.