You Had Me at Chometz |:| Out With the Blowtorch |:| In With the Matzo

Pesky leavened crumbs! (Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street Journal)

As a result of New Jersey Catholics not really doing the Jewish thing, when I was a kid Jews were a complete mystery to me. I didn’t know even Jews did the Jewish thing until I went to college and met, and subsequently made out with, one young lass, and then years later was asked by a slightly older lass to put a ring on it, which I most certainly did, thank you very much. Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind love-affair, a tour de force of contentedly casual relations to traditions that necessitate my participation every few months or so.

During this time I’ve come to know a few things. I got a blessing or two under the ole belt, got significant portions of the inclusivist Santa Cruz Haggadah and its “child/child-part” interpretations committed to memory, and apparently I can make a ridiculous charoset. One thing I never knew, however, was that in order to keep this Holy Day on the level, restaurants like UWS’s My Most Favorite employ the use of a blowtorch to rid the mehadrin/glatt kosher world of all that rises, that is chometz, that is leavened bread.

From the WSJ article on the matter, :

Marching into the kitchen…Rabbi Marrus runs his finger along stove tops, pokes his head inside the big industrial ovens, examines the coffee maker and inspects walls and floors. They have been soaked in boiling water and scrubbed clean with soap, detergents, degreasers and ammonia.

No matter. With the restaurant’s owners, Doris Schechter and her son-in-law Scott Magram looking on, Rabbi Marrus directs the flames of the Inferno up and down racks of steel rolling trays and deep inside the oven. His assistant will apply the Inferno to the pots and pans. Ms. Schechter takes the drastic cleaning in stride. “To me it is a renewal, you start over again.”

The Inferno in question is a blowtorch 500,000 BTU-enough to melt tar and asphalt when it’s time to repair your local county road. As such, it’s pretty much the death toll for any random leavened crumb lurking behind some abetting stainless steel oven leg.

Of course, edible replacements abound on Passover. The standard substitute for all that good, but risen, 7-grain is the ubiquitous circle of matzo, truly the Energizer Bunny of naturally stay-fresh edibles.

No lie. You can leave that stuff out uncovered over night, and the next morning you’ve got a seriously delish matzo-charoset sandwich waiting for you. Keep it in a box? Good for next year. Forget where you hid that big piece during the Passover meal? No sweat. Find it in the Fall and you’re ready to go.

Me? I’ve got a piece staring me down as a write this. Onward.

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