One of the things that really fascinates me about Italy is the food. I discovered that eating Italian isn’t only about pasta and spaghetti, pizza, tomato sauce and olive oil. There’s a huge repertoire of beautiful and (I assume) delicious foods and tastes. Continue reading How to Enjoy non-Kosher Food
I first learned about Bug-out Bags from books on surviving disasters and disappearing from your past (see my post – If Jason Bourne Was Jewish).
To quote Wikipedia:
“A Bug-out Bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours, when evacuating from a disaster. The kits are also popular in the survivalism and prepper subcultures. Other names for such a bag are a BOB, 72-hour kit, a grab bag, a battle box, a Personal Emergency Relocation Kits (PERK), a go bag, a GOOD bag (Get Out Of Dodge) or INCHbag (I’m Never Coming Home).”
It occurred to me that every Jew who takes to the road, whether for business, vacation, a disaster G-d forbid, or just to escape for a while from the daily grind, needs a “Jewish Bug-out Bag”. I’m not talking about Kosher food (see my post on eating Kosher anywhere), but about all the other ingredients needed to keep a Jewish lifestyle anywhere you go.
With a bit of research and experience in the military, I compiled a list of all the materials, products and equipment you’ll need for keeping the Tradition throughout the year. Many of them (like apples and honey for the Rosh Hashanah, a boiled egg for the Seder Plate or even the raw materials for a Succah) aren’t inherently Jewish and you can get them anywhere on the globe. Some of the list, though (like Tefillin or a Mezuza) need to be purchased at a reliable Jewish supplier.
For your convenience you can download the list as a two page PDF for printing on one double-sided page – The Ultimate Jewish Traveler’s Checklist. Obviously you won’t need them all for every trip. Just check it out before you leave, compare it to your itinerary and the Jewish calendar, get what won’t be available later and you’re good to go.
The Ultimate Jewish Traveler’s Checklist
- Meat / Milk / Parve stickers
- Blue/Red/Yellow permanent markers
- Laws of Kashrut
- Disposable dishes
- Flour sifter
- Magnifying Glass (for bugs)
- Kosher Symbols List
- Cup for washing before bread
Prayer, Blessings & Torah Study
- Siddur (Prayer book)
- Chumash (Pentateuch)
- Tallit Katan
- Tsitsit (spare fringes)
- Kippa (for men)
- Snood/hair-covering (for women)
- Torah Scroll (if there’s a Minyan)
- Halachic Time Charts (MyZmanim.com)
- Compass for locating Jerusalem
- Book of Tehillim (Psalms)
- Traveler’s Prayer
- Blessing for candle lighting
- Birkon (prayer after meals)
- Jewish Daily Laws & Customs
Shabbat & Festivals
- Laws of Shabbat
- Laws of Festivals
- Candles / oil / wicks
- Blessing for candle lighting
- Kiddush / Havdallah cup
- Wine / Grape juice
- Challah cover
- Challah cutting board
- Challah knife
- Shabbat hot plate / “Blech”
- Shabbat “Key Belt”
- Havdalah spices
- Havdallah candle
- Book of Selichot
- Machzor (Prayerbook)
- Honey / Apple / Dates
- Fish head / Pomegranate
- New fruit for Blessing
- Yahrzeit candle
- Machzor (Prayerbook)
- Rubber / cloth shoes
- Yahrzeit candle
- Bedikat Chametz Kit
- Machzor (Prayerbook)
- Seder Plate
- Egg / Shank bone / Celery / Potato
- Marror /Lettuce
- Charoset (apple /cinnamon/ginger/nuts/wine)
- Matsah (hand-made)
- Matsah (machine-made)
- Cup for washing at Karpas
- Yahrzeit candle
- Machzor (Prayerbook)
- Lulav / Etrog / Hadas / Arava
- “Koishiklach” (leaves for tying)
- Holder for 4 Minim
- Succah (+ decorations)
- Aravot for Hoshanah Rabba
- Yahrzeit candle
- Machzor (Prayerbook)
- Torah Scroll for dancing
- Flags (for kids)
- Yahrzeit candle
- Machzor (Prayerbook)
- Tikun Shavuot
- Cheese Cake
- Yahrzeit candle
- Channukah candelabra
- Channukah candles (oil + wicks)
- Blessing on candles
- Ma’oz Tsur Song
- “Latkes” / “Sufganiot”
- Megilat Esther (parchment / printed)
- “Grogger” (noise-maker)
- Wine (for festive meal)
- Hamentaschen (Oznei Haman)
Fast of 9th Av
- Kinot for 9th Av
- Rubber / cloth shoes
- Low chair
Sitting Shiva (Mourning)
- Laws of Mourning
- Spare shirt/blouse for tearing
- Rubber / cloth shoes
- Low chair
- Yahrzeit candle
Click here for the PDF of The Ultimate Jewish Traveler’s Checklist.
