Yesterday afternoon I was running a bit late for preparations for Shabbat, so I decided I’d just got to Publix (Collins Ave. and 65th Street, Miami Beach) only, instead of my usual Friday afternoon trip which also includes going down to 41st Street where there are a couple of Kosher stores. I wouldn’t be able to get challah, but I could live with that, since I could at least get some Kosher bread (frozen baguettes in this case). Imagine my surprise when I enter the supermarket and right around the corner I almost run into a tall display of Anny’s Bread Shoppe challah and breads.
This Publix had once carried Anny’s products, but they stopped after only a couple of months and I was never sure why, since the breads actually sold all the time. Naturally I grabbed two challahs (one regular, one chocolate chip [great for French toasts]) before it all disappeared like a mirage. Needless to say, this made my day, as I was able to do my Shabbat shopping AND get the most exquisite challah in Miami (seriously, if you see this display, grab some and be taken to bread paradise).
Ultimately, however, you might be wondering why I was so excited to see Anny’s challah at the store. It has something to do with my recent trip to Seattle. The Jewish community in the greater Seattle area is smaller than that of Miami, especially the Orthodox segment, yet they enjoy an amazing availability of Kosher food in regular markets in the heavily-Jewish neighborhoods. I visited an Albertson’s that has a Kosher Deli & Sushi Chef, Bakery and Butcher, not to mention a whole Kosher mini-market rivaling the ones in Miami. I later visited a QFC (think their version of Publix) that had also just in the last 3 months expanded their Kosher section to include a Deli and Sushi Chef. Why is it that I, living in one of the largest Jewish communities in the US, arguably the largest outside of New York, have to go clear across the country to Seattle to visit a supermarket that gives me my choice of about 15 to 20 different breads, including artisan varieties, all Kosher? And I’m not even going to get into the topic of prices, which are way cheaper in Seattle than here, where there is a lot more availability.
Frankly, it’s our own fault. We, the Kosher-keeping Jewish community, have settled for whatever we can get from the local merchants, be they gentile or Jewish. We need to demand better products in our markets, and then purchase them to show our support and encourage thier continued presence. I realize that this means that many Kosher-keeping Jews will have to break out of their (IMO bland) comfort food zones, but it will be worth it, I assure you.
Now, to be fair, there are some supermarkets in the greater South Florida area that do feature Kosher departments inside their stores, usually a Butcher and/or Deli. Most of these are Winn Dixie (I know of one in Aventura [at 204th St and Biscayne Blvd.] and one in Hollywood that seems to also have a bakery) plus a couple of Albertson’s in Palm Beach County. What happened to you, Publix? Catch up. Let me suggest starting with one of your stores in Miami Beach (maybe the one on Collins and 65th). And if you already have such a store, how about promoting that fact to the Jewish community? Actually, that goes for all of the markets: promote yourself to us, so we can then support you.
I long for the day that I will be able to walk into my local Publix and buy Anny’s challah (or some other artisan bread) and some freshly-made Kosher sushi to take home. I just won’t be holding my breath.