How Carob on Lag B'Omer Taught Jews To Be Cynical

Traditional Chocolate Substitute Spawned Generation of Skeptics

Chocolate Seeds?: Carob was a popular chocolate substitute in the 1970s.
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Chocolate Seeds?: Carob was a popular chocolate substitute in the 1970s.

By Lenore Skenazy

Published April 24, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
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“I’m having flashbacks!” Mandy Hass, a Manhattan search engine optimization consultant, wrote on my Facebook page when I asked for thoughts on carob. “Grandma always gave us carob-coated halva as if it was a treat. Blecch!”

“I grew up on carob brownies. Blecch!” Chris Keith echoed. “I still actually make them sometimes, but only to treat diarrhea.” (Social media = too much sharing.)

Another gal wrote that when, as a high school student, she worked in her mom’s health food store, she spent her earnings on candy — at another store.

But whatever misery carob wreaked on our collective tastebuds, that was nothing compared with what it did to our psyches. Like those twin travesties, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, carob scarred a generation to its soul.

“I lived in Southern California at that time, and I had carob-covered raisins pawned on me as though they were Raisinets,” recalled Heather Ordover, a writer and podcaster in Virginia. “They were so clearly not Raisinets that it was one of those moments when you realize: Adults are full of” — well, something that looks like carob.

“If you didn’t expect chocolate, carob brownies were fine,” said Hudson Valley-based Laurie Boris, also a writer. She distinctly remembers the ersatz brownies of her youth. Unfortunately, our eager expectations were dashed. As a teen, scientist Kaminsky popped what looked like a chocolate malted milk ball into his mouth, only to realize the awful truth too late. Maybe that’s why he spent the rest of his life doing painstaking research.

After the carob-covered raisin incident, Ordover says, “Every time some new thing came out that was good for you, or ‘healthy,’ my assumption was ‘Oh, this is going to taste like’” — let’s say carob. This generation grew to understand just how often “good” meant “bad.” For “Trust us,” we learned to substitute, “They’re lying.”

Though carob’s moment as chocolate’s stand-in was brief, its impact echoes to this day. The generation of peace and love turned to embrace skepticism and fear. Government? Relationships? Yogurt-covered pretzels? We eye them all with suspicion.

Of course, if you were living in a cave buried up to your neck in sand most of the day, carob probably looked pretty good. So feel free to “enjoy” some on Lag B’Omer. But otherwise?

Find a discounted chocolate Easter Bunny.

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book “Free-Range Kids” of the blog of the same name. Her show, “World’s Worst Mom,” airs on Discovery/TLC International.


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