Kosher Style Food
You know the difference between Kosher food and Kosher Style food? Some people think that Kosher food means generic food of any culture which is prepared with Kosher ingredients according to Jewish Law. Kosher Style food then would mean ethnic Jewish Kosher food like kugel, gefilte fish, cholent, kishke and it’s North African / Asian equivalents.
Absolutely wrong! Kosher Style food is NOT Kosher. Here are a few examples:
In February 2014 I visited the Kazimierz District of Krakow, Poland. For those not yet familiar, Kazimierz was the seat of the Jewish community in Kraków from the 13th century till the 2nd World War.
Among the main landmarks of the area left today are the Old Synagogue, the Remuh Synagogue, the Izaak Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Each with its history and traditions.
Today there isn’t much of a Jewish community but the tourist spots try to cater to Jews. For example, check the restaurant in the photo at the top of the post. At first glance its a “Jewish” labeled establishment with a menu in English, Polish and even Hebrew.
Cheese cake along with roast duck? Isn’t that meat & milk?
The only thing labeled “Kosher” is the wine (though you can’t be sure about it unless you check out the bottles personally).
In short this is a classic “Kosher Style” restaurant. I admire the Polish owners for their initiative to attract the tourists, but this place is absolutely NOT Kosher. It’s not under any Rabbinical supervision and the cooking process and ingredients aren’t according to Halacha.
All this I learned from our Polish non-Jewish guide who incredibly enough was irritated about the “lack of authenticity” of this restaurant. Even for her as a non-Jew she wanted to see something REALLY Jewish, not pretend Jewish.
Kenny & Ziggy’s
I read a lengthy interview in The Times of Israel online newspaper titled “Pastrami on wry with the Texan macher keeping deli culture alive“. The article is about “a new documentary delving into the Jewish delicatessen experience features Houston ‘purist’ Ziggy Gruber”. It goes into detail about Jewish delicatessens in general and about Gruber’s deli in Houston, Texas called Kenny & Ziggy’s. Throughout the interview Mr. Gruber talks about tradition, synagogues, Rabbis & cantors and sprinkles his talk with dozens of Yiddish words. I was sure his deli was Glatt Kosher at the very least.
But lo and behold somewhere in the middle he gets to the topic of Kashrut and says:
Where do you draw the line in kosher-style deli?
In our store we do serve some pork products. That we do. There’s shrimp in there. When I say pork products, we only carry, like, bacon. But for people that don’t want that, I have pastrami bacon that I serve in the store as well. Even though we’re a non-kosher store, I carry some kosher meat — even though we don’t change the slicers or the knives.
Incredible! A totally Jewish sounding gastronomical experience which it absolutely NON-Kosher “Treif Chazer” (non-Kosher Pig)! It’s mind-boggling to my little brain why a person would go to such lengths to create an extremely successful Jewish Style restaurant and not cater at all to those who actually keep the Jewish Tradition…
Like my non-Jewish Polish guide told me, I too believe in authentic Jewish experiences, not pretend ones.
As you travel around the world you can comfortably survive without kosher stores or products with kosher certification, as long as you have the basics; vegetables, carbohydrates and protein.
Read till the end as all the fun videos are at the bottom…
Protein and Nutrition
One doesn’t need huge amounts of protein for health, as according to the US government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on nutrition, adult men and women need only 56 & 46 grams of protein respectively. You can get your Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) with meats, poultry, and fish, legumes, tofu, eggs, nuts and seeds, milk and milk products, grains, some vegetables, and some fruits.
