On Kosher Food

Can you imagine a world without bacon?  Without cheeseburgers?  Without bacon cheeseburgers?  Without shrimp-broccoli-walnut??

If you follow the rules of kashrut (a.k.a. if you keep kosher), chances are your world doesn't include the delights of pork, shellfish, or meat and cheese antipasti.

I work in a hospital that is 100% kosher - from the food in the staff cafeterias to the meals for patients - and I have been fascinated by the intricate rules of Jewish dietary law.  I obviously am not an expert, but I've made several interesting observations and discussed practices with my Orthodox Jewish colleagues.

In the bible, there is are loads of passages prohibiting loads of different things.  One of the main things we hear about is that you can't mix meat and dairy (specifically: you can't boil a kid [baby goat] in it's mother's milk...very interesting parable).  That means no cheeseburgers or pepperoni pizzas or bacon-egg-and-cheese-bagels!  Then, you can't have unclean animals at all, like pig and shellfish.  There is a plethora of laws about animal slaughter and cooking, but one of the most intriguing rules to me, according to my coworkers, is that you must wait about 2 hours after eating dairy to eat meat, but you must wait 6 hours after eating meat to eat dairy (specific hours can also vary by local tradition).  I was like, "whuuuuuut" and my coworker informed me that meat remnants could stick in your teeth for longer so you wouldn't want to mix in your mouth.

Aside from the stuff you eat, there's also how you prepare food: you have to have different utensils for meat cooking and for dairy cooking.  My boss once told me that she accidentally made a big batch of chicken noodle soup in her very nice, very expensive (dairy) Dutch oven and had to give the entire pot to her downstairs neighbor, soup and all.  At work, my coworker can't use the microwave or toaster oven to heat up her food if she brings lunch (probably because if one of us shiksas microwave bacon fat and some of it splatters against the wall of the microwave, it would definitely unkosherize their food thereafter), so for all the years she worked there, she's had cold cut sandwiches or tuna salad or cottage cheese with crudites and stuff.  However, just this year, she discovered that she could put an aluminum tray on top of the toaster oven et voila, hot leftovers for lunch!

I really admire people who stick to dietary restrictions.  I had no idea how careful you have to be before you stick something in your mouth.  Does the box have "OUD" on it?  Did I just eat meat?  It'd kill me if I couldn't eat half of what I do now.  On a totally different note, the rules of kosher food are so intricate and endlessly fascinating and I learn something new every day.