July 15, 2019

On Passover, Cotton is King

“When it comes to Passover cuisine, most home cooks know to avoid wheat, oats, rye, and other forbidden ingredients. But what consumers might not realize is just how much cotton they eat during the holiday. Yes, cotton—not the fluffy white stuff, per se, (though some might accuse matzo of tasting about as exciting as the fabric fiber), but the oil extracted from cotton seeds.

Flip over a package of kosher-for-Passover cake mix (or mayonnaise, soup mandlen, potato chips, cooking sauces, Tam Tam crackers, matzo ball soup mix, canned tuna, margarine, or salad dressing, to name a few), and cottonseed oil is almost certain to show up in the ingredient list. All of the major Passover manufacturers sell cottonseed oil by the liter for frying, baking, and sautéing at home. And that bottle labeled “vegetable oil”? That’s probably cottonseed, too—never mind that nobody has ever added chopped cotton to a salad.

So how did the cotton plant become the hidden star of the American Passover table? Ironically enough, you can likely thank your bubbe’s flaky pie crust for that. In 1911, Procter & Gamble introduced Crisco shortening as a vegetable-based alternative to lard. According to Michael Wex’s book Rhapsody in Schmaltz: Yiddish Food and Why We Can’t Stop Eating It, P&G’s marketing team “went straight for the Jewish market,” realizing that “a neutral-tasting shortening with no dairy or meat ingredients might strike a chord” with cooks looking to make pareve cookies and pies. They were right beyond their wildest imagining.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"India’s water crisis offers a striking reminder of how climate change is rapidly morphing into a climate emergency. Piped water has run dry in Chennai, the southern state of Tamil Nadu’s capital, and 21 other Indian cities are also facing the..."

"Such a blackout is coming. It is only a matter of time. Again, leaving aside the growing threats of cyber and terrorist attacks upon our power grid, the fact of the matter is that much of our grid is antiquated junk desperately in need of billion."

"In Israel’s early years—even earlier, in fact, during the decades leading up to independence—the kibbutz played an integral role in creating the country’s economic and political infrastructure. Based on a shared economy and hard work..."

"Scarlett Johansson became something of a conservative hero on Friday for speaking out against identity politics. She told As If magazine, in quotes excerpted by the Daily Mail, “You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or..."

"During the 2012 presidential election, there occurred one of those remarkably rare moments when campaign rhetoric actually clarified a large issue. It happened when Barack Obama, speaking without a written text, spoke from his heart and..."

"IN FEBRUARY, LEAKED software code predicted the demise of the back button on the latest version of Google's Android smartphone. Apple did away with the iPhone's home button in 2017. LG’s latest handset allows users to control their devices..."

"I am in the mosh pit of West Hollywood’s El Rey Theatre, jangly from two cups of Zoe Ministries’ excellent self-branded coffee. Twenty 20-somethings in mom jeans, sneakers, and colorful baggy shirts are singing Disney-radio-inflected anthems..."

"Before the advent of scientific evidence and philosophical guidance on the subject, literary odes to the creative and health benefits of walking flourished. No one has been more tireless in reviving the history of exhortations to join the “Order..."

"Facebook and Twitter feeds were buzzing with discussion after the late-May New York Times article declaring that millennials are no longer interested in marriage. The article’s popularity can be attributed, in part, to the uncomfortable truth it..."

"The run happened — or didn’t — maybe five days into the raw-diet experiment. I had formed a sort of fitness pact with a friend to forgo cooked food, and after days of nothing but salads, almonds, sashimi and black coffee, my body felt taut and..."

"Humans have long sought the elixir of youth, so it is not surprising that even non-scientists closely follow the latest research into aging. But is what most people consider simply a fact of life actually a “disease” that can be cured? Or is..."

"It’s no secret that many Jews are struggling to keep up. More and more, middle and even upper-middle class Jews are finding religion to be an increasingly expensive component of their lives. My husband has a good job and I have a burgeoning..."