We had just started to get a handle on the the rhythms of Orthodox food traditions in December when we made the turn toward our kosher January. Our focus is on Christian food practices but as the New Testament and early church history demonstrate, you can't understand Christian approaches to food apart from the kosher food laws.
We were over in Seattle when I asked my Facebook friends for some tips on going kosher in Spokane, to which one person suggested the best approach would be to stay in Seattle. Spokane does not have a large Jewish population and we imagined that kosher food would be in short supply at our local grocery stores.
We even stocked up at the Albertson's on Mercer Island that has its own kosher deli and butcher shop. They have an entire aisle that features jars of gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, and kosher ramen noodles, so we loaded up on an eclectic mix of items. We drove back across the mountains with our loaf of challah bread and a few bags of essentials, expecting a month of scarcity.
When the day came to clear out all the non-kosher items from the pantry and fridge we were shocked to find that the majority of our food was labeled as kosher. Noel was the best at finding the tiny cryptic symbols on the food packaging. In case you're wondering, here are some examples of the symbols to look for:
The U inside a circle is the most common of the bunch.
The junk food connoisseur in me was inspired this week to find that 7-11 brand mini donuts are kosher. Just because it's kosher doesn't mean it's healthy.
Jewish dietary laws are known as kashrut and they are derived from scripture passages like Deuteronomy 14 and a long history of interpretation and debate about the details of food preparation and consumption. The biggest adjustment for us has been the prohibition against mixing dairy and meat which has significant implications for the use of a kitchen.
Kashrut requires that you have separate utensils and dishes for dairy and meat, and if you eat dairy you're supposed to wait awhile before you eat meat so they won't mix in your tummy. Some even go as far as having separate sinks for meat and dairy. In order to avoid a hasty kitchen remodel we've avoided meat in deference to our prolific consumption of dairy products. We're getting pretty comfortable with a mostly vegetarian diet.
The highlight of our experience so far was observing the traditional Jewish Shabbat last week from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. We dedicated that time to being together as a family and kicked it off with an epic game of Sardines (reverse Hide and Seek). The girls could have played all night and that first-time family experience has been the talk of the house all week.
We broke off the game in order to attend the Friday evening Shabbat service at Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane where we learned the Shabbat Shalom song. Noel and Lily have been singing the catchy tune all week. We're learning that food practices are compelling when they bind people together in a worshiping community.
I'm still building up the courage to pop open the jar of gefilte fish.
picture from: http://sdfoodtravel.com/?p=142