| Really Jewish Eating..
is significant that one of the first commandments
given to human beings concerned food. Adam and
Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the Tree
of Life. Ever since, Jews have always placed great
emphasis on gastronomic self-control.
main principles of Kashrut are laid down in the
Five Books of Moses and are classified as "statutes"
- no reason is given for keeping them other than
we are commanded to do so. Nevertheless Rabbis
have always stressed their essential role in preserving
keeping Kosher, children from an early age learn
discipline, distinguishing between what is permitted
and what is not. Beyond the exercise of self-restraint,
the Rabbis in the Talmud came up with another,
more mystical idea. If you eat non-kosher food,
they said, it reduces your spiritual capacity
- "clogs up the pores of your soul."
as a healthy diet is good for the body, so we
keep kosher because it's good for the soul. In
the Jewish home, the table is an altar, the kitchen
is a domestic sanctuary.
Central to maintaining a kosher lifestyle is the
separation of meat from milk. The prohibitions
against mixing them are very strict, in some respects
more so than other Kashrut regulations.
example, you can't eat crocodile because it's
not kosher but you can wear crocodile-skin shoes.
But you are not allowed to derive any benefit
at all from the mixture of meat and milk. So while
Jews are allowed to work as chefs in non-Jewish
restaurants (provided of course they don't taste
the food), they may cook the burgers, but not
people are meticulous enough to even check their
dogs' or cats' pet food to ensure there is no
milk-powder among the ingredients.
idea of stringent separation explains why it is
necessary to have different sets of cutlery, crockery,
cooking utensils and washing-up-bowls for meat
and dairy meals. A dishwasher should be used either
for meat or milk dishes but not both.
that is neither meat nor dairy is called 'pareve'
- neutral - and pareve utensils like salad bowls
or drinking glasses can accompany both milk and
meat meals. Ordinary non-absorbent glass may be
designated pareve. But Pyrex and other oven proof
dishes glass must be designated either meat or
not only avoid mixing meat and milk at the table,
we also abstain form eating dairy foods after
meat until some time has elapsed. The Shulchan
Aruch, the Code of Jewish law, actually records
two traditions, one of waiting for one hour (which
the Dutch still adhere to) and one for six. The
prevailing Anglo-Jewish custom is to wait for
three. In the case of eating meat after milk,
the same interval applies only after eating, hard
in order to prevent confusion, bread should always
be pareve - so it must not be made with butter
Another rule is not to eat fish and meat together
- but for a different reason to that of meat and
milk. It is simply that the Rabbis, advocates
of a healthy lifestyle, believed it physically
harmful. So you shouldn't use Worcestershire Sauce,
which is made from anchovies, in the preparation
of a meat dish.
perfectly okay to eat meat immediately after fish
and vice versa, say a salmon canapé after
a cocktail sausage at a reception. But it is the
custom to cleanse the palate first by having some
bread or a drink. This may explain the reason
why many people drink a Le'chaim - a toast in
whisky, vodka or another strong liquor - after
the gefilte fish at the Shabbat table before moving
on to the next course.
The basic rules about which animals, birds and
fish are kosher are set out in Leviticus chapter
11. As for red meat, the animals must have cloven
hooves and chew the cud - such as goats, sheep,
cattle and deer.
is no longer available for kosher tables only
because, according to agricultural regulations,
deer must be shot in the open field, not brought
into an abattoir. But in the 19th century, Kosher
butchers used to go down to the Rothschilds estate
once a year to preserve the tradition of shechting,
slaughtering deer in England.
The Torah lists only the birds which are forbidden
to eat, such as ostriches, owls and vultures.
We cannot be sure however of the true identity
of the species listed. But by tradition, we can
eat poultry such as duck, chicken goose and turkey,
and also pigeon, pheasant and partridge. A Germanic
tradition also allows sparrow!
Kosher meat and poultry must be prepared by the
hallowed method of shechitah - a swift cut by
a razor-sharp knife - which Jews believe to be
the most painless means of slaughtering the animal.
After shechitah, the animal must undergo a thorough
inspection (bediko) to check if there are any
blemishes which according to Jewish law render
it unkosher. The lungs of cattle and intestines
of chickens are always checked.
is where the term "glatt kosher" comes
in. In the case of cattle, if the lung is free
of adhesions, it is termed "glatt" -
smooth. If there are adhesions, the animal may
still be kosher - though not glatt - provided
these leave no hole when they are taken off.
Before the meat reaches the shop counter, there
is one more process to undergo - nikur, porging.
This entails the removal of a number of veins
and forbidden fats. Because porging is so tricky
in the hindquarters of an animal, it is not carried
out in most Diaspora communities and this part
of the animal is sold to the non-Jewish market.
The hindquarters, incidentally, contain the sciatic
nerve which the bible mentions as shunned by the
Children of Israel because it was where Jacob
was wounded in his wrestling match with the angel.
Finally to be fit for Kosher use, the meat must
be drained of any remaining blood - the consumption
of which is strictly forbidden by the Torah. That
is why it must be soaked and salted before food
preparation. Nowadays, most meat is koshered before
sale by the butcher, thus sparing the consumer
however, usually does need to be koshered at home
and since it is full of blood, it has to be roasted
by a naked flame. Maybe chopped liver became popular
because it was the best way to serve liver after
Because of the strictures against blood, it is
customary to check eggs that have been opened
before cooking, so as to reject any with blood
spots. There's no requirement, however, to check
them before hard-boiling. White eggs on sale commonly
have fewer blood spots than brown ones not for
any biological reasons: it is simply that in the
factory "candling" process, white eggs
with bloodspots are easier to detect and thus
they are rejected before they reach the shops.
