A few years ago I had the opportunity to go on a guided tour of a few cities in Italy. We were a Jewish group, though I might have been the only one who was openly religious. Part of the deal was that all the food during the tour would be strictly Kosher. At one of our stops on the Eastern coast we had a catered lunch specially brought in from Switzerland – Glatt Kosher. The group was supposed to eat the meal in some hall which rented out dining rooms for catered meals.
Naturally I checked out the documentation and seals of the food to be sure it really came from the Kosher catering from Switzerland (by now it’s a matter of instinct to check everything I eat abroad) and everything was perfect.
During the course of this really sumptuous meal I noticed that a few people from the group were munching on a packaged bread-stick (sort of large pretzel) from a company called GrissinBon. It was in my humble opinion totally incongruous with the rest of the Swiss/Jewish style of the rest of the food. I took one of the bread-stick packages to check it out and to my horror discovered that it contained PORK FAT (besides for milk…).
My first though was OMG I’ve just eaten a non-Kosher meal !! Once my more rational side kicked in and I reminded myself that I had seen all the documentation from the Swiss Rabbinate I asked around where the sticks came from. The answer was; “Oh, we saw them in baskets at all the tables in the adjacent dining hall and figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a few for the rest of the group….”.
Yes, the meal was originally Glatt Kosher, but with a little misplaced generosity…they had unintentionally served pork at the meal. Years later, till today, I’ve kept the wrapping to remind myself of the experience.
What’s my message? Does that mean never trust anything and anybody, ever? Of course not. If you’re in a Kosher restaurant with proper Kosher certification and all the meals served at the site are under valid Rabbinical supervision, then relax and enjoy yourself. But when you are in a situation where it is a Kosher meal being served to you within a non-Kosher setting, then you need to have (as they call it in the special forces) “situational awareness” for anything inconsistent. Like in this case Italian packaged bread-sticks didn’t fit in with the Swiss Kosher meal.
A similar situation could arise also when you order a prepackaged Kosher meal at a non-Kosher restaurant or even when you get your Kosher meal on a transatlantic flight (with the solitary exception of El-Al Airlines Kosher Meals, of course). Be aware and notice anything which doesn’t exactly fit it with the meal. Maybe its an extra product without a Kosher seal. Maybe it’s the silverware which might have been used before for non-Kosher food.
After you check out that everything is sealed, Kosher-labeled etc. then enjoy your meal…
Bon appétit ! (or Buon appetito ! in Italian)