Since animal products need reliable kosher supervision (meat, poultry, milk products etc.), I’ll focus on one of the Kosher animal products you can get anywhere in the world which will supplement your protein needs – eggs. (The other product is fish, which I wrote about in a different post – Keeping Kosher at the Tsukiji Fish Market).
This post we will discuss three points:
- How to identify Kosher types of eggs
- Checking for blood-spots
- How to prepare eggs around the world without a normal Kosher kitchen
Of course nothing is completely simple in Jewish Law so you can’t just walk into any store in Shanghai or Kinshasa (Congo), buys eggs and feast on an omelet. There are still a few rules to follow:
Not every species of egg is kosher. Only those which come from a Kosher species of bird, like Chicken, Cornish hens, Ducks, Geese, and Turkey are Kosher. Ostrich, Eagle and Vulture are not. As for Guinea Fowl and Quail, we don’t have a clear tradition of their status, so their eggs are not for eating either.
Identifying a Kosher Egg
The Talmud gives us the signs that point us to whether an egg kosher or not:
- Non-Kosher: If the egg is totally round like a ball OR if the yolk of the egg surrounds the white of the egg OR if the egg has no white but is filled with yolk, a non-kosher bird laid the egg.
- Kosher: If the egg is round at one end and tapered at the other, AND the white of the egg surrounds the yolk AND it looks like the egg of a chicken or of another identifiable kosher bird, the egg is kosher and may be eaten without any further investigation as to its pedigree.
So after pantomiming your egg needs at the local grocery store, you get some Kosher eggs and take them home.
We’re good for supper now? Not yet. There’s still the issue of blood or blood-spots in the eggs.
Blood-spots in Eggs
It is forbidden to eat blood found in an egg. The reason is not related to the prohibition of eating blood (like in meat), but rather because blood in an egg is a sign that a new embryo is forming, and it is forbidden to eat an embryo.
In the times of the Talmud blood appeared in eggs because of two reasons:
- The egg had been fertilized and a chicken embryo was being produced.
- An irregularity in the hen causes a small amount of blood to be deposited in the egg.
In past years, most eggs came from fertile hens, whose hormone levels stimulated more egg production. Today, this is not the case. The hormones are stimulated artificially, the chickens themselves are not fertile and the eggs will not develop into chickens.
In modern commercial egg operations, this hormone enhancement is achieved (and controlled), by artificial means through the feed. The eggs themselves are not fertile; they will never develop into chickens. While in the past, every blood-spot might have signified the beginning of a new embryo, today’s commercial methods virtually insure that this is not the case.
As such, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:36), clarifies that blood spots found in commercially produced eggs do not present any fundamental kosher problem.
Nevertheless, the accepted practice is to check each individual egg prior to use.
- If you find blood or a blood-spot, the tradition is to throw away the egg as eggs are not expensive and a person does not incur any significant loss.
- In general white eggs have less blood-spots than brown eggs.
- In rural areas where eggs are sold at the farm or on the side of the road, it is possible to buy a fertilized egg. In this case it is definitely correct to check the eggs for blood spots.
- If checking is overly difficult, such as at night on a camping trip, for example, where there is no available good light, one may eat eggs without checking.
- There is no problem with eating eggs cooked in the shell (boiled or roasted), even though these cannot be checked, though many have the tradition to cook at least three eggs at a time to make sure that even if one of them had a spot, the bloody egg would be nullified by the majority of “clean” eggs in the pot.
You can get more information on Eggs and Blood-spots in the OU Website.
Cooking Eggs Around the World
Now that you have Kosher blood-free eggs, how do you prepare them without a Kosher kitchen?
Assuming you have a pot, pan, dish or glass here are four solutions for preparing eggs:
Using a non-Kosher Stove
Cooking With a Microwave
If you have a Kosher microwave, there are Three Easy Ways To Cook Eggs In The Microwave:
Cooking With a Rollie EggMaster
If you like new gadgets:
Cooking With an Alcohol Stove
If you literally have no real equipment to cook with, you can fry or cook eggs on an alcohol stove. It’s compact, light-weight and simple to use anywhere without a fuss.
