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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7


I had the opportunity to learn more about kosher food lately. Jewish culture and food is not something I would be very familiar with. It is a cuisine that has kept itself to itself over time but the few occasions I have been exposed to it I have enjoyed what I ate. My first time was at the afters to a wedding in London in the eighties and I have had a few meals since from time to time in restaurants but it has now come in on my radar again. It has a reputation as a heavy, stodgy, hearty and filling food but I would say it is no less calorie laden than any other cuisine. It has its meat, fish, potatoes, rice, vegetables, pulses and breads to beat the band but so does the rest of the culinary world.

It really has a long and complicated history diversifying from its three original Iberian Mediterranean, Eastern European Slavic and Middle Eastern strands that have now stretched across the world with the various Diasporas of its people. I am amazed how strict the food rules from their dietary laws are still adhered to so well, even by those who do not practice the religious bit so much anymore, the cooking and eating guidelines are still very much respected from what I can see. I just do not think I could abide by having such regulation over what, how and when I can eat. Big credit then must go to those that still honour the criteria which are clearly spelled out literally in the ancient religious texts.

The one regulation most people are familiar with is the no pork choice and I was reliably informed it is as much to do with the traditional trichinoses issue in the meat as the stigma of the animal itself. The other is the actual slaughtering procedures of animals which are very important to the whole process especially the inspection of carcases afterwards. The word kosher means making fit to eat so it goes without saying that this is meant to be taken very seriously.

Other less known restrictions are not eating any animal blood or actually cooking on the Sabbath at all but only the gentle reheating of pre prepared dishes and never the boiling of them. The Jewish Sabbath is Friday to Saturday and not Sunday by the way. It is also forbidden to consume anything that crawls especially shellfish so only fish with fins can be eaten. Meat and dairy dishes are kept well apart deriving from another custom and any animals that died naturally cannot be eaten either. All in all it still leaves a long list of ingredients to work with and they certainly still have the variety in their cooking.

Dish wise itself food item like bagels and falafels have gone mainstream. their breads are excellent. Another of my favourites is the chicken matzo soup with their delicious dumplings. They are wonderful at putting stuffing’s like spinach and cheese in crispy pastries. Potato wise the most famous is the latke fried potato cake which is not far removed from the Swiss rosti or our own Irish boxty.

Their slow cooked stews or Cholent are so good as well and not being able to cook on the Sabbath it is no wonder so much care and attention is put into these for the perfect reheat dish. The cooking has changed as the generations have settled in other countries and merged their own culinary customs with native cuisines. The ones who are still passionate about maintaining their identity through their cooking know that their children will pass on the recipes and traditions. Kosher food is one safe cuisine.

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