Rules to Follow for Kosher Eating


Kashrut: Keeping Kosher

We’re all pretty familiar with the word, “kosher.” It’s on tons of foods at grocery stores, restaurant menus, and the English language has adopted it to mean “legitimate” (it comes from Hebrew and means “to fit”). While it’s great that we’re open to accepting new words, many fail to realize exactly what it is and that keeping kosher is harder than we think. In fact, only about 21% of practicing Jews report that they keep kosher at home and 1/6th of American Jews maintain a completely kosher diet.

Kashrut, the set of Jewish dietary laws, is pretty strict. It’s a popular misconception that kosher foods are just those that are blessed by a rabbi, and while that’s always nice, keeping kosher requires a lot more work than simply reading food labels. There are certain animals which cannot be eaten. By Jewish law, only animals that are cloven and chew their cud can be ingested. Animals such as hares and pigs, therefore, cannot be eaten. Also on the do not eat list are all rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects (with the exception of a type of locust that’s no longer in existence). And it’s not just the meat of these animals that can’t be eaten, but their byproducts. Even the animals that can be eaten have certain parts of them that cannot be ingested, and the way in which they must be killed is quite specific.

Shechita is the special method of slaughter that must be used in order for meats to be in accordance with the kashrut. And while killing animals is sort of a grim topic, it’s part of life, and kosher slaughterhouses and butchers are actually the most humane – and sanitary, hence why they’re exempt from USDA regulations. Shechita allows the animals to be killed quickly, without feeling pain. Kosher slaughtering ensures that animals with diseases cannot be consumed nor if they’re killed by another animal. To make sure of this, the animals get thoroughly inspected, which is why it has a rap for being the best on the market.

The other thing about meat is that it cannot be mixed with dairy. (This is where keeping kosher gets pretty complicated.) Now, let it be known that the consumption of fish is an entirely subject because it’s not counted as meat. To eat fish, it has to have scales and fins. So, if you’re thinking about becoming kosher, remember that you’ll be adiosing shellfish altogether. But at least mixing fish with diary is a-ok (because so many delicious recipes call for that…). However, a pepperoni pizza is certainly out of the question. The Torah prohibits, “seeing the kid [goat, sheep, or calf] in its mother’s milk.” They think it’s pretty insensitive. And that certainly does sound wrong when you put it like that…

After consuming meat, one has to wait between 1 and 6 hours to consume dairy, or vice versa. But meat and dairy have to be separated everywhere – not just in the stomach. In order to keep with the kashrut, separate utensils, pots, pans, plates, and flatware are needed for dairy and meat. People with dishwashers either need to invest in two separate ones or assign separate shelves for their dirty dishes – because even when being cleaned, they can’t come into contact with one another.

Pareve foods, or those that are neither meat nor dairy, have very few rules regarding their consumption. Fruits and vegetables are all kosher, but should only be picked after the plant or tree’s 3rd year.
Many of these dietary laws were to help keep people from getting sick thousands of years ago, and though much of the kashrut doesn’t really apply in modern times, there was surely a reason for their creation. For non-Jews, food that’s kosher is seen as cleaner, neater, and healthier. And while such views may not be completely valid, the ritualistic, time-consuming process of preparing a kosher meal is certainly something to be respected and honored in our busy world of unceremoniously eating whatever is put in front of us.