I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw large bags of kosher and cholov yisroel cheese at Smart and Final last week, I myself am not a fan of shredded mozzarella or cheddar, but I knew plenty of people who would be happy to know there was another place to find kosher cheese in the Bay Area. It was also a pleasant surprise when my friend told me that Trader Joes now had kosher salami, I threw back at him and informed him that I found ricotta salata with a CRC on it, there was a moment of rejoicing that there were two other items available that one had to travel 400 miles to get prior to this. Every out of town community with a dearth of kosher options plays the same game, sometimes the rabbi will get up and announce it and sometimes it spreads through the community like wildfire, but when a new hard to find kosher product becomes available you can be sure that someone will mention it to you.
When I lived in Rochester and Albany, the exact same thing would happen. People would talk excitedly in shul about the fact that Wegmans started carrying some new kosher product that required one less thing to buy the next time they visited NY. Once in a while I’ll just step into the small kosher market here to see all those products of my youth.
One of the most popular and ignorant questions from frummy New Yorkers to their out of town brethren is when they wonder how anyone could keep kosher in a place that lacks a kosher pizza store on every corner. The out of town response is usually that they manage without those things, New Yorker transplants will share in their obvious agony at the thought of living in such a backwater place and those who grew up without Glatt Mart, Wesley Kosher and Brachs defend the fact that they don’t need it.
Besides for cheese and meat, I don’t buy any kosher specific products. Most of the stuff I buy like baking products, oils and produce is kosher anyway and I’ve noticed that good cheese isn’t so easy to find in larger Jewish communities. I buy my meat wholesale either way and the only thing we really miss is the wine selection from larger Jewish areas. Sure, I’d love to have more restaurants and a pizza place (in my view, once you have a kosher pizza place you can call yourself a real Jewish community – until then you’re a bunch of hicks).
In the grand scheme of kosher, the Bay Area is a failure. 7 million people and 5 and a half not very good kosher places to eat. It’s a shame, but at least you can get kosher meat and cheese without traveling too far.