How To Make An Alcohol Stove
For the DIY types, an alcohol stove can be made from 2 cans of soda.
For more information on raw materials and fuel for the alcohol stove check out the following link – Zen and the Art of the Alcohol Stove.
Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers returning from the campaign: This is the rule God commanded Moses:
As far as the gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead are concerned, whatever was used over fire must be brought over fire and purged, and then purified with the sprinkling water.
However, that which was not used over fire need only be emmersed in a Mikvah. (Parasha Matos 31:21-23)
The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
The Jewish Toolbox
Backpacking and living on your wits in the backwaters of civilization as a Kosher-observing Jew means that you need to be familiar with the basics of Kashering kitchen utensils wherever you go. Of course you can carry around a few things like a pot and pan or you can buy new stuff (and immerse them in a Mikvah) at each stop, but sometimes you’ll need a broader Jewish toolbox, including some Kashering skills.
Kosher for Airbnb
Lets say you decide to find lodgings through Airbnb (airbnb.com). For those not familiar with Airbnb, they describe the company as follows:
Airbnb is a global community marketplace that connects travelers seeking authentic, high-quality accommodations with hosts who offer unique places to stay.
It sounds like a great idea for those who prefer to stay in a vacated unique private residence rather than in a regular hotel. For a Jew though, it means you’ll need to Kasher some basic kitchen equipment, at the very least.
I did some searching and found a very comprehensive online guide for Kashering a complete kitchen. The Star-K Pessach Kitchen Guide by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, is focused of course on…Pessach, but what’s effective for Pessach will be effective also for Kashering a non-Kosher kitchen.
For those who prefer an audio-visual explanation:
So next time you decide to rent an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Kasher the kitchen first and have a great time!
Kosher in a Non-Kosher Communal Kitchen
You’re in South Korea to study at a university in Seoul or to work at Samsung or you’re touring Korea for a few months and want to save on the expenses, so you rent a Goshiwon. How do you keep Kosher in a Goshiwon?
OK. First of all what in the world is a Goshiwon? Is it a person, place or thing?
A goshiwon (고시원 in Korean) is a small room around 5 square meters that students will often live in for a several months to focus on a test. A goshiwon will have a dozen or two people living on one floor. Regular goshiwons have one to three bathrooms and shower rooms on a floor that are shared; thus, using the bathroom or the shower will involve a short trip down the hall. Goshiwons have a shared kitchen with a minimum of free rice, and will often have free kimchi, with eggs, ramen noodles, and condiments. Some goshiwons have kind owners that cook full meals from time to time as well. Check out this video to get the picture (he calls it an “Officetel”)
This is a common issue with university student housing worldwide. If you’re lucky, you can find Jewish student housing with people who keep kosher. In most cases the common kitchen is absolutely NK (non-kosher).
Guidelines for Kosher Cooking
The following are basic guidelines for keeping Kosher with a NK kitchen.
Utensils: You’ll need a set of Kosher dishes, cutlery, cups, pots and pans. If you intend to eat both meat and Parve (or milk), you’ll need separate equipment for the meat. If you can afford using disposable dishes then it’ll be easier for washing up.
Stove: Buy a single or double burner electric stove for all your cooking needs, whether you cook in the room or in the communal kitchen. If you can’t get your own stove then you can cook on the communal stove using a metal sheet a bit larger than your widest pot, as a separation between the pot and NK stove.
Surfaces: Use aluminum foil or a plastic sheet to cover the counter surfaces when preparing the food or washing up.
Microwave & oven: Ideally get your own microwave. You can use it for both meat and milk – on condition that you cover up one type consistently. If you can’t buy your own microwave, than you can use NK equipment as long as your food is DOUBLE-WRAPPED. For the NK microwave use plastic bags, paper, cardboard boxes or cling-film to create a double wrap. For a NK oven use a double layer of aluminum foil (This is what they do for Kosher airline meals. The food is double-wrapped and heated on the plane together with the NK food).
