a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

I’m “Kosher”…now what?

Posted on: September 12, 2010

I’m kind of a foodie.  I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to try new restaurants, I love trying to recipes and it occurred to me last night that even though NYC may as well be called Little Israel in certain neighborhoods, being Erika-Style Kosher and eating out is going to be lots harder than I anticipated.

For instance, last night we went out to dinner and I didn’t eat a kosher meal.  I was uncomfortable with it, but realize that like quitting smoking or giving up any other vice, it’s best to take baby steps and not bite off too much at one time.  We had a burger, it was sustainable, organic, and local and I had it without cheese which was torture.  I’m confident it was my last burger because, I’m sorry, but it’s just not worth it without goat cheese or blue cheese on it.

Walking home Mirs suggested that I could possibly use soy cheese or something of the such instead.  I argued that most soy cheeses, while they’re vegetarian, may not necessarily be Parve, because they share equipment with dairy and therefore could be considered Dairy, thus making it impossible to eat with a burger.  I also fretted over the glass of wine I enjoyed with my last burger resolving to never drink wine out again unless I was eating at a Kosher restaurant and instead would have to opt for beer or, gasp, a non-alcoholic beverage.

I realized that my obsession for desserts of a chocolate variety would also have to be halted because unless I had a fish dish for dinner that was cooked in oil, not butter, I couldn’t enjoy say, a warm flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream.  Is it worth it, giving up all of these things that I love to eat for the sake of keeping kosher that’s not really kosher?

Yes.  For me it is.  I suppose a particularly observant Jew would tell me that I was wasting my time.  I cannot separate utensils in my home, I cannot separate dishes.  I will, inevitably have to eat a meat dish one a plate one night and a dairy dish on the same plate the following day.  Even if I purchased separate dishes, I don’t physically have the space to keep them separate in my apartment that doesn’t have a real kitchen.

In my fake kitchen I have a refrigerator that is quite possibly the smallest “full sized” refrigerator I’ve ever seen.  It’s full sized in that it has a separate door on top for a teeny time freezer and a door below for the refrigerator.  For the first time in my life I’ve had to think about how much frozen food I buy and how many large bottles of juice, for instance, I can buy because of the lack of space in my fridge.  I can barely fit my Brita Pitcher with a bottle of wine and a container of Soy milk on one shelf so separation there is impossible.

Given these restrictions the observant Jew would say quite heartily that I’m definitely not observing kashrut, but I’d argue (the beauty of Judaism) that I’m doing what I can, given the space that I’ve been blessed with.  My mantra is that it’s a marathon not a sprint and I acknowledge that there are going to be bumps along the way.

One of the things I read over and over again about observing kashrut is that it allows the Jew to make a conscious decision about what they are putting into their bodies.  It allows me to think about the food as more than just food.  It sounds odd because that’s what it is, it’s purpose is to sustain my life.  Before, though, it was something that I did because it gave me pleasure and most of the time that pleasure was not good for me, my health, my body.  It didn’t aid my temple more often that not it was destructive.  I cannot tell you all of the things that I love to eat because it’s too sad to think about but let’s just say making the decision to observe kashrut allows me to really think about what I’m going to eat.  It’s sort of the same way that I chose my food before.  I looked for organic labels, cage-free, free range, fair trade, sustainable…now I’m looking for a little label that tells me that it’s kosher.

So what to do with this grocery shopping and dining out dilemma?  I’m sure I’ll figure it out, it is NYC, after all.

3 Responses to "I’m “Kosher”…now what?"

Did you see, http://www.forward.com/articles/133979/?

Interesting. I’ve sort of given up on Kosher…it was really hard and I didn’t try that hard. We shall see, I really want to try to get it right, well as right as I can.

I thought one day, if i don’t ever get to make aliayah, i could always visit NYC ( little israel )…..

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