And then there was Osher Ad. Friends had been telling me about the place but I never seemed to have the opportunity to venture out. Since they have one near the clinic where I work in Bet Shemesh, I decided to pop in after work. I got a really good feeling when I arrived and saw a big sign of a man with a "Kirkland Signature" lapel saying he was new to Israel. The day after my blog about how I'm schlepping all of this stuff from Costco across the ocean, I'm standing face to face with a greeter from Costco (well more face to likeness-painted-on-stone, of a greeter from Costco, but you get the idea) . Only at Osher Ad, you don't need a membership card to get in. I can't actually imagine the "pay to get in" model being successful here. Paying to shop somewhere. People would call you a friar ("sucker").
Right now the entire store is turned over and only selling Passover inventory. You can get anything you might possibly need for Passover. Heck, you can get things you don't need for Passover or never even thought of needing. The overwhelming variety for what ultimately is a 7-day event is staggering. And why keep it simple? Between the two main ethnic groups of Jewish people, Sephardim (let's say Jews with Spanish and North African origins) and Ashkenazim (mostly Jews with Eastern European origins) there are different customs on how much is prohibited on Passover. We all agree no leavened products, but after that there is parting of ways (come on--Red Sea!). Sephardim eat everything in the category of kitniyot (ie rice, corn, lentils and depending on who you ask, the list could go on). This becomes important if you are used to just checking to see if something is "Kosher for Passover" in the U.S., because now you have to also check if it has kitniyot. Osher Ad actually had the aisles divided for those who eat kitniyot and those who don't. Pretty amazing. The majority of Kosher keeping Jews in Israel are Sephardim, so those of us who follow Ashkenaz definitely have to pay attention. For Sephardic Jews, I don't think Passover is quite as overhwhelming. Their Passover day could be corn flakes for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch and chicken with hummous for dinner. Granted, it would be a challenge to find those items Kosher for Passover outside of Israel (because there are often actual issues of chametz--leaven-- added to many products that otherwise wouldn't seem to have them) but here, no problem. OK, no pita, but have you tried their soft matzah? It's pretty darn close. Seriously, who are the friars?
Before Purim, when you're out grocery shopping, you can start to see entire aisles getting cleared away, or whole freezer sections getting cleaned out. Think of all the work we put into just cleaning our own kitchens, and then imagine that on the commercial scale. Daunting, but they do it. You can start seeing the Kosher for Passover stamp on items from several weeks ago. Part of what's fun about going to actual grocery stores in Israel (vs. on-line shopping which is huge here and super convenient!) is watching the transition from one thing to the next. They could have a TV game show where they send Israelis into stores and have them guess which holiday is coming up next just based on what's for sale at the main entrance to the store. Actually, it's pretty easy to guess. Every contestant would win.
So back to Osher Ad, they had tons of stuff from Costco. Once I put that blue box of plastic cutlery into my cart, I was unstoppable. When I got to the shelves of Kirkland Signature trash bags, my heart simultaneously took flight and sank. It made me think of my dad and how he just sort of smirked as my mom and I rearranged suitcases and carry-ons to fit just a few more trash bags. If only we had known they were sitting on a shelf in Bet Shemesh this whole time. Not to give the impression that Osher Ad is just like Costco (it is smaller). It's not even close, but it was pretty cool. I also happened to meet a famous Jewish food blogger who was there shopping. Israel really is a small country! As I was leaving the store the man who checks the receipt was smoking a cigarette. I don't think the greeters at Costco are lighting up, but he did wish me a "Chag Sameach" (happy holiday).
While we're on the subject of trash bags, ours having been going a lot further lately. A few months ago our neighborhood introduced a new initiative to put "wet trash" (essentially food and paper, regardless of whether or not it's wet or dry) into a separate bin from the regular trash. I know from friends in other neighborhoods of Modiin that they've been doing this for awhile, but it's new to our neighborhood. One night a woman knocked at our door, gave us the bin and explained that we were running out of room for trash and it was everyone's duty to participate. I asked her if it was mandatory and she explained that the Negev was filling up fast. Now I am all for reduce, reuse, recycle. My mom was doing it long before it was hip but I think she could have had a stronger selling point. I mean, have you been to the Negev lately? It looks pretty wide open. All joking aside, it's a very worthy initiative. We put our wet trash into plastic sacks from the grocery store and put the sacks into the "wet trash" bins the city provides. This has reduced our regular trash take out significantly. I was frankly shocked at what difference it makes. It's also interesting to watch this develop in real time. As I understand, they have a machine that empties the wet trash bins and rips open and separates the plastic bags so that the garbage can be composted. This led me to wonder what we would use once the grocery stores phase out plastic bags which I have heard will likely happen in the next few years. If we don't get these bags from our grocery shopping, will we have to buy bags? What? Buy bags to put in a trash can? That's crazy talk. Well, if it comes to that, I'm sure they'll sell them at Osher Ad.