Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Year's Pancake Brunch/The Politics of Kashrut

Business first: the next Florentin Pancake Brunch will be Friday, December 30th from 11 am to 1 pm. More info here. Pictures from the previous brunch here.

One of the blogs where I cross-post recently asked for permission to alter a recipe because it called for bacon and they were - reasonably - uncomfortable about even seeming to advocate basar lavan on an Israel-themed blog. But that got me thinking (always a dangerous condition).

When I lived in the US, I kept a kosher household for over ten years, despite the relative difficulty and expense of getting kosher meat and other items (I didn't live in a major Jewish population center). I had a number of reasons, though being an apatheist none of them were "because G-d says so". It was mostly a personal-is-political type of decision and, since moving to Israel I've seen how the same factors lead many to the opposite decision.

In the USA, keeping kosher is an affirmative act; one does it to be/show/proclaim one's membership in the small community set apart from the nominal but pervasive Xtianity; one (or at least I) spent a lot of time on such issues as the moral implications and interplay between kashrut and animal cruelty, etc. When the whole mess with the Postville packing plant blew up I went to a fair amount of trouble to get my meat from another source, and I was disappointed (though not surprised) that none of the major hechshers yanked their certifications.

Here, NOT keeping kosher seems more of an affirmative act. Granted I don't know very many datim or haredim, but among my secular friends are a number who deliberately do not keep kosher because they want to deny support to the corrupt rabbinut and they see the whole certification thing as a big racket.

In the States I preferred the kosher chicken to nonkosher - due to diet and how they're raised the meat ends up more flavorful and toothsome, and certainly the birds are treated much better during their short lives by Empire than by Tyson or any of the other major poultry producers. 

Conversely, in Israel I hear people complain all the time that kosher beef is tasteless compared to non. I don't find the problem to be the kashrut of the meat. I'm equally unimpressed by Tiv Ta'am's meat counter as Mega's or Shufersal's. I think the real problem is that meat prices are so high here that most people won't or can't spend enough to get good quality, properly-aged beef. There's a kosher natural food market and a nonkosher butcher shop from which I've gotten perfectly delicious cuts, but they cost substantially more than the chain markets. Likewise, I've learned not to order beef at any restaurant that's less than 150 shekels a plate, whether or not they have a teudat kashrut.

As for pork? Well, I'm eating bacon again but I still can't bring myself to put a pork chop or a baby back rib in my mouth. Go figure.

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