Washing up: Don’t put your Kosher dishes in a NK sink. Either wash by hand without putting them in the sink or get 2 plastic basins (meat & milk) to put in the sink.
Cold storage: Ideally get a small fridge for your room (in a Goshiwon it’s standard). If not, then your Kosher food mustn’t touch NK products. In addition, meat, chicken & fish products must always be sealed to avoid Basar Shenisalem Min Ha’Ayin (PDF on Kosher food in the hands of a non-Jew).
Keeping Kosher in a NK kitchen is a challenge, but when you stick to these guidelines, you’ll be able to cook up a storm and enjoy your trip to the utmost.
If you grew up in the sixties and seventies and beyond, you’re probably familiar with the opening lines of Star Trek:
Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before
I wonder if the creators of the series were inspired by Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Many would interpret Robert Frost’s well-known poem as the essence of true Wanderlust, seeking out the unfamiliar in travel, instead of staying on the safe and well-beaten tourist routes.
For me, “The Road Less Traveled” is hard-wired into Jewish consciousness, from the time of our forefather Abraham. He was known as Abraham the IVRI, commonly translated as The Hebrew. But what IS a Hebrew? IVRI means “the other side”. While most of the world was theologically on one side (paganism), Abraham was on the other side (monotheism).
Being different then everyone else and going on a road less traveled is central to our reality, not only in belief but also in our day-to-day actions. The time when it is most noticeable, is during travel.
Wearing a Kippa for a man or a snood or wig for a woman isn’t that unique. Other religions cover their heads. It’s when you get into your packaged airline meal with the disposable dishware and all the Rabbinical stamps on the package, that you really feel how different you are.
I’ve been to a catering company that produces Glatt Kosher meals for First Class passengers. They really put in a tremendous amount of effort to make an awesome Glatt Kosher meal, both in quantity and quality. But no matter how you make it, the person eating the Kosher meal will feel different from the rest of the First Class passengers.
You’re sitting in the First Class section, with all the other privileged passengers, and just before you dig into your sumptuous (I hope) Kosher meal, there’s a Bracha (Blessing) to be said. You then open up all sorts of double wrapped packages with Hebrew symbols that don’t look at all like what everyone else is getting. Then again at the end of the meal, there’s Birkat HaMazon to say too. Even your Segal’s Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 wine at $71.99 a bottle looks bit different…
I can give countless examples of how different we seem to the rest of the world especially during travel; the places of worship we don’t enter, the bars we avoid, opposite gender relationships we’re careful with and our absolutely different behavior on Shabbat.
Yes, we are very different…and vive la différence !!
Some people fantasize about Belgian chocolates and the latest Porsche 911 Turbo. Some crave a cottage with an Olympic-sized pool overlooking Lake Tahoe or maybe a month-long world cruise through the Caymen Islands.
I’d like all the above, but I’d prefer….a month of quiet vacation on the beaches of Bora Bora. Blue skies, white sands, endless clear water, majestic palm trees…peace and quiet. Without my cell phone. No emails, no appointments, no prior commitments; just the gentle lapping of waves at my feet with the awesome view of the blue lagoon.
The thought of it puts me into a trance-like state of bliss.
Then logic kicks in and I remember….
- I can’t afford the plane tickets.
- I can’t afford the hotel fees.
- I’ll have nothing Kosher to eat.
- Most of the alcohol they drink while sitting in a beach chair with a platter of exotic fruit, isn’t Kosher either.
- I won’t have a Minyan to pray at the local synagogue.
- There isn’t a local synagogue on the island anyways.
- I won’t be able to make Kiddush on Shabbos because the wine isn’t Kosher. Nor the Challah…
- I can’t carry outside my hotel room on Shabbos because there isn’t an Eiruv around the town.
- And besides, why in the world should a nice Jewish boy go to a place like Bora Bora? Don’t I know that most of the women don’t wear Sheitels and long sleeves on the island and the men don’t walk around with Tsitsis and probably aren’t Talmudic scholars either ??
So why Bora Bora?
