Sugar Season

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David Iscoe reports on secular advantages to Kosher-for-Passover food.

In many ways, for food lovers, religious dietary restrictions are horrible.  It’s not that I can’t imagine a life in which I couldn’t eat a cheesesteak, it’s just that I imagine that life would suck.

The laws cut both ways, however. Sometimes, religious laws act as a de facto protest against the race to the bottom in terms of food quality.  For example, halal and kosher meats are often considered to be higher quality, the difference due to restrictions on how the animals can be raised and slaughtered.  In the case of Passover, which begins Monday night, laws proscribing processed grain include a ban on products containing high fructose corn syrup, which is cheaper than sugar in part due to us having far more corn than we know what to do with (the latest idea is to make fuel out of it, which has caused rising corn demand and crippling tortilla inflation).

Companies that value the kosher market more than the cost differential release a seasonal  Kosher-for-passover variety.  While Jewish purists need to buy these products for the duration of pesach, food and beverage purists choose to stock up on them for the rest of the year.  One of the most common instances of this is Coca-Cola with sucrose (generally beet sugar) instead of high fructose corn syrup – identifiable by its yellow-capped two liter bottles, with the words “kosher l’pesach” written in Hebrew along with the kosher for passover symbol – check out this NPR interview with a Coke-head for an expert analysis of the difference in taste.  Cane sugar Dr. Pepper has a similar fandom, although acquiring it is a regional rather than seasonable matter – Texas Jewboys and soda lovers alike can get the good stuff from the Dublin, Texas plant which produces Dr. Pepper the old way all year round.

The Quest for the Perfect Egg Cream After the Jump

More particular to New York is the Kosher-for-passover Fox’s U-Bet syrup.  Best known as the essential ingredient in a real New York egg cream (a fountain drink made not of eggs and cream but of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer), Fox’s U-Bet also makes a mean chocolate milk and forever ruins Hershey’s syrup.  The egg cream, which most sources say originated with a Jewish candy store owner in Brooklyn (and is rumored to have gotten the “egg” in its name from the yiddish “echt,” meaning good“genuine”) is linked closely enough to the kosher market that Fox’s still uses refined cane sugar during the passover season.  Devout egg cream fans believe the kosher formulation, which not only tastes better but mixes better with milk, is the only way to go.  As someone who idealizes cheap but good food items, I spent an inordinate amount of time acquiring my own.

 My first stop, Fairway, stocked U-Bet but had none of the kosher-for-passover variety on their shelves; possibly, due to their massive backstock of everything non-perishable, it has not made its way to the sales floor yet.  I picked up some kosher Coke and bison meat, but I didn’t get what I was looking for. I left Fairway a piece of my mind in their suggestion box. “You should have kosher Fox’s U-Bet” – ha, that’ll teach ’em!  After some internet research, Gristedes market, down on 103rd and Broadway, was my next stop. Hidden on the back of its bottle cap, their syrup had the kosher lettering indicating its sugary goodness. I bought as many as I could (six) and returned victorious. I stopped into D’Agostino (with their damn ripoff “spend a shitload to save a little” point plan) for some milk and seltzer and discovered that they too had Fox’s U-Bet, and that I had walked several extra blocks for nothing.  Nothing but the extra dollar or so I saved of D’Ag’s crazy prices, that is. It was a nice day. It was worth it.

To learn what really makes time spent acquiring Fox’s U-Bet worth it, pay attention: the recipe for an egg cream follows.

Pour 1/4 inch – to1/2 inch of U-Bet into the  glass.

Pour in about 3/4 inch of whole milk. (Yes, fitness freak, it does have to be whole milk – don’t worry, it’s only “3/4  inch” of it. Yes, it is acceptable to measure milk in terms of  height)

Pour in seltzer, and stir. There should be a thick head if you mixed it right. If not, drink it and try again. 







If you hate New Yorkers but still want to enjoy a sugar soft drink specialty, try Hot Dr. Pepper. A suprisingly good beverage, Hot Dr. Pepper is Dr. Pepper heated in a pan, and poured over a lemon. Dublin Dr. Pepper is said to respond better under heat than the version with high fructose corn syrup.  Luck o’ the Irish.

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  1. moph

    interesting article. thanks.

  2. Dude

    If it's not U-Bet, it's not a friggin' egg cream. Thanks for reiterating this. Similarly, if you order an egg cream and someone says "what kind", just walk the hell out.

    Ah, that last surviving bit of NY snobbery. I really do love it!

  3. sev  

    wow. I learned so much. I haven't been this excited for passover since that one year when my parents promised us jelly rings.

  4. hey  

    yo discoe lemme get some of that fox's u-bet

  5. vos far a yid bistu?  

    "ekht" un "gut" zaynen nisht di zelbe zakhn! "ekht" meynt "beemes" oder epes azoy. discoe iz a khokhem balayle.

  6. quiqui  

    men darf nisht zayn keyn yid tsu redn a gut yidish (ikh bin a goy). Ober du bist rikhtik az "ekht" meynt "genuine" af eynglish.

  7. v.f.a.y.b.  

    in amerike, afile di goyim redn yidish!

  8. goldfarb's spritzer  

    has a sweet cameo there, discoe

  9. Texan  

    Dublin Dr. Pepper is better than any beverage you have ever consumed. EVER.

    Seriously. Its the nectar of the gods.

  10. ha ha ha  

    unt di brukn sind gelt!

  11. wow  

    was that real yiddish? what a terrible language. its like german but spoken by drunk people who can't spell.

  12. a.y.b.a.b.t.u.  

    un yidish iz di shprakh fun khaim grade. nu, vos zhe vilstu?

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