By Harriet P. Gross
It’s almost Chanukah, and the end of another year. A good time to tie up loose ends and use up some bits and pieces that have been waiting around. Let’s start with the additional milk-chocolate information I’ve promised you…
Last year, Hershey’s Kisses celebrated a century of deliciousness. The bite-sized candies got their name back when they started, not because of romance, but because their manufacturing machinery gave out a lip-smacking sound during the process! Eighty million Kisses are sold around Valentine’s Day, but 3-1/2 billion are bought during the Chanukah-Christmas season.
Beware: Every Kiss you eat is 25 calories! The largest single Kiss ever made — for a special New York Metropolitan Museum event in 2003 — contained enough chocolate to make almost 676,000 little Kisses. You figure out the calories in that one! Production has been constant except for the World War II years, due to sugar rationing and silver foil shortage. Other foil colors have been introduced since, to identify new flavors including dark chocolate, mint truffle, coconut, and vanilla cream — and the insertion of almonds into some more traditional ones. Whatever you like — just enjoy!
Speaking of bits — I ranted last summer about imitation bacon bits: They say kosher, but they look traif. Should I sprinkle them on my salads? What is more important, appearance or reality? I always thought the former. But then, a reader sent me some info in favor of the latter:
“I was raised in a Conservative household,” she wrote, “but my mother did keep kosher. I remember as a kid that we had bacon bits on the table. Now I’m a BT [ba’alat tshuvah], and try to be as Orthodox as I can. I eat Shabbos meals after services at the homes of fellow congregants, and one friend served a very delicious ‘crab’ salad. Knowing this family as I do, I didn’t have to ask, ‘Is this stuff kosher?’ I just got to say, ‘Boy, this is really good!’”
About those bacon bits: “I had to check with my rabbis to get my sources authenticated,” she continued. “Both told me that eating foods that ‘look non-kosher’ is an extra mitzvah. So, go ahead! Eat those bacon bits! You are supposed to do 100 mitzvot a day, and eating a few bacon bits is an easy way to do one….”
OK. I stand corrected, and will now enjoy imitation, kosher bacon bits on my salads without any guilt over how they may look. But now I’d like to ask my reader’s two rabbis — both respected authorities in our local Orthodox community — this second question: Would eating a hundred bacon bits at one time qualify as my 100 mitzvot for one day? Somehow, I doubt it.
Finally, here is something I find heartening, from a Muslim in our area whom I’ve referred to before because of his positive interfaith stance (to the delight of some, the distress of others, I must confess). When the local Indian community sponsored a special event immediately following the Mumbai terrorism, he called around to find a Jew who would take part — not easy on a short-notice Friday. One man who couldn’t come suggested that a reading of the Kaddish would be appropriate; I couldn’t go, either, but this Muslim offered to read it on Judaism’s behalf, if I’d provide a translation, which I did. Afterward, he sent the following report:
“When I read the Jewish prayer at the candlelight vigil, everyone was ready to confirm their doubts — I was really Jewish. So I said, ‘I am … in a way. No one is 100 percent of anything. We are products of what surrounds us.’
“India Post, the largest-circulation Indian weekly in the United States, didn’t report that I was ‘representing’ the Jewish people. Instead, they wrote as if I am Jewish….”
Well — maybe we should adopt him, for he goes on to say, “I take the Beliefnet quiz. For three years in a row, I scored Unitarian-Universalist, 100 percent; Reform Jew, 96; Baha’i, 90; Muslim, 80; Buddhist, 76; Hindu, 72. The Hindu Temple calls me Honorary, I am one of the Jains, and someone asked my wife when I converted from Buddhism to Islam. The only things I am not called — yet — are Zoroastrian and Sikh, and I’m waiting to be inducted there as well.”
I find his humor heartwarming, since this man also chose to attend, with us, the recent local Chabad-Federation memorial to the Mumbai victims. So I offer his words to you now, along with a big holiday Kiss!
By Harriet P. Gross