‘To be or not to be, [Kosher] that is the question’ Part 2

So it has been a couple of weeks since this new life change about not keeping kosher to the same extent (To read my first post on this subject please click here), and I wanted to provide some updates. The first is that in making this change, I’ve had to read up on kashrut, more than I have in years. When I was eating only kosher meat, I didn’t have to be as thoughtful about what was kosher, and what wasn’t. Kosher butchers only sell kosher meat, so while you know vaguely what meat is kosher, on the more exotic there may be questions. So last week when I was asked whether or not I was going to eat Bison, I had to say, I don’t know and hit the books and the internet to find out.

 This choice is an exploration for me, and I’m not sure where I will end up on it. But the way things are starting is that I’m going to eat meat from animals that are kosher (essentially no shellfish and no pork, with a few others in the mix as well), but I will eat meat that hasn’t been raised or killed as per kosher standards. I will still buy kosher meat when I can, and organic if possible. And I will not overtly mix meat and dairy, although in some cases I am aware that a little butter in a frying pan that beef was cooked in at a restaurant is unavoidable. This was true of my old eating habits as well, because I know when I ate at diners for breakfast that my eggs were probably cooked on the same skillet as that bacon that my buddy’s were eating.

One observation in buying non-kosher meat is that the variance in quality is quite significant. This was a big surprise for me. With kosher meat the quality standards are quite universal. Whether I bought ground beef in Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto, no matter the butcher it was flavourful, had a good texture, and of high quality. This is not the case with non-kosher meat, so encourage those of you who are buying out there to expect more of your meat. You deserve it!

One question I have received a lot is whether or not I’ve made this choice so that I can enjoy better foods. The answer is – No! I encourage y’all to be thoughtful about this as well, because in my experience so far I will say the food I have enjoyed is no better, and perhaps even worse overall than when I was eating a limited vegetarian/fish diet out at restaurants. I may decide to talk about this more in a later post…but I believe this to be true.

 

 

‘To be or not to be, [Kosher] that is the question’ it gives me pause…

To kick off the New Year I’m going to share with you a personal story about my paradoxical delight and struggle in making decisions for myself, in this case specifically about my eating practice. In April of 2008 I tried to start a conversation about my keeping kosher, or rather stopping keeping kosher. I remember quite vividly I was on Broadway when I initiated the conversation, then I tried again in Meindhardt’s on Granville, and then once more on the walk to dinner. I had been thinking about this topic for over a year by this time, and had wanted to discuss it for months. I wasn’t sure how or when to raise it, and was hoping that when I did I would be challenged to an intellectually stimulating conversation – but no discussion ensued. I believe at the time my context was a bit off the mark, which may be why the discussion failed. But up until this point it was just ping pong in my brain that I hadn’t voiced to anyone yet, and it is amazing that in just trying to express the thought that day, even if in vain, it is able to transform and grow. I have since tried to start this conversation with several other people whom I respect, to similarly disappointing results. It wasn’t until the other night when I raised it with close friends that I was even remotely challenged and allowed to discuss. The points well raised here were, first that in not keeping kosher themselves it was hard to comment and second the question as to whether or I am being influenced a result of ‘recent’ trauma in my life. To the first point I am grateful to say they tried their best to challenge me through my reasoning, and it was helpful. To the second I can share unequivocally that those events are not relevant to this. Relevant changes in my life that have happened over the last several years are first moving to a place where fresh kosher food is not readily available and second I am no longer looking specifically for a Jewish partner. I have been in thoughtful dialogue with myself over this subject for almost two years, which is good, but when something is so intricately woven into the fabric of your being, how do you even begin to unstitch, or re-stitch for that matter?

 

The first actual decision I made to reduce the level of kashrut I keep was in September of this past year when I moved to Vancouver. In packing my life into boxes I made the difficult decision to move only my ‘dairy’ dishes with me, giving away the set of dishes I had religiously (lol) used to eat and cook meat on for 12 years. It is a funny thought for me, but it is just now that I realize those plates were 12 years old! Since September of this year I have eaten all meals in my new apartment on the one set of dishes – both meat and milk, with no regrets but sometimes with thoughtful contemplation. I recognize that this may seem like a small change, but to me it was paramount. In keeping kosher I have enjoyed is a sense of comfort, of home, and of community – no matter where I am. But these are not unique to keeping kosher and I do enjoy them in other ritual and experience. But since I decided about the dishes I have continued to excogitate whether or not I would take another step toward not keeping kosher. I have examined the reasons I keep kosher, what it means to me, and what message it sends about who I am. I have considered how life will change and most importantly whether or not this change will impact my spiritual being or my relationship with God. I can talk anyone who wants through my thought process, but since so many, even those close to me have shied away from this discourse, I will spare you. What I am not prepared to change is the way I value and execute thoughtful choices about the food that nourishes me. This value is inextricably linked to my sense of self. How will I execute the next step in this change? I’m not entirely sure yet, in fact I think to some even the change I’m making might still be considered just another form of kashrut. Will I eat bacon, or have a cheese burger, probably not, or at least not at first. Will I still buy kosher meat, absolutely when it is fresh and readily available. And while the cobbler’s children may have no shoes, I will assure myself that even though I’m change management consultant this personal change will be well managed. What will change for you? Probably very little unless you considerably invested in my eating habits, but seriously who would be, however you may notice some differences showing up in how I’m dishing and maybe even in my dishes (if/once I get to exploring that part of my blogging).