So we've reached the halfway point of Passover, and there's no matzo to be found. You don't really need matzo to celebrate Passover, but matzo is the symbolic bread of affliction, so it's always good to have some handy to advertise that you are submitting to the ridiculous culinary requirements of this infernal holiday (to wit: no leavened bread for eight very long days) and are, therefore, still a good Jew.
In the grand scheme of things, the matzo shortage doesn't compare to the lack of rice in Asia or the lack of food of any kind in Haiti. But it does pose a moral conumdrum. Most of us don't even like the stuff. It's dry and brittle and sticks in your throat and doesn't even taste good to compensate. (It doesn't really taste like anything, so I guess it could be worse.) But if you say "Screw it" to the whole Passover thing and grab yourself a bagel (a much finer Jewish contribution to world cuisine, by the way), you feel indescribably guilty.
Schnucks has been bereft of matzo for the past few days, even the "Jewish Schnucks" in Ladue. So this afternoon I headed out to Kohn's Kosher Market in Creve Coeur. There were eight boxes of matzo left when I arrived. Now there are seven.
How does the local Jewish community plan to deal with this great crisis?
Over at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center, Sally Lang, the Director of Community Relations, was puzzled. "There's a matzo shortage?" she asked. "I still have some at my house, though I'm not sure how long it'll last with two teenage boys."
Rabbi Hershey Novack of Washington University Chabad didn't believe the news, either, but for different reasons. "It's contrived," he said. "It's like this every single year in St. Louis. Every year the supermarkets underbuy and people hoard. They purchase enough matzo for the entire year during Passover. The New York Times is trying to conflate commodity prices and the shortage in Asia of rice with Trader Joe's and Costco choosing not to stock matzo this year. Big whoop."
Novack himself stockpiled 32 boxes of matzo for the holiday. He's not sure if he'll eat it all this week, but explained, "It's good to have in case of an earthquake. It lasts for hundreds of years. When the archaeologists in the future look through the rubble to find out what we ate, the only thing they're going to find is matzo."