Sunday, October 06, 2013

Dueling diets

Just the other day, I read an online news story about two parents who go into the kitchen and check the ingredients being used at every celebration because they have a child with severe allergies.  Many of the commenters seemed to feel that this was invasive, and that the parents should simply bring safe food instead.

All I could do was laugh, because those commenters don't know the half of it--supposing that one's diet is dictated not only by health concerns, but also by religious ones?

What am I supposed to do, waltz into a kosher Chinese restaurant with my own wheat-free soy sauce, and bring my own gluten-free bread and cookies to every simchah (happy occasion)?  That's the fastest way to give a mashgiach a heart attack!

In all seriousness, bringing one's own food is simply not always an option for a Jew who keeps kosher.  It is absolutely not permissible to bring any food or drink into a kosher restaurant--one must content oneself with whatever's on the menu that one can eat.  As for weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations, and other s'machot/simchas/happy occasions, the best one can do is to sneak in a little something in one's pocket or purse and eat it on the sly in the men's or lady's room (WC, for some of my foreign readers).

Shabbat/Sabbath poses particular challenges for those who, like me, live in a neighborhood without an eruv, since, without an eruv, one is not permitted to carry anything outside of a building on Shabbat.  For the moment, I'm lucky--as a member of a synagogue that does not have an official caterer, I can simply bring my own kosher gluten-free oat rolls, crackers, and cookies to synagogue before Shabbat.  If we have to sell the synagogue building (which is a distinct possibility), I may be out of luck.  :(


Anonymous Miami Al said...

I think rummaging through someone's kitchen is poor form. If you have severe allergies and know someone well, talk to them ahead of time. If you don't, bring your own food.

In terms of Eruv, if it's a child and it's life threatening, speak to a Rav, you'll probably be told to carry it lest you put the child's life in jeopardy. If it's for an adult, if you have a medical need to eat those hours, talk to a Rav, get permission to carry. If it's for an adult, and you don't have a medical condition, it's possible to go out, enjoy someone's company, and not eat.

If they ask why you're not eating, explain your allergen, and be invited to check ingredients.

Mon Oct 07, 03:15:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Talking to people in advance is generally a good plan, when possible. Bringing one's own food might actually be easier, depending on (a) how many dietary restrictions one has and/or how severe they are, and (b) whether one's own standards for keeping kosher are a reasonable match for the standards of one's host. For example, as a Conservative Jew, I would usually feel free to bring my own food to the home of another non-Orthodox Jew, but I wouldn't bring anything homemade to the home of an Orthodox Jew.

"Talk to a Rav." Good luck with that--our shul hasn't had a rabbi in years. :( Oh, well, I suppose there's always Fortunately, I don't really need permission to carry, thus far, since my needs aren't that severe--I can live without gluten-free cookies. :)

Mon Oct 07, 06:16:00 PM 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not really sure why you refuse to bring food to Orthodox people's houses? I bring food to everyone's house and have no problems. My kitchen is kosher, and that's that. Denominational labels are pretty useless for this--I'm an atheist, I have no love lost for any of the Big Three movements, and I don't hide any of that. I also keep a strictly kosher kitchen. People know I'm not messing around; in fact, my standards are occasionally more stringent than the MO friends who get all hyped up to eat my food. Generally, though, our practices are more or less identical.

It just seems as though you're putting up a barrier that doesn't really exist. There's no reason why rational people who have gotten to know you shouldn't trust your kashrut. Maybe they'll ask some sort of embarrassing questions (do you use unheckshered cheese? Tablet K? What about wine?), but after that, there shouldn't be problems. It's not hard to strike up a conversation about food with someone in order to suss out whether or not they understand kashrut or not. I'm really sick of this paranoia around whether we can trust each other and who's more stringent than their neighbor. It's unhealthy and antithetical to the idea of klal Yisrael.

Mon Oct 07, 10:49:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I'm not really sure why you refuse to bring food to Orthodox people's houses"

Truth to tell, I'm not sure I know the rules well enough to trust my own kashrut--I was not privileged to received a Jewish-day-school education, and am still catching up. A few years back, one (or more?) of my commenters--probably Miami Al, Larry Lennhoff, or JDub--commented that it's actually somewhat difficult to treif a kosher kitchen, and that non-Orthodox Jews tend to be unneccessarily strict precisely because they don't know the rules. I'm not so sure about the first, but the second is probably true of me. We've been keeping a kosher kitchen for 30 years now, yet there are still rules (such as Davar Charif/”Sharp” Foods) that we just learned within the past decade. I tend to err on the side of caution because I don't know what other rules I've haven't learned yet.

Tue Oct 08, 11:04:00 AM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

. . . and because our synagogue has no rabbi whom I could ask.

Tue Oct 08, 11:11:00 AM 2013  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Are you planning to cook in their kitchen? You're talking about bringing something homemade to be heated up on the blech/plata or eaten cold, I don't know what your issue is.

Passover is a different story, people go crazy over Pesach. But for a typical Shabbat meal, if invited out, just bring it before Shabbat and explain you're on a very restricted diet.

We have conservative friends, not strictly observant friends, and not at all observant friends. We have friends with kids with severe food allergies, friends with kids who are extremely picky eaters, etc, people bring food and eat with other Jews.

Our non-observant friends normally bring wine, or cut up fruit, but if they had food allergies, they'd bring food... and I'm talking about our friends that drive over to our house on Shabbat/Yom Tov, lack kosher anything, etc.

You'd know if someone was crazy (and likely not know them well socially), and the issue is unlikely to come up.

Seriously, we have non-observant friends over, we visit the homes of non-observant friends (and eat before we go there), and all manage to function.

Perhaps it's NYC, or perhaps its the people you know from work, but what you are describing is NOT normal behavior.

Unless you are cooking in someone's kitchen, you're not going to treif it up. If they are reheating your food and worried about your Kashrut, they'll re-heat in aluminum and put it on disposable for you.

Tue Oct 08, 08:45:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Good points all, Miami Al. I'll keep them in mind. Thanks for reassuring me that bringing food that meets my health requirements to someone else's home won't mess up their kashrut.

Wed Oct 09, 10:04:00 AM 2013  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Kashrut is not magic. The existence of something not kosher (or not supervised kosher) does not render everything in the home not kosher.

Talk to your hostess, work it out. Explain your problem and that you're most comfortable bringing food that you know is free of allergens.

Approach this like a normal person, not like you think a crazy frummy should ac.

Thu Oct 10, 11:54:00 AM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So I should approach this like a normal person and not like crazy *non*-frummy who thinks that kashrut is magic. :)

"The existence of something not kosher (or not supervised kosher) does not render everything in the home not kosher."

Ms. Clueless thanks Miami Al for that information. I'll take your advice and explain my health-based dietary restrictions to my host(s) in advance.

Thu Oct 10, 06:01:00 PM 2013  

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