Kosher Food Fight

I’m not talking about the American food fights where globs of mashed potatoes are hurled by gleefully shrieking teenagers—isn’t it amazing that we Americans have so much food we’d waste it in this manner? No, I’m talking about the kosher food fight, where different battles rage simultaneously.

Warning: Take the following with a sense of humor, please.

Kosher Food Fights

There’s the battle of the hechshers (kosher supervision companies). Some of it’s political, unfortunately, but much of it is a very real concern that kosher consumers have for the seemingly infinitesimal number of nuances in kashrus standards. This plays out in a myriad of ways that end up spawning discussions as clear as the one Schrödinger probably had with his cat.

There’s the battle of the minhagim (customs) associated with foods, especially foods for Shabbos and Yom Tov. Does the idea of eating vegan cholent and artichoke and quinoa kugel on Shabbos flip you out?

No? You’re too cool to be phased by that?

Then what about using oil instead of shmalz or serving matzoh balls instead of Pesach noodles on Passover?

What about serving pesto pizza for Mimouna? Or swiss chard soup to break the Yom Kippur fast? Or green tea instead of schnapps?

An informal HJC poll showed (well not a poll, actually, just a chat I had with a friend), that everybody has at least one food minhag they hold to be inviolable, something that binds them with their Rebbe or parents or shtetl or ghetto.

Then there’s the battle of the kosher food magazines. They really duke it out and shell out big bucks to produce  more glamorous, enticing, alluring issues than the competition. Of course, this means they’ve got to work very hard to make each issue over-the-top gorgeous and even more novel than the last.

It was pointed out to me a couple times last summer as well as very recently (by my same, unofficial pollster friend who buys all the kosher periodicals each week!), that the publications have been jumping onto the healthy, real-food bandwagon.  Topics they never covered before, such as sourdough, starters and sponges, fermented foods, sprouting, raw foods, health concerns with soy, the Jewish psycho-spiritual approach to healthy eating, etc., appeared shortly after I posted blogs on the topic.

Sure, it’s probably coincidence, but my response is, even if it’s not: That’s good news! (And thanks for subscribing to my blog—I look forward to articles on sugar and sweeteners, healthy fats, ripe vs. unripe produce, etc. )

Bringing a new awareness to the kosher or kosher-friendly consumer is the entire point of HJC. Understanding why we eat (and overeat) and what the Torah has to say about proper eating and health is HHJC’s raison d’être.

Also important: exploring perspectives about the confluence of mind-body-soul and understanding that even if we’re wise and careful about what, why, when and how we eat, Hashem ultimately determines the state of our health.

And: Respecting the main rule (for the majority of people, there are exceptions) of healthy eating: EAT LESS and trying to apply this maxim, at least sometimes.

I live in Brooklyn with wonderful people and some truly excellent cooks. Sadly, much of the population here eat what I call, variously (remember, a spoonful of hyperbole helps make a point):

The S.O.S. Diet (sugar, oil, salt)

The SOGGY Diet (Synthetic, Ongepatchket, Greasy, Gassy, and Yeasty)

The ABCDEGF Diet (Arteriosclerosis, Blood pressure, Cholesterol, Diabetes and ‘Eartburn, G-d Forbid)

Of course, taste is also important. An acquaintence who was ordered by her doctor to give up salt confided to me, “I can’t do that. What will I use to make the food taste good?” And she’s absolutely right. Denatured staples, unripe produce shipped across a continent, rancid refined oils, and so on don’t taste good unless they are heavily dosed with salt or sugar (or both).

Because we live in interesting times, our true relationship with everything, including our food, is hidden by complex and often confusing veils. It is human nature to compartmentalize. So we apply Jewish teachings to our prayers, chinuch, even business transactions, but somehow, despite the standards of kashrus that are probably as high as they’ve ever been, we forget to apply Torah to our diets.

P.S. I don’t know why this post listed the time as 8:05 pm. It is 3:05. Hmm.

3 responses to “Kosher Food Fight

  1. Great article. An optimistic twist on where is the world coming to… Your blog site is the SOS to address SOS syndrome. G-d is surely giving you credit for that. You can also take credit for that. And I hope, being human, that the people who grew as a result of your blog posts will give you credit for that as well.

    Thanks for purifying the atmosphere (also the atmosphere in my stomach has been benefitting from your wise advice).

    Gitty from Brooklyn

  2. I am so happy I stumbled on your blog. Its a struggle every week at home for what we will serve for guests. My husband and I are not “health nuts”, but we only eat meat on shabbat, and vegan the rest of the week. We believe it’s disgusting to engorge ourselves with things that make us feel terrible afterwards. You can literally feel the difference after eating different food groups. I also believe things should be tasty, but that does not equal artificial flavoring, sugar and salt. Keep up the wonderful writing. Looking forward to more!

    • Thanks Suz, for your comment and compliments. I agree. It is pretty amazing how much people overeat. I remember when I was a kid my grandfather would take me somewhere in the Bronx and buy some rye bread and I’d get the “heel” as a treat. Or he would buy me a pickle or a black and white cookie which was about the diameter of a regular drinking glass’s bottom. One of those was my treat for the day. On the street where I live is a bakery and they sell ersatz rye bread, which is light and fluffy and not like rye bread at all and giant black and white cookies the size of small dinner plates. The entire “super-size” phenomenon wasn’t, unfortunately, a passing trend and has definitely had an impact on the meals observant Jews serve, too. I, myself, feel a bit embarrassed to serve “sensible” portions to guests and tend to put much more on their plates than I know is right. I hope to post more blog posts soon, so please keep reading.

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