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Kosherish

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replying to a message by Jim Leff on the Manhattan message board (use link below)

I have many friends who keep strictly kosher at home, but who accomodate to the realities of the business/non-kosher social world by either (stricter types) only eating uncooked fish, fruit and veggies (i.e., lots of sushi [fish, not seafood] and green salad) or (more relaxed types)only avoiding non-kosher meat and all seafood, and thus eating almost exactly like a strict vegetarian who eats fish.

As for Jim's statement that you can't ask more from a restaurant than you can ask from yourself, I think it's perfectly fair in this day and age to expect to get complete and straightforward answers to whether there is any meat or other animal products in a dish. This is not the same thing as asking the restaurant to prepare something differently, it's simply asking the waiter to check with the kitchen. This must be a common enough request in NY (between kosher-types and vegans and veggies) that restaurants are aware of whether they use chicken or veggie stock, etc.

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  1. Elaine--our messages do not contradict each other!

    ciao

    1. I can understand feeling the urge to fit in to the gentile world, but either you're kosher or you ain't. Fruits, vegetables, fine, but if you're eating at a restaurant that uses metal cutlery (as opposed to plastic, and if it's plastic you want, you're in a *strictly* non-glatt BBQ joint somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon), or china instead of paper, you're just not keeping kosher. (BTW, in New York, is keeping kosher really a problem? Pity the folks in places like Dee Cee, with one -- count it, one -- kosher restaurant (and yes, I'm deliberately not counting the kosher kitchen at GWU and the cafe at the JCC).) I've always wondered about this "kosher at home, but not out" stuff. Im my yeshiva, the saintly rebbes taught us that observing the Big 613 wasn't easy, but wasn't supposed to be, either.
      Okay, I've thrown down the gauntlet. Looking forward to a spirited defense of "kosherish," in the spirit of the very impressive defenses against my attack on the Ashkenazic Culinary Hegemony.

      11 Replies
      1. re: John

        a "saintly" rebbe? isn't that as much "discussionable" as kosherish?

        1. re: rossi

          Actually, "saint" in its non-canonical sense is nothing more than a translation of "tzaddik," someone who lives a righteous, law-abiding (Torah miSinai) life.
          As for "kosherish": Calling Allan Evans and Jason Perlow!

          1. re: John

            sorry, but the root of saint is the Latin sanctus, to consecrate.

            1. re: rossi

              "Sanctus" is Latin for "sacred," which means (Merriam-Webster) "dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity : devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) : worthy of religious veneration : HOLY b : entitled to reverence and respect." So rabbis can be saints (lower case "s"), though I doubt too many Saints were rabbis.
              But back to the food.

              1. re: John

                Rossi: for you. From Merriam Webster.

                Main Entry: zad·dik
                Pronunciation: 'tsä-dik
                Function: noun
                Inflected Form(s): plural zad·dik·im /tsä-'di-k&m/
                Etymology: Yiddish tsadek, from Hebrew saddIq just, righteous
                Date: 1873
                1 : a righteous and saintly person by Jewish religious standards
                2 : the spiritual leader of a modern Hasidic community

            2. re: John
              j
              Jason "Deli Man" Perlow

              John:

              I am one of the -least- kosher jews in existence. Of the few things I insist being kosher are supermarket-bought hot dogs, but thats it. The notable exception being Nathans franks.

              I eat pork and all kinds of shellfish all the time -- and as far as deli meats go -- If I'm in a Jewish deli I insist on kosher salami and kosher meats. If I'm in an upscale Italian deli I've got no problems with pork salamis and prosciutto either. Hell for $18.99 a pound at Mike's in the Arthur Avenue market I'm not gonna worry about how it was manufactured!

              My problem is walking into your average supermarket or deli and seeing deli meats of questionable origin. Thats the primary reason I go for kosher or even halal stuff.

          2. re: John

            John - I'm the wrong person to defend "kosher at home, but not out", since I delight in all kinds of traife foods everywhere. (In fact, I once ended an otherwise great relationship w/ a rabbinical student b/c I realized that my love of ALL food transcended my love of him, and I couldn't resign myself to a life without pepperoni pizza.)

