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Question for the Jews

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Does anyone here stick to Kosher/Psuedo Kosher Cooking/Eating?

It seems rather hard to do in many areas, plus with the FDA and all that now, the health concerns aren't as great.

Being half Jewish myself, I seemed to lean away from pork, though I will eat/cook with it.

And as far as shellfish goes, I can't see how anyone could pass up things like lobster, shrimp and scallops.

I know a lot of people who are psuedo Kosher, which means no pork, no shell fish, no meat and cheese, however they will eat beef, even if its not kosher beef. There was a post here about vegetarians eating just non-red meat, does the same apply for Kosher food? IE. if your going to eat non kosher beef, you mise well eat pork.
post #2 of 24
There's all sizes and shapes of adherence and semi-adherence to kashrut. The most important thing you have to keep in mind is that it's not a question of reasoning in an ordinary sense: it's not about health, morals, or any of that, and it never was. It's a matter of law. Furthermore, the Law does not end with Torah: in traditional understanding, God gave the Law through Moses, but that Law requires interpretation and examination by human beings.

For example, the Torah (in the sense of the five books of Moses) does not say that you can’t mix milk and meat. It says that you cannot seethe (boil, simmer, etc.) a calf in its mother’s milk. But over time, the great sages (first priests, then rabbis) have determined that this narrow statement actually means that you can’t mix milk and meat. Because this is furthermore a matter of contact, as inferred from various purity laws, it appears that you have to keep your dishes and cutlery and stuff separate: the only cleaning that would be sufficient to allow you to put milk on something that has held meat would destroy almost any normal dishes. My point is that little of this is really debatable: the Law is the Law, and if you want to argue about fundamentals like milk and meat, you first have to master that Law in terms of knowledge, which means you have to read and master the entirety of the Talmud, which will take you (on average) rather more than a lifetime’s study. As to pork and shellfish, there’s no debate at all: the text is unequivocal.

Within the range of observance, however, there is room for some disagreement. There are disagreements about the strict interpretation of the requisite cleansing processes, for example. The strictest Orthodox interpretations entail that one cannot eat anything that has been prepared anywhere but a strictly observant kitchen. Some Conservative and many Reform Jews, however, consider that soap and hot water is sufficient, and as a result one can eat food made in any clean kitchen so long as eats only foods that are themselves licit. The question of whether meat must be kosher-slaughtered falls into this range as well. And then there is the matter of punishment: it is a serious question as to whether disobedience of various kinds of laws is a moral or a purity problem, and whether those two differ anyway. Thus some will argue that a minor and unintended transgression, as for example if you ate salmon (clean) off a plate that, unbeknownst to you, had once been used for shrimp (unclean), is no moral failing and thus no impurity; others argue that purity has nothing intrinsic to do with morality, and as such the situation in question is impurity and must be dealt with by appropriate cleansing. And on and on.

If you aren’t planning on obeying the Law, it becomes, at most, a question of what you consider “close enough.” If you ask me, though, don’t bother with cute rationalizations based on nonsense: you’ll often hear people saying that the ancient restriction on shellfish has to do with parasites, so modern food standards obviate the law here, and so on. BS, I’m afraid. There is not the slightest evidence in Torah to support this claim, and it is also strongly in disagreement with the range of what we find in Talmud. If you eat shellfish, you’re disobeying the Law, and you just have to decide whether that matters to you or not.
post #3 of 24
Interesting post, Chris. I've just discovered this board and am thrilled to find people who are both knowledgeable about food and generous with their knowledge.

I'm a Reconstructionist/Reform rabbi. Grew up Reform at a time when Reform dismissed kashrut as empty ritual. Now the pendulum has swung more toward center, and at the congregation I belonged to before going to rabbinical school, it seemed that more than half of the members under, say, 40 observed some level of kashrut.

At rabbinical school, we had students who covered the whole range--from eating cheeseburgers and spareribs to those who would eat only foods that were either naturally kosher or bore hechshers--and still others who practiced eco-kashrut.

My own practice is rather liberal. No pork products or shellfish, no mixing of milk and meat in the same dish or on the same table. But I'm okay with ice cream, for instance, following a meat main course (just clear the table first!). I will also mix dairy with poultry (since chickens don't give milk, it's not "boiling a kid in its mother's milk," which, as you may know, was also the position of several talmud sages although, of course, not the one that prevailed. I do "kosher by ingredient" rather than hechsher and am opposed on principle to kosher wines. But that is my personal practice. As a rabbi, I affirmed personal choice, but am very commited to a more normative practice in our synagogue kitchen.

Anyway, one of the reasons I'm happy to find this board is that I get so frustrated by the wonderful recipes I see in Cook's Illustrated, for instance, or my old Julia Child books, and think there MUST be a way to make the recipe work. It doesn't have to taste identical, but I do want it to keep the spirit and overall flavor. I'd love to make a Bolognese sauce, or do a beef bourguignon without salt pork...
post #4 of 24
Welcome hfw :) I believe you'll find what your looking for here, I hope you enjoy ChefTalk.