It’s in my soul. The island and surrounding are like Paradise. A very expensive bit of paradise. Anyone who isn’t well-heeled at the bank will end off with hell to pay on their credit card if they aren’t careful. So it’s a short-lived paradise at the very least, but nice indeed…
Although Bora Bora is out of my personal range, I’m still curious if one can manage there as an observant Jew (assuming of course that one keeps their gaze totally and absolutely on their own spouse and nobody else).
I contacted a few of the hotels on Bora Bora to hear what they can offer in terms of Kosher food. One hotel said simply that due to their isolated location, they cannot give Kosher food as they don’t have someone to supervise the preparation nor do they have the utensils. OK, that’s not surprising.
Then I got a totally different response from the Head Chef of another hotel. The chef gave me 3 possible options.
- The hotel could provide brand new dishes and silverware along with new pots and pans. They have a Jewish employee who can light the fire and ovens to avoid Bishul Akum. Everything will be double wrapped in foil before putting in the oven. They’ll use only Kosher fish, vegetables and ingredients. All the cooking utensils will be hand washed and stored in a separate location.
- They can order frozen Kosher chickens from New York.
- With enough notice, they can order Glatt Kosher prepackaged meals.
To be honest I was very impressed. The chef even mentioned that as they don’t have a Mikvah on the island they won’t be able to immerse the new utensils (in fact as long as the utensils remain in the ownership of the hotel, they don’t need immersion in a Mikvah). One can see that he had a good basic understanding of the hotel Kashrut.
Just to be clear, I’m not giving the hotel a Kashrut certification on basis of what the chef wrote. There are many complex Kashrut issues involved that would need to be addressed and unless the guest in quite knowledgeable in hotel Kashrut, one can still trip up BIG.
So is Kosher Bora Bora just a fantasy or a possibility?
In my humble opinion, with an attitude like this chef, one has with whom to work with. There’s room for discussion and flexibility (on the side of the hotel of course), so I can imagine (in theory) that it would be possible to eat Kosher in Bora Bora.
I didn’t really go into it with the chef, but assume that whichever option one takes, it’ll cost something. But once you’re paying $1000 a night per guest, what’s another few bucks to eat Kosher? And you’ll probably get a bottle of Kosher wine for Kiddush thrown in for good measure…
FDA Approved Bugs in Food
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, there is a certain level of “defects” in food which are “acceptable” for human use, since they present no health hazard. The FDA allows maggots, thrips, insect fragments, “foreign matter”, mold, rodent hairs, and insect and mammalian feces in your food, as long as they don’t pass a “Food Defect Action Level”. I guess this is because according to the FDA, it is economically impractical to produce food that is completely free of all naturally occurring defects.
To give you an example what is “acceptable” to the FDA:
- Canned Apricots – 2% insects
- Berries – 10 or more whole insects per 500 grams
- Ground Paprika – 75 insect fragments per 25 grams
- Ground Cinnamon – 400 or more insect fragments per 50 gram
- Macaroni and Noodle Products – 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams
- Peanut Butter – 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams
You get the point? If you want the entire detailed list see the FDA Defect Levels Handbook.
If you need a clearer picture, check this out:
The Jewish Position on Bugs in Food
On the other hand…Jewish Law and Tradition finds the FDA regulation totally unacceptable to our lifestyle. According to the Torah, we must not eat even one bug (never mind the amounts approved by FDA). In fact the prohibition of consuming one little bug is more severe than eating a slice of pork or bacon (“Of course we keep Kosher, we would never allow pork in our home”).
In a home where Kashrut is observed, products like rice, beans and leafy vegetables, must be inspected for infestation. As I mentioned in a earlier post (What is Kosher to Eat Anywhere – Part 2), these foods are Kosher anywhere in the world, but you will need to make sure they don’t contain bugs.
Guide to Checking Lettuce for Bugs
For a quick course in bug checking for lettuce, see this video from Star-K Kosher:
Just a cup of coffee
When doing long distant traveling in Israel or overseas, one of the first things on my mind is where I can get a cup of coffee. If I’m really busy, I can cope without it for a long time, but if I didn’t get my cup in the morning, it’ll be on my mind all day. It has to be resolved, even if it means drinking it at 1 o’clock in the morning before brushing my teeth for bed.
