It’s dark, I’m driving around Hollywood, I’m hungry, and it’s Passover. What to do?
The cardinal rule of Passover is never to eat any kind of bread for the entire eight days of the holiday.* Beyond that there are lots of gradations of – and controversy about – what may and may not be eaten; hard core observers won’t eat any prepared food that’s not stamped “Kosher for Passover” (I’ve even seen kosher for Passover toothpaste). I stopped at a kosher market, but the ready-to-eat Passover pickings consisted mostly of chocolates and tired-looking cookies. The jar of gefilte fish in the fridge at home was beginning to sound appealing.
Then – Holy Moses! – it appeared over Sunset Boulevard like sunrise over the Promised Land: the In-n-Out Burger sign, glowing red and white with its trademark yellow arrow. I’d heard about but never tried In-n-Out’s “protein-style” burger on its not-so-secret menu (everybody knows about it, but it doesn’t appear on the menu board). Protein-style, get this, replaces the bun with leaves of iceberg lettuce!
Man oh manna.
An important disclaimer here: there are many different kinds of Jews with many levels of observance. Some people require kosher meat (this is not), some require rabbinic supervision (this doesn’t have it), some won’t eat any food during Passover that might possibly have come into contact with bread or other forbidden foods (In-n-Out serves countless burgers on buns). If none of that matters to you (it doesn’t to me), then go for it. Other possible toppings include tomato, onion (raw or grilled) and a sauce like Thousand Island dressing. In-n-Out’s French fries are also Passover-friendly; the fry cook julienned whole potatoes (there’s a cool chopper), then cooked them in cottonseed oil before my eyes.
Another quirk of this much-loved burger chain is its packaging, discretely printed with book, chapter and verse numbers from the bible. The burger wrapper reads “Revelations 3:20,” which the King James Bible quotes as “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
This verse has a counterpart in the Haggadah, the book read at the Passover seder: “Whoever is hungry – let him come and eat.” If that’s not meant to be…
* That’s because the Torah teaches that the Jews had to escape Egypt so rapidly that they did not have time for their bread to rise and had to take unleavened bread (matzah) on the road with them.