I have noticed that many people serve “Mezonot” bread, rolls, pita, etc at functions, such as a kiddush, reception or parties. DD’s brand sandwiches are also marked Mezonot, and I have seen many people treat them as such. Kosher airline meals also often come with “Mezonot” rolls. On the other hand, I recently read an article which argues that the whole notion of labelling and treating such wheat-based baked goods—which are to a great extent bread substitutes—is an egregious halakhic misnomer. Rather, one is required to treat such items as bread, ie, netilat yadayim [washing one’s hands ritually], reciting the blessing ha-Motzi Lehem min ha-Aretz, and the complete Birkhat ha-Mazon [Grace After Meals, which extends for several pages—and lots of minutes]. Now all of this may work to my benefit in the long run, in restricting my carbohydrate intake, but who wants to be permanently on the Atkins Diet? Seriously, I am confused (and getting hungry). Can you give me some guidance on this?
Thank you for your relevant and “real-life” question. Due to the halakhic complexities involved, I will only address the practical rather than the legal/conceptual aspects of the matter.
The phenomenon of Mezonot rolls, bread, pita, etc., is indeed much-maligned, especially among American posekim [halakhic authorities]. The anti-Mezonot trend gained serious momentum about 15-20 years ago when the influential and mainstream Orthodox “OU” authorities stopped allowing “Mezonot” rolls with kosher airline meals under their supervision. They still provide a roll, but it is marked “ha-Motzi”, ie bread, with instructions that it should be treated accordingly. This decision was not taken lightly, as it is obviously not very convenient to wash one’s hands ritually while on an aeroplane. (Though it can be done; I speak from experience.)
Nevertheless, in England most, and perhaps all of the constituted Batei Din [rabbinical authorities], including Kedassia, Federation, LBD and Sephardim, sanction the principle and application of the Mezonot bread-look-alike concept. Very simply put, the question revolves around whether the use/substitution of a certain amount of fruit juice (or other ingredient(s)) is sufficient to alter the status of the baked product in question.
I came of age in America, and then studied further in Israel before moving to England. For the first 10 years or so that I was here, I did not eat bridge rolls, and definitely not the DD’s (or similar) sandwiches which are widely available, unless I treated them as bread, with the usual halakhic implications (as you correctly describe in your question). I recall feeling vaguely sanctimonious when I attended a rabbinical gathering graced by some of the leading Torah scholars in the country, and they all tucked in to those sandwiches having recited the simple Mezonot blessing, while I stealthily went to wash my hands and eat my sandwich in another room, so as not to appear publicly more scrupulous than all the learned rabbis.
However I have since moderated my position, in line with the ruling generally accepted in Britain. Indeed, we sometimes serve Mezonot pita at Kesher events.
Incidentally, if you fly from Israel, and you order the “extra-kosher” meal, you will find that the halakhically scrupulous folk at the Eidah ha-Charedis (Badatz) provide a challah-type roll which is clearly labelled, “birkhato: Mezonot”. Years ago, a friend of mine asked Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, one of the leading posekim of the 20th century, about this (specifically Mezonot rolls for airline meals). He said that one should eat the roll before or after – but not with – the rest of the meal. In this way, it may be regarded as a stand-alone snack, rather than the basis of one’s meal (which would necessitate the full after-blessing of Birkhat ha-Mazon). Don’t forget to say the short Al ha-Mihya (ArtScroll siddur p. 200) afterwards, however.
Finally, some have moved on from Mezonot bread altogether, and eat Ezekiel Bread (Google it if you have not heard of it): It is made from sprouted wheat and according to many authorities the blessing is “Shehakol”. The taste and texture, however, is not to everyone’s liking. We are hard to please.