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Culture Shock

Pondering Freddie’s sad little Passover section

You’d think any big grocery store in a city the size of Eugene, especially a store founded by a Jew like Fred Meyer, would stock plenty of kosher-for-Passover Passover food during Passover. You’d think.

On the sixth night of Passover, I figured I’d pick up one more box of matzo just to make sure we had enough to last until the end of the eight-day holiday during which observant Jews eat matzo instead of bread. Matzo symbolizes Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt when we were in too big a hurry to let our dough rise so we bolted to freedom with unleavened bread. A quick grocery stop for a box of matzo shouldn’t end up symbolizing my people’s 40 years of wandering in the desert. 

I wandered. First, past two huge displays of close-out Easter candy, 50 percent off! What a deal for fans of chocolate bunnies and peeps. 

I wandered up to a young man in a Fred Meyer apron. “Where can I find the Passover foods?” He seemed stunned, like he knew he should know but just couldn’t recall. 

“Like matzo? Gefilte fish?” I must’ve been speaking a foreign language. “Maybe aisle 10?” 

Ah, the “Ethnic” section. Tortillas, soy sauce, falafel mix. No Matzo. 

I wandered into a check-out line, “Passover food?” 

The busy cashier nodded toward the other end of the store, “Try ‘Natural Choices.’” She continued ringing up bacon and Wonderbread. “Natural Choices” had lots of granola and whole grain bread, all chametz, forbidden on Passover. 

I wandered past a couple of guys taking inventory. “Is there a manager around?” 

“She’s over in Customer Service.”

I hoped my ascension to the Customer Service desk would end my wandering. 

“I think we had a rack of Passover stuff at the end of the Pet Care section,” the manager said. Her co-worker added “And it’s all half off!” 

Half off on Easter candy a few days after Easter I understand. But Passover food half off during Passover seemed a bad business idea. At this point I’d have happily paid double for a box of matzo.

At long last, past rows of pet food, nestled near the dog toys and kitty litter, stood a narrow rack that housed Fred Meyer’s sad little Passover “section.” The top shelves held nine pink waxed paper-wrapped packs of matzo — five boxes in each. Anyone who could use that much matzo this late in Passover is either feeding the Lost Tribes of Israel or will soon be found in the laxative aisle. 

Just the Matzo super-packs — no individual boxes — and a few yartzeit candles and other random Jewish provisions with no particular association to Passover, plus some miscellaneous non-Jewish items that other shoppers had decided not to buy and left on the conveniently empty Passover display shelves. 

Now, I can see having a hard time finding matzo in rural Oregon. Our rural Jews are probably used to traveling to a bigger town for holiday supplies. But in Eugene? Really? Am I THAT far out of the mainstream here? 

It’s not like I was trying to buy a rainbow flag.