About six weeks before Passover, my local grocery store put up an end cap display for the holiday. Included among the items were Manischewitz Potato Chips, both salted and unsalted. They provided me with an opportunity to try something new and to experience something miraculous amidst my mundane visits to the grocery store.
Unsalted snacks of any kind are very rare and difficult to find. Trader Joe’s offers unsalted corn chips, which I’ve often enjoyed with salsa and guacamole or as a base layer for taco salad. I think they’re really good. At first I thought the potato chips might taste like cardboard because corn chips have a distinct flavor of corn and potato chips have a subtle, neutral flavor that is more dependent on the salt and oil used to prepare them. I tend to skip such things so I left the bag of unsalted potato chips on the shelf and kept shopping.
A few days later I was eating a sandwich for lunch and thought it would be nice to have some chips with them. I had a few of the unsalted corn chips and realized they’re better suited to Mexican flavors. I was raised agnostic but I do have some Jewish aunts, uncles and cousins as well as lots of Jewish friends. I appreciate the foods and traditions of many cultures and living in California, I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of them. I resolved to seek out the potato chips.
That first bag was easy to find and very delicious. Unsalted potato chips are definitely an acquired taste but I like them because they aren’t as ‘addicting’ as other chips. While I stopped eating out of the bag years ago to force a little portion control upon myself, putting regular, salted potato chips on a plate didn’t stop me from realizing the rest of the bag was still around. As a consequence they tend to disappear rather quickly in my home. The unsalted variety is ‘nice’ but not ‘great’ which bolsters my ability to portion control my intake. I liked that they weren’t crave-worthy… or so I thought.
The following week I was in the grocery store looking for a second bag of Manischewitz unsalted potato chips and couldn’t find them. The sea salt and unsalted varieties both have very similar packaging and the Passover display was increased to two end caps. Searching both of areas diligently, the unsalted bags were nowhere to be found. Riffling through all of the bags on every shelf only confirmed that salt was in everything the store had left. I went to the regular snack food aisle and the bulk of the chips there are all corn chips. Even in the smaller selection of potato chips, every single product was contaminated with added salt. The health food aisle wasn’t a totally barren wasteland like the other aisles. I did find some unsalted root vegetable chips and picked up a bag of “beets and sweets.” They were very delicious.
As I was headed out, I realized I forgot to get mustard and walked back to the condiment aisle which forced me to pass the Passover section again. I glanced at the display and to my surprise, right in the middle of the top shelf was a bag of Manischewitz unsalted potato chips!
Now I’m a tall man. The top shelf is well within the range of my normal sightline. I don’t have to look up or anything to inspect the items on the top shelf. That, coupled with the fact that I shifted so many bags around on the top shelf to inspect each and every one of them, makes me not seeing the unsalted variety the first time around seem so strange. When I reached for the bag, I could see that it was the only one that was unsalted and it felt like a Manischewitz Miracle!
Last week I walked up to the Passover display, which now spanned three aisles of end caps. Right in the center of the top shelf was a bag of Manischewitz unsalted potato chips. I grabbed my third bag and enjoyed them all week.
Today is two days before the holiday. Summer seemed to arrive this week with unusually warm temperatures and I’ve resolved to eat a little healthier and work out a bit more before the shirtless season kicks into high gear. While on my way to the grocery store, I realized that the holiday items would probably go away soon. The optimism at the heart of the Exodus story welled up in me as I dared to believe that I might be unshackled from the tyranny of the salted snack. I decided to pick up my fourth bag of unsalted chips.
When I got to the display, all the bags were either sea salt flavor or barbecue or whatever. I shifted the bags around and checked for unsalted but couldn’t find any. Because their quantities had always been so limited it felt like the end of my new favorite treat.
Making my rounds through the rest of the store, I soon found myself at the deli counter where I had some time to reflect a little. “They magically appeared before, maybe that could happen again?” The Exodus story conveys the message that history is not happenstance. It says that there is a Divine order to things and that all things are possible. Given that realization, it was easy to push my cart back over to the Passover displays. Sure enough, as I approached the holiday section, I could see them. Right at the center of the top shelf was a bag of Manischewitz unsalted potato chips! My second Manischewitz miracle!
As I put that last bag of chips into my cart, I couldn’t help but feel liberated in some small way from the bondage of salted snacks. I was a stranger to the Kosher food section and those potato chips took me in. If you chalk my experiences up to mere coincidence, you’ll do well to remember that coincidence is just God’s way of remaining anonymous. Yes, it could have just been an employee reorganizing the display after I walked away but even that would be an agent of tikkun olam, wouldn’t it?
I hope you too can find the miraculous mired in the mundane, and I hope your holiday is a happy one!