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The basics of kosher dining

Individuals who frequently prepare meals for their families and guests are no doubt familiar with accommodating people with different dietary preferences and food allergies.

While some people choose certain foods based on medical needs, others do so for religious purposes. Acquainting oneself with kashrut, or the set of dietary laws for Jews, can ensure that all protocols are met.

The word “kashrut” is a Hebrew word meaning “fit, proper or correct.” Foods that are labeled “kosher” meet the standards of kashrut. Food that is not kosher is referred to as “treif,” which means “torn.” Jews observe these laws in accordance with the Torah, although there are certain health benefits that may come from eating kosher foods. For example, the Jewish Virtual Library indicates the laws regarding kosher slaughter are so sanitary that kosher butchers and slaughterhouses are often exempted from USDA regulations.

Keeping kosher and serving kosher offerings is not as difficult as one might imagine, even for a non-Jewish novice. According to The Spruce: Eats, the kosher certification industry, which helps consumers identify which items are kosher with the aid of trademarked symbols, is a trustworthy source. Choosing kosher items at the grocery store is a simple way to eat kosher.

While the kashrut laws are extensive, there are some fundamental rules to follow.

  • Kosher food is divided into meat, dairy and pareve. Pareve (neutral) include eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains. They can be eaten with either meat or dairy.
  • Individuals may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. Any land mammal that does not have both of these attributes is forbidden. Sheep, cattle, deer, and goats are kosher. Pigs and hares are not.
  • Permitted birds include chicken, geese, ducks, and turkeys.
  • One may eat anything in the water that has fins and scales. But shellfish such as shrimp, clams and crabs are forbidden.
  • Milk and eggs from kosher animals are kosher.
  • Animals that may be eaten must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law in a process known as “shechita.” Certain parts of the permitted animals may not be eaten. Also, all blood must be drained from the meat or removed by broiling, boiling or soaking and salting. Eggs that contain blood spots cannot be eaten.
  • Meat and dairy are never eaten together. Plus, the utensils, plates and pans in which each is prepared and served must be separate. Kosher homes have two sets of dishes, utensils, towels, and cooking vessels for these purposes.
  • All fruits, vegetables, grains, pasta, nuts, beans, and legumes are kosher.
  • Grape products must be produced in a certain way and only by Jews in order to be kosher. That includes wines and juices.

Jewish dietary laws are extensive, but it’s not hard to offer visiting relatives, friends or neighbors kosher foods when preparing meals at home.