Do You Mind If It’s Kosher?

When I’ve been in Israel, a few people who know me and know I’m not Jewish have asked me this about meat.  Apparently there’s some kind of meme going around in the Jewish world that goyim don’t like kosher meat because it’s not as tasty, or is tougher, or something.  I’ve personally never had a problem.

In fact, I’m always delighted to be in Israel and eating kosher, because I have a pretty severe dairy allergy, as well as being lactose intolerant (so I get the fantastic gastrointestinal symptoms, plus coughing, wheezing, and an itchy rash on my hands, feet, and face), and as long as I’m eating things that are basari or pareve, I know there’s no chance I’m going to be “lactosed” by stray modified milk ingredients slipped into some meat product (as is disgustingly common in North America) or something.  Even before I made the decision to convert, I’d deliberately seek out a lot of products with heckshers, as they’re an easy, “don’t-have-to-read-the-label” way of determining if something has dairy in it or not, with the exception of some dairy heckshers, which signify “pareve products made on dairy equipment,” or what I refer to as “CYA halavi.”*  Osem baked goods, while slightly on the “edible oil products”  side of things, are wonderful, and they make excellent pareve chocolate chip cookies.  (Whoops, guess I’m going to need to tag this entry under “shameless plugging” too.)  North American food manufacturers could really learn a few things from Osem, especially now that Hollandia has started putting whey powder and things in their products (noooooooooooooo!).

One of the best things about getting to go to my work’s Jerusalem office two and a half years ago or so is that they have two large cafeterias, meat and dairy, which meant I was able to go into the meat cafeteria and eat anything I wanted without having to worry about whether or not it contained dairy, which I absolutely cannot do pretty much anywhere at home.  The only way I know I’m absolutely “safe” is if I make things myself.  (Of course, after I start keeping kosher for real, this is also going to be the only way I’ll be able to eat much of anything here, since we have no kosher restaurant.)  Even Israeli hotel breakfasts, which are generally dairy and/or fish meals, have lots of reliably pareve options, as long as you don’t mind eating tuna (or other fish) and salads for breakfast, which I emphatically don’t.  (Although, the tuna is packed in oil, so it tastes a bit funny to those of us who eat water-packed at home, and is higher in calories than a North American person might expect.)

Just as an experiment, a while ago, I broke my ethical rule against buying kosher meat here in town to try some kosher hot dogs, and they were really good.  They tasted like, you know, actual food, instead of (how we’d joke about them in my misspent yout’) “lips and assholes.”  My friend RH opined that it probably was because kosher hot dogs use a better class of meat than the non-kosher kind.

Also, as a related note, the non-dairy meal (which was also probably de facto kosher, but not marked as such) I had on the plane coming back from Israel the last time (meaning it was prepared and loaded in Israel) was much better than the non-dairy meal I had going to Israel (prepared and loaded in Canada), as apparently to Air Canada’s Canadian operations, “non-dairy” also means “gluten-and-everything-else-including-taste-free”.  It was, you know, normal food, and not some kind of grudging approximation of food as dreamt up by a sadistic airline caterer.

So even though I’m still slogging through my Laws of Kashrus book, I feel like I’ve been relatively deep in the exploration of practical kashrut for a while now, and it’s quite manageable, and even has some unexpectedly pleasant side effects.  (Though kosher-for-Passover chocolate is horrendous beyond the telling; worse than Hershey’s.  But that’s okay, even I can live without chocolate for eight days!)

___________

* Some readers may be more familiar with the Yiddish terms fleischig (meat) and milchig (milk) instead of halavi and basari, their Hebrew equivalents, but I’m pretty much Hebrew all the way through.

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