Everyone knows (or should) that the symbolism of both Easter and Passover has pagan antecedents: Lambs, eggs, greens—these all represent spring and new birth and fertility, the celebration of which predates Judaism or Christianity. Now, if we could only all acknowledge our close-to-the-land, earth-cherishing commonality instead of chowing down on Red Dye #3 and Carnauba Wax.
Both of these substances exist in new Peeps Oreos, in grocery stores this week. The delicacy consists of a layer of Pepto-Bismol-pink icing sandwiched between two Golden Oreos, which everyone knows are the Frank Stallone of Oreos. But what better way to celebrate spring than by rendering it in extruded high-fructose pink-dye-saturated flattened avian form between two mind-numbingly sweet disks?
First spotted by Instagrammer thejunkfoodaisle at Walmart, PeepsOreos join the tradition of Easter products rampaging into stores the second Valentine’s Day displays have been taken down. Just as Christmas comes earlier and earlier these days—Disneyland was done up for Christmas before Thanksgiving started, and plinky versions of “Little Drummer Boy” are heard in elevators and Rite-Aid aisles throughout the land in November—so too does Easter. It’s yet another way for Jews to be reminded that we live in a Christian country, however much everyone collectively pretends that Christmas and Easter are secular holidays. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Easter is about Christ rising from his tomb. This man died for Christians’ sins, or so I’m told, so why would anyone want to add to them via faux-celebratory cookies that show up in February?
Using religion to sell crap, rather than as an opportunity for community, reflection, and the doing of good works, is as icky as edible bunny poop. Not in His name! Put the Christ back in Christmas, and uhhh, take the “eat” out of Easter? (Work with me here.) Why would you want to ingest SMOOSHED HOT-PINK SUGAR BIRD between two wafers, anyway?? Would this not traumatize the young? (Guess not, since they’re used to biting the heads off chocolate rabbits.)
What is particularly ironic here is that Oreo, the forbidden fruit of my kosher-keeping youth, has tried to answer Jewish longings to belong by spending millions to gain kosher certification in 1997. Meanwhile, Hydrox, the cookie of my childhood, died in 2003. But like Jesus, it was resurrected! The Hydrox website resolutely does not mention O—, noting that Hydrox are made of darker chocolate, with a cookie that is crunchier and with filling that is less sweet. (Than what, one must wonder?) Unlike SOME COOKIES (cough, cough), Hydrox is now free of high-fructose corn syrup and GMOs.
While Hydrox now promotes itself as cool, old-school, and (relatively) healthy, Oreo embraces the new. In 2014, PopSugar raved about “Marshmallow Crispy Oreos” (with pulverized Rice Krispies—sorry, “crisped rice cereal”—suspended in the marshmallow icing center), and The Today Show fawned over the basic-betch abomination of Pumpkin Spice Oreos. Given the success of these controversial items, one really can’t blame Nabisco for compressing a Peep or two. And I am certainly able to acknowledge that what is repulsive to me may be delicious to you, and vice versa. (In grade schools today, kids are taught, “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum,” which means do not sneer at what other people adore, a dictum I just ignored for 500 words.) Look, I am not morally opposed to peas in guacamole. I love me some Raisinets, despite the wee nuggets’ cruddy dirt chocolate. If something in our culture or in stores dismays us, it’s up to us as individuals to #resist.
So fine. Give the goyim their bird cookies. For us yehudim, there shall be matzoh brei, at the appointed season and time (aka NOT FEBRUARY), made at home or in a greasy-spoon diner, as Hashem intended. And for some reason, many of our Christian friends are cuckoo for it. Go figure.
Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.