Thursday, January 21, 2010

Creeping toward consistent kashrut?

Some months ago, I had a semi-bright idea--if I had crème caramel instead of a pastry with my hot chocolate when we went for a bite at a local treif (non-kosher) bakery, I'd cut my chances of eating something treif there in half. True, one can't expect a baker in a non-kosher bakery to check eggs for blood spots. But, on the other hand, I can't imagine anyone using lard as an ingredient in a custard.

A few months later, I told my husband that I'd be switching from pancakes to waffles when we eat in a non-kosher restaurant. After all, pancakes are often cooked on the same griddle as bacon, whereas waffles are cooked in a waffle iron, which is used exclusively for cooking waffles.

In December, I called a very old friend of ours to schedule a dinner get-together. Since she's almost completely non-practicing, I didn't know how she'd react when I told her that I no longer feel comfortable eating in a non-kosher restaurant when there's a kosher one only a few blocks away. She took it quite well, I'm happy to say, though I'm afraid her wallet was not so happy about the increase in the bill.

Then, just recently, I read--probably somewhere on the Internet--that it's halachically permissible to drink not only tea and coffee, but, also, hot chocolate purchased from a non-kosher establishment, provided that, if any dairy product is used, it's milk, not cream. (I assume that the beverage would also have to be served in a paper cup.) Wow. You mean I'm not violating halachah when I have a hot cocoa at the local treif bakery?! So I persuaded my husband that we should buy his coffee and my hot chocolate at the bakery, but bring them home, where we could drink them with kosher goodies.

When I finally began looking at the big picture, I was a bit distressed. Sure, we live in New York City, where we can buy not only kosher baked goods, but even cups of kosher crème caramel, at the nearest supermarket. But, unfortunately, not one of NYC's hundreds of kosher restaurants happens to be within walking distance of our apartment. So, if I were really serious about trying not to eat in non-kosher restaurants, at least when we're in the New York metropolitan area, what was I supposed to do when we felt like grabbing a bite "out," but didn't feel like getting on the subway?

Who would have thought that frozen kosher pancakes would be my "salvation?"

Did I ever mention that, since my cooking skills are largely limited to boiling water, we're been eating pancakes "out" ever since our then-young son refused to eat my homemade pancakes? So we've come to think of pancakes as a treat.

Now, when we want something special and don't feel like either cooking or schlepping, we can just pop some pancakes into the microwave, and we're both not only happy, but also halachically correct. :)


Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Do you recall why there would be a distinction between milk and cream as to the kashrut status of the hot chocolate?

I'm not sure I understand what you found that's "new". I recall Eggo waffles and pancakes having a hecksher. And with Morning Star Farms and the like, I can make an absolutely delicious lasagna with "sausage" (or have tacos with "meat" and cheese!).

And, isn't it just easier to make the coffee and hot chocolate at home? Even those big dispenser machines ultimately use a mix not unlike what comes in the store-brand packet. Just juice it up a little with some milk or cream. If you really want to live it up, buy a can of Hershey's Cocoa, and pre-mix your own personalized hot cocoa mix; spoon some into a mug, add milk, stir and heat in the microwave. For a gourmet touch, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.


Thu Jan 21, 02:26:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

If I remember correctly, a ruling was made by a well-respected Orthodox rabbi (Rav Moshe Feinstein?) that plain milk did not need rabbinic supervision, but cream did.

I know there's nothing new about kosher frozen pancakes and waffles. It's just that we were in the habit of eating pancakes and waffles "out," as a treat, and never thought to buy them for home consumption.

I love "fake" fleishigs! Unfortunately, most of the fake meat products are made with yeast, which gives me some health problems, so I try to limit it. But (most?) Zoglo parve burgers, parve "chicken" products, etc., are yeast-free (though they're hard to find because they're sold mostly in kosher stores), and Yves Meatless Ground can be used to make a tasty parve "meat" sauce.

We actually have a legitimate reason for buying coffee "out"--my husband decided several years ago that he shouldn't keep coffee in the house, lest he drink too much of it. Being forced to leave the apartment to buy a cup of coffee results in him rarely having more than two cups a day.

Thu Jan 21, 03:56:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

If you really aren't good with cooking pancakes, but want to add your own ingredients like chocolate chips and the like, try Batter Blaster. Kosher and organic - what's not to like. As with all pancakes, be prepared to throw away the first ones you put in the griddle. I think of it as a korban mincha for today :>).

