[Editor’s Note: Greetings from Bristol, Conn., where I’ll be attending to some ESPN business over the next two days. Those are also the last two days of Passover, so I thought I’d re-run an entry that originally ran on the site three years ago. Enjoy. — PL]
This is Passover season, which means Coca-Cola is undergoing its annual uniform revision. If you live in an area with a decent-sized Jewish population, you’ll see bottles of Coke with yellow caps, indicating that the product is kosher for Passover.
The alternation isn’t just cosmetic. As any serious soda pop geek will tell you, the yellow-capped Coke has been made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (which, like all corn-based products, is off-limits to observant Jews during Passover). Soda savants claim that this makes the Passover Coke taste better, although I drink Diet Coke, so the distinction is lost on me. I do, however, make a point of buying a new container of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup each Passover, since it too is made with cane sugar for the holiday. Does it really taste better? Honestly, I wouldn’t argue the case on the merits, but it’s a nice little ritual I enjoy each spring, and that’s what holidays are all about, right?
Speaking of ritual, I was raised in a non-observant household. About the only religious-ish aspect to our family was that we always had matzos in the house for Passover. You can buy matzos anytime, of course, but only certain matzos are certified kosher for Passover (which basically means some rabbi got paid a lot to stand around at the bakery and give his blessing to the flour and water — what a racket), and that’s what my Mom would buy every year. She was very brand-loyal: We always had Streit’s matzos, which came in a pink box. I am even less religious than my parents, but I still buy Streit’s matzos each year for Passover, and they still come in a pink box. If they ever change the package design, that would probably be the end of my one Jewish ritual. Just goes to show the power of a uniform.
I learned very early on that I really, really like a sheet of matzo slathered in butter and then sprinkled with salt. Even better: several sheets of matzo slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt. But of course I wasn’t supposed to be snacking in between meals when I was a little boy, so I had to keep my matzo consumption on the sly. And therein lies a tale.
One afternoon when I was nine or 10 years old, I was scarfing down a nicely buttered sheet of matzo — my second of the day, I believe. As was my usual custom, I had redistributed the remaining matzos in the box to make it look like it was still fairly full, just as I always did when sneaking an extra Hydrox out of the cookie jar. Everything seemed just about right with the world, when I heard something I wasn’t supposed to be hearing yet: a car door slamming closed in our driveway.
It was my Mom — home from work more than an hour earlier than usual. And there I was, about to be caught red-handed with contraband snackage. There was no time to run to the garbage can or the toilet — she was only seconds away from walking in the door — so I looked around and saw my salvation: Sitting on a shelf a few feet away from me was our family’s game of Scrabble. I lifted the top of the box, slipped the matzo inside, and then went and greeted my Mom.
The next morning, before I left for school, I retrieved the incriminating mazto and disposed of it. But as you probably know, the inside of the top of the Scrabble box is where they print the instructions, and I had put the matzo in the box buttered-side-up, which had left a few butter stains on the instrux — pale-yellow symbols of my transgression.
Those stains faded a bit over the years but never disappeared completely. Fortunately, my Mom didn’t play Scrabble and my father wasn’t the kind of guy who’d notice a few stains on
the Scrabble box anything, so these telltale splotches never gave me away. The stains were still there in 2005 — 30 years after the original incident — when I finally told my parents the whole story and showed them the evidence. We all enjoyed a good laugh about it, although my Mom seemed a bit perturbed to learn I’d been eating so many matzos without her realizing it.
Two years after that, in 2007, I wrote an article about the Streit’s factory. While interviewing the company’s vice president, I told him the Scrabble story. He listened, then thought for a moment, and finally said, “That’s a shame to waste a good matzo like that.” At long last, I’d been called to account for my misdeed.
Happy Passover to all who are observing, and to all who enjoy Passover Coke.
[Addendum: I ended up showcasing the Scrabble box last year during one of my Show & Tell events. You can see it at the bottom of this entry. — PL]
Yo, Red Sox fans: In case you missed it last week, Uni Watch readers are being offered a special deal on 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox: Every Picture Tells a Story, a gorgeously produced coffee table-style book (not an e-book) that chronicles the 2013 Bosox season. It features over 200 photos (some of which you can see here), along with essays by team owner John Henry, outfielder Jonny Gomes, manager John Farrell, Boston broadcaster Joe Castiglione, former mayor Thomas Menino, journalists Gordon Edes and Leigh Montville, and more.
The book lists for $40, and Amazon has it for $27.33. But if you go here and use the checkout code RSX131, you can get it for $24.95 — definitely the lowest price you’re gonna find. You know what to do.
PermaRec update: The singer/songwriter Jill Sobule received a vintage charm bracelet (shown at right) as a birthday present and started wondering about its original owner. That ended up becoming the basis for a new concept album that’s just been released. Details over on Permanent Record.
’Skins Watch: Did you ever collect Pez? I never did, but some of today’s Pez collectors might be a little confused, because the Pez execs can’t seem to decide what the Indians’ logo is (from David Sonny).
Baseball News: If you have to combine stars/stripes and baseball, here’s how you do it (big thanks to my pal Karen McBurnie). … Not to be confused with Chief Wahoo: Good article on the unusual uniforms and logo for the double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. … Here’s something you don’t often see: a Ku Klux Klan baseball team. That’s in Tennessee, 1957. … Nice stirrups, with gold sannies to boot, for Arlington High in California (from David Lassen). … David Firestone thinks he knows why the Washington Senators began wearing the 3-D numbers. … The Red Sox will wear their white “Boston” jerseys for this morning’s Patriots Day game against the Orioles. … Terry Proctor recently scored this gorgeous-looking 1958 MacGregor uniform catlog. Show us some of the interior pages, Terry! … Not uni-related, but here’s a really interesting article about how rooting interests are heavily determined by our youth. … Here’s a ranking of baseball stadiums by the number of names they’ve had in the past 20 years.
NFL News: Got a spare 35 grand burning a hole in your pocket? You can spend it on this Steelers helmet cart (nice find by David Firestone). … Some 49ers fans in San Francisco want BART — the city’s subway system — to change some of its seat colors because they match the Seahawks’ colors. “These people need to get a life,” says Brinke. … I think we’ve seen this before, but just in case: Football helmets based on Star Wars characters (from Jeremy Baker).
Hockey News: Okay, so this is seriously weird: Marc Hammil was poking around at an antiques market in Ontario when he came across a container of little unpainted Ken Dryden heads for $10 apiece. “They had other players too, but they weren’t labeled, so I’m not sure who they were supposed to be,” he says. Anyone know what these were for? (Oh, and Marc, also saw this awesome-looking baseball game, but that’s not as odd as the Dryden heads.)
NBA News: This was in yesterday’s Ticker, but it’s worth linking to it again for those of you who missed it: a sensational article on the Trail Blazers’ seamstress. Recommended. … The TNT TV crew wore wacky outfits yesterday as a gesture of support to leukemia-stricken colleague Craig Sager (from Robert Silverman).
Grab Bag: A dog-walking service in NYC has a strict uniform code for its employees. … David Firestone has compiled a list of NASCAR, IndyCar, and F1 drivers by driver suit manufacturer. … The U.S. Army’s new hairstyle regulations are causing problems for black women. … Interesting little piece on Nike’s 540 patents from last year (from Kyle Hanks). … Leo Strawn Jr. reports that the Australian Football League’s NOB experiment was a big failure. “The lettering was too small to read even from the good seats, plus the NOB went over the GPS pocket on the back. If AFL wants to use NOBs in the future, I would suggest they reconsider size and position, maybe putting the lettering below the number instead of above.”