Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kosher eating primer

Silje (no link because I'm lazy) requested a primer on the details of kashrut (keeping kosher) and Shabbat. Here's a run-down on kashrut:

Basic point #1: no pig products and no shellfish.
Basic point #2: no combining meat products (including poultry but not including fish) with dairy products

Beyond that, there are a lot of complicating factors:

Complicating factor (CF) #1: to really do kashrut "right," your meat products and your dairy products can never touch the same utensils. So I have two sets of dishes, silverware, and pots, one for dairy, one for meat. (I also have some separate things for things that are neither dairy nor meat, like vegetables, eggs, fish... which can use the dairy or the meat utensils but there are sometimes reasons not to.)

CF #2: any processed items that you might buy at the grocery store (cans, boxes, bottles) need to have a special symbol (called a "hechsher") indicating that the component ingredients are all kosher, that all utensils are appropriately separated, and that there is supervision of the factory to confirm these criteria.

CF #3: not all hechshers are created equal. It's a highly political process and kind of a racket. For example, have you ever seen that your toilet bowl cleaner has a U in a circle? Really ridiculous.

CF #4: there are exceptions to #2. Actually, there are exceptions to #1 as well, but they are super nit-picky. Not worth delving into.

CF #5: regarding meat, it isn't enough for the animal to be a kosher animal. There is a special type of slaughter that is necessary for the meat to be kosher. This does not mean that it's any better for the animal; they are kept in just as bad conditions as at non-kosher "farms."

Hm, not sure of what I'm forgetting. Anyone have reminders?


  1. People should also know that kosher does not mean "blessed by a rabbi" - that's my favorite silliness that even a lot of Jews seem to believe!

  2. Thanks, this post (plus the next) was really great! Just what I wanted!