The epicurean ecumenical

One effect of living in a religiously plural society is an ability to reap epicurean rewards. I’m reminded of this every time I take the opportunity to stock up on Passover Coke. Passover Coke is made with sugar, rather than corn syrup. As such, it is acceptable for Passover use by observant Jews. It is also considered by most Coke drinkers to be a tastier beverage, and so non-Jewish buyers like myself take advantage of this opportunity to buy tastier Coke.

(When I buy Passover Coke, I only do so from full shelves. My inner ethical meter won’t let me buy the last, or even close-to-last bottle of Passover Coke from any store. I find myself imagining that such action on my part would affect some poor observant Jew shopping at the same store few minutes later — that I would deprive her of her chance to buy Coke, and she would have to sit through a Passover without Coke because of my selfish actions. So, no last bottles for me — but if the shelf is full, I make sure to stock up.)

It’s not just Passover Coke, either. It’s fun to hit a diner and order some Matzo ball soup. (That stuff is tasty, particularly on a chilly New York day) Also, during Hannukah, my old law-firm cafeteria sold cute little Hannukah chocolates that I regularly took home for the kids. And so on.

I hope that this epicurean ecumenicalism isn’t a one-way street. I hope that some of my Jewish friends enjoy the (probably more limited) epicurean benefits of Christian holidays — chocolate Easter bunnies and Cadbury eggs, candy canes and gingerbread.

And while I don’t want to overstate the point, I can’t help but think that enjoying the tasty celebrations of other religious groups has to have a salutary effect on inter-group tolerance and understanding. Perceptions of a group’s gastronomic profile can certainly affect society’s thinking. If lies about Jewish dietary habits (among other things) spread by the Czar’s secret police can lead to pogroms and hatred, then can’t a shared bowl of Matzo ball soup, washed down with some Passover Coke, lead to greater understanding and appreciation of diverse religious culture and tradition? I like to think so.

In the meantime, there’s a strictly-vegetarian Indian place up the 15 a ways, next to a Hindu temple, that I’m hoping to get to some time soon.

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4 Responses

  1. Cathy says:

    A joke I read in a Leo Rosten book:

    A gentile couple goes to a Jewish restaurant, where they are convinced to try matzo balls. Afterwards they say to the waiter, “That was wonderful! Tell us, what other part of the matzo do you people eat?”

  2. soccer dad says:

    Here’s my dirty secret …

    Last year I didn’t plan out my purchase of Kosher for Passover Diet Coke (for my wife) properly and we ran out during the intermediate days. And the stock in Baltimore was out.

    When we made our trip to the Washington Zoo we stopped at a Super Fresh that had something like 6 Diet Cokes left, so my wife bought them out and Passover was saved!

  3. scottage says:

    When I was a kid in Philadelphia, I volunteered with UAHC, and we had the idea to hold an interfaith Seder with other minority communities.

    At that point it hadn’t been done before, nowadays it’s a regular thing all over the country. But it was amazing how, after they would try something, the other groups would start to see that, hey, if the myths about Jewish food was wrong, and the myth about the Jewish person across the table from you was wrong, maybe their stereotypes were equally off.

    So yeah, I think food can go a long way towards bringing communities together. No doubt. And great post!

  4. KEN says: