The real thing
Wed Apr 4 2007
Given that New York City has the largest Jewish population of any metropolitan area on the planet, I'm amazed at how hard it was to get my hands on the sweet, sweet treasure that is kosher-for-Passover Coca-Cola. After a week of scouring damn near every deli and supermarket in the East Village, I finally scored a couple of jugs at the Associated at 14th Street and First Ave on Monday evening, and the delicious nectar within proved to be more than worth the effort.
KFP Coke is lighter and smoother than the stuff sold 50 weeks a year, and packs far more of a buzz (as I learned when I suddenly realized I'd been grinding the hell out of my teeth for more than three hours after having downed two big glasses). It adheres to the one true secret recipe, which was actually Coke 2.5: Cocaine was removed in 1903, and, following minor tweaks requested by Atlanta's Rabbi Tobias Geffen (1870--1970!), it was kosher-certified in 1935. But in the '80s, Coke ditched sugar for high-fructose corn syrup in order to save money (conspiracy theorists believe the legendary New Coke debacle was a deliberate smokescreen to obscure the changeover). It's important to emphasize that HFCS-sweetened Coke is kosher under all circumstances except Passover: Ashkenazic Jews follow a custom of avoiding the consumption of kitniyot—"small things"—during Passover (on top of the five grains universally acknowledged as forbidden), and that includes rice, lentils and sometimes even peanuts...in addition to corn. Long story short: In 1985, Coca-Cola essentially became leavened bread.
Enter KFP Coke—look for the canary-yellow bottle cap—which gourmands of all descents anticipate as much as the vernal equinox (as you can probably tell from my surname, my Scottish ancestors outnumber the Judaic ones by approximately 11,000 to 0). Until recently, some lucky folks out West could enjoy the good stuff year-round: Prior to trade agreements between the U.S. and Mexico that drastically reduced corn tariffs, South of the Border Coke—widely available in parts of Texas—was made with actual sugar. But while Mexico may now be in the same boat as the United States, reports persist that Coke sold in most of Central and South America and the Caribbean remains HFCS free.
After finally getting my hands on the real thing, I resolved to take no chances and (following a lead from a friendly Chowhound poster) visited good ol' Fresh Direct and placed an order for 16 two-liter bottles, the maximum they'll allow at once (click here to do so yourself!). In light of KFP Coke's relative scarcity, is my hoarding making life harder for the strictly observant? I'd prefer to think of it as sending a message to the guys in Atlanta: With Coke offshoots now on store shelves, there's no reason for them not to sell the genuine article all year as a premium product, 'cause the market for it certainly exists. I'd happily pay an extra 50 cents a bottle in exchange for honest-to-goodness sugar, and after getting a taste of bona-fide Coke—there's a damn good reason why it once symbolized America as much as Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington and Superman—we bet you would too.