Thu Jan 21, 04:22:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Woodrow said...

I can relate. Now that I'm (temporarily) in a bigger city, I find myself eating at kosher (or at least vegetarian) restaurants more and more - especially when I'm in a part of town with kosher restaurants (which is not everyplace, since I'm not in NYC).

But I'm not ready to go too far when I am back home (let alone staying at my parents' house- my sense is that just not eating chicken is pushing them to the edge of their tolerance!)

Thu Jan 21, 04:26:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

These days most people who drink milk require a hecksher on it. The dividing line is between those who require continuous close supervision (which is called chalav yisrael) and those who accept Rav Moshe's heter that the FDA watches the milk supply closely enough (called chalav stam or chalav haCompanies).

The reason that today we want a hecksher is that people are more machmir than they were then about additives added to the food. There was a good example of this in New England 10 to 15 years ago. At one time, Hood Milk was certifed by the OU while Garelick milk was not certified. The reason for this actually wound up in a set of ads. Garelick advertised that they used all natural ingredients for their milk, while Hood used synthetic vitamin D. Hood revealed in their ads that the source of the natural vitamin D in Garelick milk was shark liver.

There was much less than 1 part in 60 of shark liver extract in Garelick milk. Nevertheless, because it was intentionally added, the OU and other major agencies refused to certify it, since the rule of nullification in 60 only covers unintentional additions.

Thu Jan 21, 04:28:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I think of it as a korban mincha for today :>)." Good one. :) If either of us gets ambitious, maybe we'll try Batter Blaster.

" . . . I'm not ready to go too far when I am back home . . ." I know what you mean. I'm considering writing another post on the subject of kashrut consistency. Stay tuned.

Larry, you may already know that the Conservative Movement's ruling declaring all U.S.-made dairy products kosher was based on U.S. Department of Agriculture supervision (if I remember correctly). It appears that Rav Feinstein and the Conservative rabbinate made their rulings concerning the kashrut of milk using similar logic.

Thu Jan 21, 05:06:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

arry, you may already know that the Conservative Movement's ruling declaring all U.S.-made dairy products kosher was based on U.S. Department of Agriculture supervision (if I remember correctly).

The question is what is meant by the statement all dairy products are kosher. I understand the ruling on cheeses. But a cheese pizza baked in the same oven as a pepperoni pizza is not kosher, and the USDA has no interest in monitoring for such circumstances. Same thing for any product containing dairy as an ingredient, as opposed to being a diary product itself like butter and cheese.

Thu Jan 21, 09:53:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, I have another post in the works that may touch on that issue, as well as on Woodrow's point about the limits to some people's tolerance of other people's kashrut observance.

Thu Jan 21, 10:14:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite memory of Kashrut confusion dates way back to when "non-dairy" creamers first came on the scene.
My aunt, didn't realize that non-dairy really wasn't without milk products but items like coffeemate.
She was just about to put a carton on the fleishig tablecloth when I grabbed it.
Had to point out the dairy ingredient to her.
Poor Aunt Esther...

Thu Jan 21, 11:06:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oy vey, I've run into that problem so many times that I think I've already blogged about it twice! I never cease to be amazed at the number of kashrut-keeping Jews who don't know that sodium caseinate, an ingredient of most unhechshered "non-dairy" creamers, is dairy. The US Department of Agriculture's standard is designed for consumer protection--according to the USDA, it's false advertising to label a product "dairy" unless it contains a certain minimum amount of milk. But, according to kashrut standards, a product can't be labeled parve unless it contains *no* milk (or no more than a sixtieth?)!

Thu Jan 21, 11:22:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Woodrow and Larry, I've addressed some of your points in the sequel to this post.

Fri Jan 22, 08:28:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Joe in Australia said...

I recall reading that some creams are thickened with gelatin. I don't know whether that was the basis for the ruling you heard, but that's what I read.

Sun Jan 24, 08:43:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Oddly, my observant friends in Toronto do not require a hecksher on their cream, even though the cream has many ingredients besides cream itself. They didn't know why past 'community standards'.

Mon Jan 25, 08:37:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Joe, if it's true that some creams are thickened with gelatin, I can see why the rabbis would want to supervise the production of cream.

Larry, that does seem odd.

Tue Jan 26, 10:10:00 PM 2010  

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