            But, I have many friends, raised in strictly Orthodox settings, who have struck various balances in their own lives. The professional cost of keeping "strictly" kosher - not eating out w/ clients, superiors, colleagues - is perhaps still higher than it ought to be. So I'm sure that's one motivating factor. But another thing is - and I'm always jealous of my kosher friends in this respect - the lure of the forbidden adds a special spice to any meal. The giddy pleasure I see some kosher friends take in eating a meal at a Jean Georges or a Le Bernardin (keeping to their rules, but as John points out, violating various teachings of their childhoods) adds the sensual delight of being "naughty" (which most of us don't get to experience after adolescence) to the simple pleasures of eating. I envy them that - most of us have to do something that's actively bad for you to get that thrill!

            1. re: Elaine

              Elaine's tale inspired this haiku (with apologies to the haiku masters):
              Kosher at home, but --
              then -- pepperoni pizza
              Ciao, student rabbi

              1. re: John
                h
                Haikus for Jews

                Have you seen this book? It's hysterical. Get it thru the Chowhound Amazon link. (No personal connection, except that I think they must have been eavesdropping on my family members to write it. The one about the Jewish mother and the Nobel Prize took the cake.)

                1. re: Haikus for Jews

                  oops - meant to put the book title -- Haikus for Jews -- in the subject line on that previous post.

            2. re: John
              s
              Siniah Bat Avraham v'Sarah

              Keeping kosher is a very difficult endeavor in most parts of the US. I work as hard keeping "macroscopically kosher"(not worrying about microscopic traces of food contamination) in this country as my cousins do keeping truely kosher in Israel. In US cities with very large and observent Jewish communities it is easier as well.

              If you think keeping kosher is valuable for the larger Jewish community, then support our attempt to get there a little at a time. In the orthodox community there are family members who refuse to eat in other observant family members homes because their kashrut isn't good enough. They only soak their produce for 20 minutes and not for an hour. They use the same dishwasher for meat and dairy (using an interveneing empty wash cycle) rather than own two dishwashers. Etc. etc.

              Which value is more important, family relationships or layers upon layers of rules to keep a single molecule of milk from touching a single molecule of meat? The extremeism is crazy anyway. Isn't the threshold 1 part in 60? One doesn't need
              separate milk and dairy plates to keep milk and meat separate to the degree of 1 part in 60.

              P.S. There IS a point in time when a woman is "sort-of pregnant" . . . when the egg is fertilized but not yet implanted (3 days to a week), hormonal changes begin. The implantation process itself takes about a day. For that day, implantation (ie. pregnancy) has begun, but it isn't complete and is highly vulnerable to mishap.

              It's a good analogy. Think about it.

            3. Just a couple of points here. First, Kosher, like everything else in Judaism, is subject to tremendous variation. There is no final doctrinal authority, if you don't like the teachings of this rebbe, you go to another one. The existance of glatt kosher, and the differences in practice between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim are only macro examples of a phenomenon that extends to a fine grained a level as the mind can concieve of.

              Today's practices are the result of thousands of years of accretion, each level designed to make it less likely that one would offend against the basic rule. Thus, the milk and meat separation is an incredible elaboration of the command against boiling the flesh of a kid in the milk of its mother. The degree of elaboration that can be peeled away before the commandment as expressed in the Torah is violated is very large, especially in a country that eats so little of goat boiled in milk .

              Second, we are in what, the nineteen hundrred and forty first year of the Diaspora? Does anyone think that the problems of what and how to eat when known Kosher food is not available has not been addressed, and analyzed into its basic particles? There are greater and lesser degrees of uncleanliness, requiring greater and lesser degrees of purification, but the rule is that one must eat, because the commandments to maintain the strength of the body override the dietary laws.

              A tiny example is tea in a glass with a stainless steel spoon, something I am sure that all of us have seen. Both glass and stainless steel, being nonporous, can be used either way, so the "traveller", even if he or she has merely traveled to the corner cafe to see the world pass by a bit, need not rely on the practices of the cafe kitchen to maintain his/her purity.