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Friday, December 9, 2022

The War on Cola

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Now this isn’t a Jewish issue per se, but it is a New York issue. And if a two-liter of Coca-Cola, or Pepsi, or any other variety of sugary, effervescent beverage is a fixture on your Shabbat table (for this editor, it’s Dr. Pepper, though I usually opt for the low- or no-calorie variety), you might want to listen up.

First, the New York State government wanted to tax our sodas. Now, in restaurants at least, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban large sodas outright. Why not just be direct about it and tax obesity? Calculate an ideal height-to-weight ratio for each citizen, and force them to pay a certain amount each year for every pound exceeding said ideal. It creates a similar incentive for weight loss, and is more or less just as demeaning.

We say, the war on tasty beverages has gone too far!

Yes, non-diet soft drinks are a leading source of empty calories (and depending on who you ask, even the diet varieties pose health risks of their own, what with the artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives which can cause cancer in lab mice if you inject several ounces of the stuff into their eyeballs or something). But do you really think that a ban on super-sized beverages is really going to stem the tide of obesity? Since most of our readers (not to mention our editorial staff) are of the kosher-keeping persuasion, allow me to introduce you to something that’s popular in a certain non-kosher fast food chain. It’s called the “Double Down,” and it is quite possibly the treyfest food item in existence, but that’s not why I mention it here. The Double Down consists of bacon, two kinds of melted cheese, and some kind of “secret sauce” (I’ve never had it, but I’ve got a hunch that the “secret” is mayonnaise; lots and lots of mayonnaise), all served between two pieces of fried chicken (in lieu of bread). Now, under Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, sodas larger than 16 ounces will be banned, but this culinary abomination will still be 100% legal (until the newly-emboldened government decides it can legislate the remainder of our diets).

You might take solace in the thought that something so appalling could only exist in a non-kosher restaurant. But rest assured, we have our version, too. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that the deep-fried, pastrami-filled eggroll was originally a kosher invention. And while kosher KFCs may be a rare site (I hear Miami has one), here in New York, kosher schnitzel joints abound.

My point can perhaps best be explained by way of a metaphor: It’s possible for Jews to obey the Torah, and yet still act in a self-destructive or otherwise deplorable manner. You can eat deep-fried schnitzel from morning until night. If the food is kosher, and if you remember to say grace before and after, technically, you haven’t broken any rules. Such a person who engages in gluttony (or other hedonistic pursuits) while technically following the rule is called a “naval b’rishus haTorah” (a lowlife with the Torah’s “permission”). And just so we’re clear, that is not how we’re supposed to live our lives.

Now, let’s apply this concept to society at large. If 32 oz. sodas are banned, a thirsty restaurant patron could simply order two sixteen-ouncers. Or again, taking away one’s soft drink of choice still leaves us with plenty of inappropriate high-calorie choices we can make.

So unless Big Brother is looking to legislate its own version of secular “kashrut” on New York citizens, let’s just stay off that slippery slope entirely. Thanks.

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