Tag Archives: glatt kosher

The Jewish Road Less Traveled

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

The Road Less Traveled
The Road Less Traveled

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.

road less traveled | http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/religious-travelers/1179781-cathay-pacific-jfk-hkg-kosher-meals-first-class-2.html
First Class Kosher Meal

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 !!

Glatt Kosher Pork Fat

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.

Glatt Kosher Pork Fat - GrisinniBon Italian bread-stick with pork fat and milk
Italian bread-stick with Pork Fat

Situational Awareness

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)