Whilst there are a few available varieties of
kosher meat or poultry, this is not true of fish.
The sea's almost the limit. Like television, the
fishmonger's counter was once in black and white.
Now through all kinds of exotic imported species,
it offers a rainbow of choice.
have always had a soft spot for fish - the Israelites
even moaning about the absence in the wilderness
of the fish they got in Egypt!
comply with kosher requirements, a fish must have
fins and easily detached scales. The scales of
a sturgeon are extremely hard to remove - hence
it is non-kosher, as is it's precious roe, caviar.
All shellfish, eels, shark, monkfish, huss and
catfish fail the kosher test. Fresh or frozen
fish should be bought with the skin on so you
can check the scales.
Whereas eating pork involves a single transgression,
eating a fly, worm or other kind of creepy-crawly
involves several. The Torah is very explicit in
its ban on insects so fruit and vegetables liable
to be infested with them have to be thoroughly
scrutinised and cleansed.
looks like a nice green lettuce leaf, on closer
inspection may resemble insect motel. Other tricky
customers are parsley, asparagus, spring greens,
broccoli and watercress.
bugs visible to the naked eye have to be removed:
one way is to soak the vegetables in water with
a little salt or vinegar. Another method is to
buy one of the several brands of vege-cleaner
on the market, put some on a sponge and wipe it
across the leaf. Insects also, unfortunately,
lurk in some canned fruits and vegetables: visible
as little black specks, they can be sifted out,
using a muslin sheet.
Since it is not possible to distinguish Kosher
milk (ie. Milk from a Kosher animal) from non-kosher
milk, rabbinical law requires that milk be supervised
from the point of milking until it is bottled
in order to guarantee that it comes from a Kosher
animal. In countries where the source of milk
offered for sale is guaranteed by civil law (such
as the UK), some authorities rule that all milk
is guaranteed as Kosher and need not be supervised.
Supervised "Kosher" milk (Chalav Yisroel)
is widely available nowadays in the major centres
of Jewish life.
When it comes to cheese, though, the rules are
tighter. All cheese must be rabinically certified.
This is because the curdling agent, the rennet,
is often derived from an animal source - usually
a calf's stomach. The Rabbis in the Talmud ruled
that all cheese must come from a supervised source,
even where the rennet was made from herbs. So
vegetarian cheeses cannot be used, unless they
have a rabbinic seal.
Wine and Grape juice likewise must come only from
a rabbinically approved source - but not for the
same reason as cheese. The Sages put a ban on
non-Jewish wine primarily as a safeguard against
intermarriage, believing that by drinking-out
one might end up dating-out. Hence products like
brandy and wine vinegar must also carry a rabbinic
it happens non-kosher ingredients occur in the
manufacture of non-Jewish wines, such as isinglass,
a "fining" agent, which comes from a
sturgeon - another reason for avoiding them.
The Rabbis also discouraged the consumption of
bread not manufactured by Jews, though in a place
where Jewish manufactured bread is not available,
or is of inferior quality, commercially produced
non-Jewish bread can be used, subject to the following
Bread usually contains fat, which may be of animal
(or unknown) origin. There is also the possibility
of an emulsion or glaze being applied to the crust,
or of non-kosher fat being used to grease the
baking-tins; such fat need not appear on the list
of ingredients. Further, the bread may be baked
in the same ovens as non-kosher bread or cakes;
this too would render it non-kosher.
They are usually made with non-kosher margarine.
Those made with butter may still not be kosher,
as tins may be greased with non-kosher fat and
no indication of this will appear on the label.
Cakes present the same problems. In common
with all other cooked products, cakes and biscuits
whose own ingredients are perfectly acceptable
may be cooked in tins or pans used for non-kosher
products or in ovens together with non-kosher
products. For these reasons, each item must be
They contain fats and emulsifiers which may be
of animal origin; even the manufacturers of "vegetarian"
margarine cannot always guarantee that the source
of their emulsifier is vegetable. Only margarine
under rabbinical supervision can be used.
Since the 20th century, Kashrut has had to contend
with a whole new challenge: processed foods. Thanks
to the efforts of Kosher food technologists, thousands
of products on the shelves have been cleared for
use by Jewish consumers.
products carry a kosher label - like the
KLBD, Kosher London Beth Din logo. Many others have
been approved after rigorous inspection of the
ingredients and the procedures used in manufacturing
ingredient and food additive has to be individually
checked to ensure it does not derive from a non-kosher
source. Many seemingly innocent products, such
as yoghurt, may contain gelatine, spices may contain
stearic acid salts, and even breakfast cereal
may contain glycerine of animal
where the ingredients are fine, the product may
still be non-kosher because of other unlisted
agents used in its manufacture - such as release
agents used to grease the production line.
even when a product is guaranteed vegetarian,
it may still be non-kosher if the factory has
prepared it on equipment which has been previously
used for products containing meat. Thus, with the ever increasing
sophistication of food technology. The London
Beth Din Really Jewish Food Guide has become an
essential handbook for every Really Jewish home.