You can serve me a 5 course dinner, with Coke, tea, chocolate mousse and Belgian chocolate for dessert, but all the caffeine in these products don’t “hit the spot” like real coffee. I even know a few Israelis who whenever they do Reserve Duty in the IDF, take with a “Coffee Kit” including a little Primus Stove to cook it. Just in case…
Which brings us to the million dollar question, may one buy a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s or any other non-Kosher restaurant or coffee shop?
To answer the question, these are the issues which need to be addressed:
- The ingredients
- Chalav Stam (non-supervised milk)
- The coffee pot
- The coffee cup
- Bishul Akum (Cooking by a non-Jew)
- Maris Ayin (what will people think)
Coffee and sugar are considered ingredients that do not need special Kosher supervision and you may get them anywhere. The only emphasis is that the coffee must be non flavored. Extra flavorings can contain non-Kosher components.
Chalav Stam (non-supervised milk)
During Talmudic times the Rabbi’s decreed that milk must be supervised by a Jew during the milking process to make sure that only cow’s milk (or milk from any other Kosher species) was in the container and not the milk from a non-Kosher mammal (like a pig, camel etc.). During the modern age when there is governmental supervision on the dairy farms, there are some senior Rabbi’s (including the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) who permitted using non-supervised milk, since there was a government seal of approval that the milk was only cow’s.
Not all Rabbi’s agree with this leniency, and in particular in Israel, where one can buy supervised milk with great ease.
If your tradition is to follow the lenient opinion about non-supervised milk (like Rabbi Feinstein’s), then you can have milk with your coffee. If your tradition is to be more strict about milk, then enjoy it black…
The Coffee Pot
Coffee is usually cooked in a specific pot or percolator which isn’t used for anything else except for coffee. The exception to this rule are some vending machines which use common pipes for many liquid products including those which aren’t Kosher (soups, for example). One should get the coffee where it was prepared in a coffee pot and not in a vending machine (unless the vending machine serves coffee only).
The Coffee Cup
It is best to ask for a disposable Styrofoam cup to avoid any issues of drinking from a cup which was washed in a dishwasher with non-Kosher food.
In case there are no disposable cups (a 5-star restaurant???), then ask for glass and not ceramic. There are some traditions which give a Halachic ruling that glass doesn’t absorb flavors and as such remains Parve, so in case of emergencies or on the road (a cup of coffee is nearly an emergency, isn’t it?), you may use glass.
Bishul Akum (cooking by a non-Jew) was forbidden in Talmudic times to prevent socializing with non-Jews which might lead to intermarriage.
There are two exceptions to this decree:
- A food that can be eaten raw may be cooked by a non-Jew (because the cooking does not really improve the food and because it isn’t considered an important food and one would not invite someone to his home to eat such foods)
- The prohibition is limited to foods which are served on a king’s table (oleh al shulchan melachim) and go with bread or as an appetizer. Only these types of foods are served at social gatherings and only then is there the concern for intermarriage.
There are many details involved in these two rules, so I advice discussing them with a competent Rabbi when the issue comes up. I prefer to keep it simple here, because we are involved only with a cup of coffee…
Bottom line, there is some discussion among the Rabbi’s whether coffee comes under the category of Bishul Akum or not. The custom is to permit coffee, since the majority of the liquid is just water (and water is drunk “raw”).
Maris Ayin means “What will people think when they see me in a non-Kosher restaurant?”. The concern is that another person might mistakenly think that I’m ordering a non-Kosher product or meal.
One should completely avoid sitting down at all in a regular non-Kosher restaurant, as it looks like you are eating there. On the other hand ordering coffee at a rest stop, coffee-house or convenience store is permissible as long as you take the coffee outside of the premises to drink.
Last but not least for devotees of Starbucks coffee, while doing research for this post I discovered an entire website devoted to the Kosher status of Starbucks. I do not take any responsibility for the contents of that site, but you can find everything you want to know there. Kosher Starbucks
For those interested in more information about the Kosher status of coffee, I suggest the following links:
Enjoy your coffee !!