Thanks for the thread guys...interesting reading.

dan
post #5 of 24
There are different degrees . The same as some Catholics still wont eat meat on Friday.
The one thing that I find is that most of my Jewish friends will not have a Cheeseburger or have a Milkshake with the meat meal. If you are Orthodox, you will adhere to dietary laws. Vegetarians are not eating based on religious views,or items set down in a bible.. In Isreal, the hind and forequarter of the cow are edible because all the veins are taken out. Here labor wise that does not pay so the hindquarter is not consumed. Shellfish crawls and collects dirt in its shells, The animal must be cleffed of foot to be Kosher.
The keeping of the kashruth has nothing to do with the FDA. Also most kosher dietary laws were based on health laws that prevailed at the time.
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post #6 of 24
Bolognese is mildly tricky, because part of its distinctive flavor is the milk or cream used in finishing. But it's such a small amount, used largely for creaminess, that I'd bet you could replace it with very creamy soy milk. Then of course you use olive oil and ground veal -- no butter or pork, obviously. With that, you should be all set.

Boeuf Bourguignon is easy. First of all, you can certainly skip the lardons and use olive oil in place of butter. If you want to get very authentic about it, obviously you're going to have to deal with the lardons, but the butter is trivial. One good way to replace lardons is to make them out of a different animal; the problem is that you're likely going to have to do it yourself, because things like kosher bacon are pretty horrible (in my experience, anyway). You might try salt-curing a duck breast, then cutting it into cubes. That's easy: just mix kosher salt and sugar 50/50, add fresh-ground black pepper to taste, and dredge the duck breast in this mixture (do NOT remove the skin and fat first -- that's the whole point!). Dredge thoroughly, then put the breast in a clean ziploc bag in the fridge, and turn it about every 12 hours. After 3-4 days, if you poke it with a finger, it should feel firm and dense, unlike raw meat; it will have thrown off a lot of liquid, and when you turn the thing you should make sure that it sits in that liquid. Rinse the breast thoroughly in tepid water, and pat very dry with lots of paper towels. Now cut the thing in fat cubes and use in place of pork lardons in your boeuf bourguignon. Not the cheapest thing in the world, of course, but tasty.
post #7 of 24
I was surprised to hear my rabbi say that originally, chickens were considered pareve like finned and scaled fishes. Later, when poor Jews couldn't afford a nice meal for Shabbat- all they could afford was a chicken- the rabbis decided that poultry is meat.

My Reform synagogue observes the rules, "no pork or shellfish, no dairy with meat". But that's a relatively new rule. When I first joined 17 years ago, the rules were "no pork, no shellfish". No word about diary with meat.

I might add that rules for communities varied a bit in the "old country", depending on who your rabbi was and which branch you were part of. For instance, some of the ultra-Orthodox groups follow closely their founders (i.e. Lubavitch, Breslauer, Satmar, etc.). Usually, though, the differences appear to be splitting hair to us outsiders.
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post #8 of 24
There is, too, an apparently growing group who just toss out all the commentaries. They describe themselves as being "biblically but not rabinically kosher."

My understanding is that this approach started with the Messianic movement, but has broadened beyond that.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 24
Actually Karaites way predate the Messianic movement in adhering to biblical rules without commentaries and rabbinic judgments. There aren't many left, and I'd bet it's in large part due to how difficult it is to decide how to apply Torah specifics to daily life if you're intent on living biblically without interpretation. The Mishnah was the first attempt to distill the essence, but for every question addressed, other sages asked, "but what if...?" which resulted in the Talmud, essentially an encyclopedia of brilliant minds arguing with each other "l'shem sh'mayim/for the sake of heaven" and often about stuff that seems unbelievably arcane. Later commentaries came into being because later sages found new situations and the old rules were problematic. But since Jews have never had a universally recognized central authority, and have never been shy about challenging and/or claiming their own authority, interpretations and stringencies multiplied. Essentially, there never was an "orthodox" Judaism until Reform came into being.

But back to the topic--"biblical kashrut" is often what is meant by "kosher-style," so no pork, shellfish, meat-with-milk, but also (usually) no separate sets of dishes/silverware/cookware for milk and meat. Vegetarian is, essentially, automatically kosher. "Essentially" as there are some groups who will not eat vegetables/grains that have not been certified free of insects, processed using machines that produce non-kosher products, etc.

As Chris pointed out, it has never had anything to do with health. In the US we've worried about trichinosis in pork, for instance, so many assumed the prohibition must've been about that kind of thing. But when I lived in Germany 1970-73, trichinosis was unknown and Germans often prepared a sort of pork tartare. In truth, there are three primary historical reasons for kashrut: obedience to divine/Torah law; a constant reminder of religious identity; and, quite bluntly, a way of discouraging intermarriage (if you can't eat with others, it makes marrying them rather more difficult!).

The proliferating rules and regulations are pretty modern and reflect much improved economic circumstances. The poor folk in the shtetls could rarely afford meat, and certainly couldn't afford multiple sets of dishes.

