I’m a vegetarian. Hilchot kashrut utterly mystifies me. They say that spiciness transfers food-essence (milkiness or meatiness) more than regular cold things–okay, fine, but then they define a beet as a spicy thing. Excuse me? A beet? And sometimes it’s OK to cut off the part of the food that touched treyf and sometimes the whole thing is forbidden, and the bones of a non-kosher animal can sometimes be permitted in the count of kosher food but its marrow is considered treyf, and sometimes steam is considered a contaminating force and sometimes it’s not….
Okay, there’s an inner logic to most of it that I (mostly) get. Even when it mystifies me–some of this halakha is like hanging out with a kid and trying to understand their crazy imaginary world. (“Okay, Billy, so beets are spicy now? And pickling a food is considered just like cooking it?”)
I’m grateful that my study partner eats meat, so he can explain to me exactly what the heck. Even when I get it intellectually, I remain grateful that, at least for the moment, I have a milk-only kitchen. Though probably if I had a real kosher kitchen (that is, meat plates and the like) the whole thing would seem a lot less like sci fi. Or maybe not.
In Halakha haMaaseh class today we also talked about rennet and cheese and gelatin and citric acid, for pete’s sake. And becoming a vegan looks more and more tempting. There’s only so much I want to know about how they get enzymes from a cow’s stomach or–you know, gelatin. Yuck.
This is all either a very strong argument for only eating food which has ingredients with which one is familiar and can pronounce, or fighting the good fight for ignorance, closing one’s eyes and just not reading the dang label at all.
I really really hope I don’t wind up feeling grossed out by even regular kosher (animal rennet) cheese. That would just stink. We’ll see, now, won’t we?
Oh, my dear Danya, Why do you think I don’t give a fig for chalav yisrael (in American cheeses), but don’t have cheese with animal rennet in the house? Plus there’s the whole davar chadah controvery – do you really want to eat something that’s like a bone shrivelled up by the side of the road?….
It’s always funny to me just how different your reactions and my reactions are to food are.
Pickling, for example–of COURSE it’s cooking the food. Otherwise what good would it be?
And cheese? Cheese just makes me think to myself “Wow, we as humans are so incredibly creative. Who thought of taking milk and mixing cow stomach lining with it?”
Gelatin, though–that’s the glorious one. I love to make my own stock, because you just don’t get that unctuous mouth-feel from anything but boiling meat and bones together. It’s a respect for the creature you’re eating thing, too, for me. Use all of the animal, even the bones.
(Also, uh, it makes sense that marrow is treyf but bones may sometimes not be. Marrow is like meat, bones are something else)
And I think a beet is spicy because it’s like a radish or onion, at least in how it grows.
I love the perverse logic of kashrut; I just don’t have any desire to stop cooking bolognese.
KS here (gotta do that first, otherwise I forget)…
Uhm, yeah – when you said that about beets, I thought about turnips and radishes – have you eaten a slice of raw (unpickled) beet? Might have a bite to it.
There are odd (to me) ways of classifying foods in TCM, too. Foods that are classified as bitter or astringent that I wouldn’t think of that way at all.
Also, in that same realm, pickling is considered a form of cooking – acid (yang/hot) begins the breakdown of the food on a cellular level – “pre-digesting”it.
I would love to comment and share my food geekage but I think everyone beat me to it. Both cooking and pickling accomplish the same purpose: taking a raw food and making it a) more broken down/more digestible and b) preserving it so it lasts a bit longer.
As for cheese, I’d look for vegetable rennet based cheeses. The animal rennet ones are nasty and in my mind renders the cheese not vegetarian. I have recipes at home if you want to learn how to make soft cheese from scratch using lemon juice 🙂
Yeah, I’ve pretty much sworn off cheese that is neither hekshered nor explicitly veg rennet (except for when I was in France–didn’t drink the wine, but was not capable of skipping the cheese) but now I have to get a grip on my relationship to the hekshered non-veg rennet cheese, of which there is some. Bleah. I already don’t eat enough stuff! I agree with the Bear that there are veg-purity issues with animal rennet cheese.
I’m glad some of you understand the thing about beets and the thing about pickling. Should post some of the other weird food things here and see what you do with ’em. 😉
On beets: raw beets don’t have any bite -they’re *sweet*
On who thought of adding calf stomach lining to milk: uh – someone who had an infant probably. Although who thought of *eating* it… that’s more mysterious.