‘Tis the Season

I still remember the first time my suburban food-bubble was burst, when I realized the implications of fruit sold according to season. I was in Israel, and became completely dumbfounded when I couldn’t find the strawberries…”whaddya mean you don’t sell them in the winter?!?”

Of course, as my sister recently reminded me, even junk food lovers know the comforting seasonal rhythms of Cadbury Creme eggs in late winter (they’re only sold from Jan 1-Easter Sunday), Peeps in the spring, and, of course, Mallomars in the late fall.

Ah, Mallomars…If Proust had grown up in New York, he would have traded in his madeleine for a Mallomar. Respectable journalists have sung its praises to the heavens, this perfect confection, only available during the dark, baseball-less months of November through March, so delicate is its thin outer layer of chocolate, that it can’t survive the trip from factory to store in the heat of spring or summer. And what could be more Jewish than a cookie that comes eighteen to a box, 70% of which are consumed by New Yorkers?

The only cookie that comes close is its Israeli cousin, the Krembo. Similar in construction and seasonal availability, writers also wax rhapsodic about krembo season. Plus, according to its wikipedia entry:

Some Orthodox Jews have used the krembo as a test case to explore the intricacies of Jewish law (Halacha). They claim that the order in which the krembo is eaten dictates what blessing is recited over it. The blessing over the biscuit is boreh miney mezonot, whereas the blessing over the cream and chocolate is shehakol nihiyya bidvaro. According to halacha, when eating a dish of mixed components, the blessing is recited over the main component…In the case of the krembo, however, there is no consensus about which is the “main” component: the biscuit, or the cream and chocolate coating. Some have solved the problem by blessing each component separately.

There you have it. Chocolate, and the source of hours of talmudic disputations! But the central point remains – seasonal foods, whether from nature or Nabisco, hold over us the alluring power of anticipation, and they lay claim, through their annual return to our lives and larders each year, to a significant role in how we encounter, and remember, the world around us. As Proust said, as he reflected on his cookie ephiphany,

“[T]aste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

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4 Responses to “‘Tis the Season”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I couldn’t appreciate your post any more, Eric. Seriously, I’ve been in Israel during Krembo season and always commenting to friends and dinner guests about how wonderful it is to have a seasonal processed candy treat. Mallomars and Krembo in a way take us back to a more primitive/sustainable food market ideal when we can’t always get what we want. This is a great lesson, especially for kids. It also helps sell these treats. I was having trouble finding good season comparisons to Krembo in the US and I thank you for helping me think of the Mallomar and the Creme Egg.

  2. chanie Says:

    as an aside, there is this weird winter strawberry season here in israel – definitely not all winter, but end of dec/jan (ie – now) there are fresh local strawberries all over.
    maybe since some parts of the country are warmer? dunno, but it happens every year, and i continue to be surprised by it.
    but in general, i do find fruits/vegetables in israel more in tune with the seasons than in supermarkets in the US. not i just have to keep convincing myself to eat those, and my csa vegetables, instead of the crembos…

  3. Leah Koenig Says:

    Here’s another humorous take on “alternative seasonality” from Ethicurean…


  4. Eric Schulmiller Says:

    Cute, Leah – kind of like something you’d read in the Onion.

    Speaking of which, here are a few healthy food-related Onion stories that are pretty hilarious:





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