Every year before Rosh Hashanah I stock up on bags of Bugles: the corn-chip snacks fried in the shape of cones. I don’t even care how fatty or salty they are. I must have them.
Around a holiday, most nutritional considerations get eclipsed in favor of the greater good: transforming the ordinary into something special and memorable. And for my family, this includes Bugles. Why?
Bugles are miniature, edible shofars. Not by intention, but by conversion. They are hollow and tapered like tiny horns of plenty, and occasionally they’ve frizzled in the fat long enough to twist into a convincing arc like a real ram’s horn.
We use them as shofars for the Lego and Playmobil people. We use them as shofars for ourselves. We decorate mini muffins with them and sing Happy Birthday to the World. And we do this whether we are 4 or 14 or 46. They’ve become a taste and toy of Rosh Hashanah.
Last week, I came home with half a dozen bags for a children’s program at the synagogue. And then I looked closer at the label. Where was the hecksher, the symbol of kosher certification? It’s always been there. So, I go online and discover what the kosher world has known since March, 2011: the Orthodox Union (who administers that hecksher certification) has discontinued kosher certification due to “operational changes in the production sites.”
My synagogue has rules about such things. These bags, because of the sudden disappearance of two letters, will not be allowed in the building. I might just as well try serving pigs-in-a-blanket.
I contacted General Mills, the manufacturer of Bugles. They told me the 7.5 ounce Original Flavor is the only kosher variety, and that “the Orthodox Union Dairy Symbol will be on the package of bugles.” Will be? Future tense? When will the symbol be there? Not in time for my program, as I learned by driving all over Nashville, examining 7.5 ounce bags of Bugles at stores with heavy snack turnover. So, my Tot program will have to muddle along without the ever-popular Bugles. Surely there is some other cone-shaped goody out there, right?
Guess what? There is no other snack or candy or cereal shape that even comes close to mimicking a shofar. Sure, I could make something. But my days of buying ingredients, mixing them in the synagogue kitchen (because nothing made off-site is kosher enough), baking thin crackers or butter cookies until barely set and then wrapping each damn cookie lightly around the heat-proof handle of kitchen utensil to coax a shofar-shape are SO over. I need store-bought, thematic snacky-ness and I need it now.
If you or your facility of choice do not keep so kosher, more power (and more Bugles) to you. My fingers are crossed that the certification will be back on those glossy packages by next fall.
The shofar as a ritual object has several functions, and at the most basic level its sound is a warning, an alert, a call. The Bugles’ function this year is to warn me to not take anything for granted. Even a ridiculous corn chip with 8 grams of saturated fat in every festive, fabulous, Jewish serving.