Tuesday, December 24, 2013

signed, sealed, delivered... I'm yours

Once again, Mrs. Pincus and I found ourselves shopping. This time, we were in Sam's Club, the bulk goods/members-only arm of the Walmart conglomerate. We shop there infrequently and usually end up purchasing more than we came for. This trip was no different.

With a large cart full of foil baking pans and antibacterial wipes (don't ask!), Mrs. P maneuvered down the bakery aisle. She parallel parked the cart alongside a large display of prepackaged, bakery-style cookies. You know, those desert-dry, powdered-sugar and sprinkle-dusted pastries that are served after dinner at your grandmother's house. These are not remotely in the same "cookie" category as Oreos. They are somewhat palatable with a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk. And I mean a really big glass of milk.

And my wife loves them.

Approved for your convenience.
Because we observe the age-old laws of kashrut (keeping kosher), we only purchase food that has been certified by one of any number of overseeing bodies whose job it is to enforce the precautions and restrictions of the ancient Jewish mandates. Products are conveniently marked with a symbol identifying the item as "kosher," as well as the organization offering the certification. These symbols, which can be found on countless products on every supermarket shelf, are as meaningless as a production code number or UPC symbol to the average consumer. But to the discerning kosher-keeping shopper, these symbols are a big "a-okay" and an assurance that the particular fare has been prepared under the auspices of a respected mashgiach (kosher supervisor). For those who keep kosher, it's a pretty big deal.

Mrs. P. picked up a plastic, hinged-lid container of cookies and began examining the label for a sign of kosher certification. The symbol isn't always front-and-center and it isn't always in the most conspicuous spot. She lifted the container high above her head to read the label on its underside and not upset or break the cookies within. After a minute or so of keen perusal, Mrs. P. turned to me and said, "Hmm.... they're not certified." a phrase I have heard for years, usually referring to some marshmallow-fortified cereal or an off-brand of ice cream*.

Just as my wife said this to me, another shopper walked past us. She seemed to be very interested in our conversation, despite the fact that we weren't talking to her and it did not concern her in the least.

"What do you mean 'they're not certified'," she asked, totally butting into our exchange.

My wife smiled and, in her best deadpan sarcastic tone, replied, "They have to be certified as 'cookies', otherwise you can't be sure what they are."

The woman returned a confused expression as Mrs. P continued.

"If they're aren't 'certified cookies', you don't know what you're getting. They could be...," she paused dramatically and gulped, "... brownies!"

The woman cocked her head to one side and shuffled slowly away from us, pushing her cart on down the aisle. We, however, snickered like five-year olds.

*These products usually contain some form of gelatin, a solidifying agent made from boiling animal bones. Since kosher observance forbids the mixing of meat and dairy products, plus the origin of said bones being undetermined, these items could not receive kosher certification... and that's only the beginning.

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