More (matzah ball) soup, please

By Matt Won

Zach Teicher ’07 is frustrated, and he’s not alone. He is one of several students who couldn’t find matzah at Café Mac during Passover this year.

“I’m angry at Café Mac because they didn’t have matzah out,” Teicher said. “You have to always have matzah over Passover.”

Passover is a Jewish holiday that commemorates Moses leading the Jewish people through the desert to escape slavery in Egypt. It calls for religious Jews to abstain from yeast products for eight days, leaving matzah, unleavened bread, a staple for the holiday.

Café Mac does not offer any alternative meal plan options for students who observe Passover. The menu for students observing Passover is one item long: matzah bread, and whatever ingenious students can spice it up with. Teicher called the Passover offerings “a form of religious exclusion.”

“They’re sending the message that this is not a school for that population,” said Gretchen Solomon ’06, co-chair of Mac Jewish Organization.

The potential meal recipes for students observing Passover are plentiful and inexpensive, as many meals such as matzah ball soup and matzah meal cookies break up the monotony of the dry crackers.

“Cafá Mac is different from at home, where my mom would make Passover meals,” Gelder said. “There are kosher-for-Passover entrée options, it would be nice to have those for Passover.”

The issue, of course, will not go away.

According to General Manager Lori Hartzell, Café Mac generally tries to accommodate students’ religious needs. Though, she says, “They understand that we’re not a kosher kitchen.”

Hartzell and Executive Chef Michael Delcambre note that Café Mac provides meals outside of traditional meal times for Muslim students who fast for Ramadan. Still, many students see Café Mac’s efforts to cook a wide range of cuisines as either half-hearted or naíve. Kosher hot dogs, for example, are no longer kosher when they are served from a non-kosher dish.

“They need to educate themselves,” Solomon said. “Maybe they do educate themselves and just do it all anyway. If they’re going to do such things, they should do it right.”

Caf’¨ Mac’s problems with cultural sensitivity have stretched beyond Passover. During the recent “Diversity Week,” Café Mac served food representing the home countries of many Macalester students.

The program, dubbed unpopular by many students, ran from April 3-16, and was criticized by some for its representation of cultural cuisine. “It’s degrading to Korean culture to call what they cooked up authentic Korean food,'" said Esther Kim '09, who cooks Korean dishes. <br /><br /><br /><br />Café Mac's general "Hemispheres of the Globe" layout of food service stations has also been criticized by some for failing to live up to its claims of diversity. <br /><br /><br /><br />"It's typical Café MacEast’ food, they didn’t even remotely try to make it Korean,” Kim said. “They can’t just make generic Chinese food and stick an `authentic Korean’ label on it.

Hartzell and Delcambre say they enjoy serving the wide variety of foods that they believe Macalester students demand. Additionally, Hartzell believes Caf’¨ Mac has taken many steps to accommodate students’ religious observances. “We are really flexible,” said Hartzell.

Solomon makes her own arrangements in order to keep kosher for Passover. In past years, when she was on the meal plan, Solomon visited relatives in Philadelphia during Passover. Now, as a resident of the Hebrew House, Solomon maintains a kosher kitchen on campus.

The reality remains that many students wish they did not have to look outside Café Mac for a full eating experience during Passover. “It would have been nice if they’d had some kosher-for-Passover desserts,” Gelder said. “The Jews like sweets too.”

Contributing Writer Ted Clement contributed reporting for this article.