The “kosher” experiment

21 Mar

I will not profess to be eating kosher by any stretch of the imagination. I haven’t been eating pork or shellfish (on purpose). I haven’t been mixing dairy with meat (on purpose… mostly…). I have generally been very good at being mindful of those two things.

I shall enumerate my missteps, accidental or non:

  • Days after taking my no-more-pork-for-now vow, I went to a Chinese restaurant and had the most delicious soup dumplings that were very likely full of pork and an egg roll that was very mediocre but also full of pork.
  • At a small diner, I ordered one of the only items on the menu that did not have both meat and cheese  – a grilled chicken sandwich. It arrived on a buttered, toasted bun.
  • The group I knit with meets in a coffee shop, and I had a hankering for a sandwich. I bypassed the sad-looking veggie sandwich for one with roast beef. I peeled off the provolone and ordered my mocha with soy and felt very proud of myself. I took a sip, declaring the soy mocha even better than usual, when a friend points out, “Ooh, I bet there’s dairy in the chocolate.”
  • (I did not, for the record, eat any of the bacon-flavored jellybeans said friend gave me.)
  • I consumed a chicken salad sandwich. On a croissant. After the first, buttery bite, I remembered why croissants are awesome. BUTTER.
  • Today I immediately followed a meal of chicken tenders with some frozen custard, knowing all the while that the meat and the milk would churn together in my stomach.

I’m not beating myself up here. (I know you were so worried.) But the impact this is having on me is to show how difficult it must be to keep kosher, when keeping kosher-style is a challenge. When I plan meals I can no longer rely on many of my old standards, since bacon and I were an item and dairy and meat go together like peas and carrots, in my opinion. We’re eating more vegetarian food because I’d rather give up meat in a meal than dairy.  It is obvious that changing one’s diet for one’s religion makes a huge impact. I definitely have a newfound respect for the practice of kashrut.

But then, I also have a newfound sense of, “Why the heck?” Because, you know, chickens don’t make milk. There’s no danger that you’ll ever cook a chicken in its mother’s milk. The infinite number of possible rules that have been developed surrounding mixing meat and milk in particular make my head spin. Seriously, just look at the Wikipedia entry on the topic. It’s not even like the rabbis agree on this stuff, either. The fact that there are so many rules, and some sort of loophole for almost every rule makes me think it’s all just an absurd practice.

I understand the basic idea about forbidding pork – the pagans sacrificed pigs, so let’s not raise any to eat just in case we’re tempted to sacrifice one – but, at the same time, haven’t we gotten beyond that by now? No one’s sacrificing anything. The temple sacrifices no longer happen because there is no temple.

Obviously, me and Orthodoxy would probably never get along.

And this is not even getting into ethical eating, which is another post entirely.

I am not sure how things will proceed in the future. On the one hand, I love this constant vigilance. On the other hand, it seems so silly when there are other ways I could assert my faith. What matters most to me? I still haven’t figured it out, and imagine it’s going to be ever-evolving anyway.

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2 Responses to “The “kosher” experiment”

  1. Kate March 21, 2011 at 3:23 am #

    But those jellybeans said they were suitable for vegetarians!!

  2. Chelle March 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    I tend to subscribe to the group that says it was done for health reasons, rather than to avoid pagan practices. That is, uncooked pork has a high chance of giving you trichimosis, a rather nasty parasite (or at least it did… probably not so much anymore in the US). And I believe I’ve read somewhere that eating milk and meat together makes it more difficult to digest your food.

    There’s also the fact that all the animals that are ‘clean’ are vegetarian, while those that are ‘unclean’ are meat-eaters or bottom-feeders. The slaughtering practices, of course, are to minimize the pain of the animal. Those go at respecting life.

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