I know: TMI. Logorrhea is an occupational hazard for rabbis!

By the way, a pretty decent explanation of basic kashrut is at jewish virtual library (can't post the link since I haven't made 5 posts yet...)
post #10 of 24
Wow! Thanks for the details on preparing the duck breast. I'd seen it mentioned before, but never with the how-to.

I've not used soy milk at all. Is there one you'd recommend for this purpose? Or for simple tasks like mashed potatoes?

For those of us who grew up outside of this practice and remember and love the flavors, it's a real challenge. As a kid, my absolute favorite Sunday morning brunch was matzo brie (matzos fried with eggs and onions in chicken fat, a cardiac delight)...served with bacon! Even the best turkey bacon just isn't the same. "Beef fry" then was awful, though I understand there are some almost okay ones now.
post #11 of 24
As plain as possible: no sugar, flavorings, or the like. Depending on your local supermarket, you may have to try an Asian market. But soy milk has gotten pretty popular these days.
post #12 of 24
No good and kind God would keep its followers from bacon.

I'm sure its all a misunderstanding.
post #13 of 24
You don't miss what you never had :smoking:
post #14 of 24
Replace the pork with salted lamb bacon(I'm not Jewish so correct me if lamb isn't kosher.) and a little duck fat. It's not the same, but duck fat is better than pork fat, although only by a little, anyway and the lamb belly, when cut like thick slab bacon, has a similar texture and flavor to the salt pork.

Fire away with any other specifics. I love playing here's what I want to make, but without x, y, and z.(I'm being serious if it comes off as sarcastic in text.)
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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post #15 of 24
Yes, lamb is permitted.

Just to keep discussion functioning, the main forms of commonly-available flesh that are permitted are:

Beef
Lamb
Poultry and fowl
Fish (except a class of bottom-feeders that I think mostly means catfish and eel; I don't think tilapia or flatfish are out but I'm not really certain)

Primary exclusions of culinary interest: no pork, shellfish, or rabbit

I don't recall offhand whether frogs, snails, or deer (venison) are permitted; I think frogs are OK and the others aren't, but I'm not sure. I would guess that buffalo and "beefalo" are OK. Ostrich I don't know -- interesting question; I'll look into it.
post #16 of 24
Chris, the general rule for seafood is that the critter must have visible scales and gills. That's why eels and catfish are out. Makes you wonder about trout, though. At what point to scales become "visible?"

As to game, farm-raised could be kosher, but wild definately is not, because kashruth has to do both with the source of the food, and the method of killing. With large mammals the general rule is that they have split hooves and chew cud. Thus, goats are ok, but camel is not.

Not sure on this, but I don't believe either snails or frogs are allowed.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #17 of 24
First of all, I was producing a list for those who know nothing about this, in reference to the previous post which in passing wondered whether lamb is or is not permitted. Second, we're presumably talking about those who are not sufficiently strict to require kosher meats, or it all becomes a moot point: there's no need to worry whether the meats sold by a kosher butcher are or are not permitted, because he wouldn't sell meats that aren't.
I'm pretty sure frogs are permitted, but as I say I'll look into it, along with ostriches.
post #18 of 24
Frogs, like all amphibians, are treif, i.e., not permitted. Ostriches are permitted; why wouldn't they be?

If we pursue the specifics of kashruth much farther, and I suggest we don't, you may find this illuminating: The Village of Chelm Keep Kosher.

Better to ask, "Why does a Jew answer a question with a question?"

BDL
post #19 of 24
Better to ask, "Why does a Jew answer a question with a question?"

Why not? :smoking:
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #20 of 24
So tell me doctor, are you single?

BDL
post #21 of 24
So tell me doctor, are you single?

Why do you ask, Yentala? Does she have more than just a nice personality?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #22 of 24
Didn't we agree, just for once, not to let the afternoon turn into a discussion about the kids?

BDL
post #23 of 24
OK, I give up. Haven't we milked this discussion dry?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #24 of 24
I don't recall offhand whether frogs, snails, or deer (venison) are permitted; I think frogs are OK and the others aren't, but I'm not sure. I would guess that buffalo and "beefalo" are OK. Ostrich I don't know -- interesting question; I'll look into it. CHRIS
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Chris Snails, frogs are not Kosher.or is anything that crawls Any animal not cleft of hoof is not kosher. Any fish without scales is not kosher. Shark,whale fluke, flounder, dover sole etc. Ostrich can be kashered . Also you can eat dairy and meat from the same dinneware provideing it is made of glass(non pouris) china is pouris.

Also like lawyers in a lot of cases if you talk to more then one rabbi, you will get different answers to the same questions. It is their interpretation. When I was in kosher catering in New York it drove me crazy. One rabbi screamed at me for cleaning a broiler on saturday morning(it was on pilot lite, I did not lite it.) and just as he said that to me the temples sprinkler system went on, I yelled at him telling him someone turned on the electric switch . He told me it was on a clock. I then said to him pilot lite is same thing as the clock no one turned it on., He shook his head and walked away from me....You figure it!!!!!
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