Shopping hell

Shopping hell

Column JN March 2018 from Jenni

This column is being brought to you by the magic of technology. Since I have broken my arm, I am learning about a whole new world of the one-handed — and included in the things that I can do seems to be writing by voice recognition, although it is true that my computer is taking some time to get used to me.

Meanwhile, out in the world of those with the requisite number of functioning limbs, things are going on much as usual. Pesach is approaching at a rate of knots and I feel perhaps that this year even more competitive trolley-bashing is taking place.

Those accustomed to what might be called normal grocery shopping may be in for a certain amount of culture shock in the run-up to Pesach.

For a start, we are all spending roughly three times as much as we might do in less frenzied weeks. This is because we are laying in for a siege, and it is necessary to stock the cave with more food and drink than we could possibly imagine, just in case… well, just in case the marauders arrive on horseback, demanding cinnamon balls.

I am at the I-have-no-idea-what-it-costs stage. I do know that everything seems to be massively more expensive than during the rest of the year, but I am also aware that there are food products which no-one in their right mind, with two working arms, could possibly want or need. Nor do I understand items such as kosher for Pesach breakfast cereal. If mama’s little darlings can’t manage without choco pops or fruity loops for a week, then these are truly first world problems.

However, there is a certain unalloyed pleasure at any food shopping in kosher supermarkets. Of particular enjoyment are the customers whom you don’t know from a hole in the wall, but who make it their business to advise you on every item which you have so far purchased — or may be about to purchase.

The air rings with gratuitous commentary on your basket containing some matzo meal and a packet of cream cheese. You won’t be entertaining then, says the man pushing past you. Another woman is equally dismissive of your brand choice. Her family, she says, always has the top of the range oil or sauce — but she’s shopping for a seder of 58 people, so she is past caring.

It is a truth perhaps not universally acknowledged, but it should be, that the most competitive shopping interference is carried out on a daily, year-round basis, in Israel. I think my very worst experience was in a Jerusalem supermarket, when I was standing, dithering, in front of a display of cranberry juice drinks.

Suddenly, a woman whom I did not know approached me. Was I, she enquired, going to buy the juice? And without giving me the chance to respond, she advised that there were only two uses for cranberry juice. You can drink it with vodka, she said. Or, she confided in a voice loud enough to reach Tel Aviv, it was especially effective for treating intimate feminine conditions. Which was I planning? I beat a hasty and scarlet-faced retreat.

By the time you read this, you should have finished shopping for the festival. Happy Pesach, everyone.

  • 2 April, 2018