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Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

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Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Binky » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:23 am

In today's i newspaper there is a short article about medieval pottery revealing the kosher diet of the residents of the Jewish quarter of Oxford. The archaeological dig found fish and geese bones, and what interests me is that the fish were herring and are described as a kosher food.

My admittedly small understanding of kosher food is that it has been blessed by the rabbi, not that individual types of fish (for instance) were kosher. This was reinforced in my mind when we visited a wine-producing chateau and there were pallets of wine cases, all wrapped in plastic, for export to Israel. It was exactly the same wine as sold to the rest of the world but it had been blessed by the rabbi.

So, to get back to the original question, do we have Jewish posters who can explain what is meant by kosher? Is it the food itself, or the religious significance of the blessing which counts?

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Pepper Pig » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:37 am

I bet there are lots of different answers to that Binky depending on which path of Judaism you follow. I have a Jewish friend who reckons to be an unbeliever (doesn't go to the synagogue) but she keeps a strictly Kosher kitchen (2 sinks etc.). When she eats out though anything goes.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Binky » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:43 am

I've never heard of a kosher kitchen before so looked it up after your comments PP. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

https://www.kosher.com/learn/laws-of-me ... er-kitchen

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Stokey Sue » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:52 am

The basic rules for permitted foods are in Leviticus, which is one of the books of both the Jewish and Christian holy texts

This is where you find the basic rules, like not eating pork because pigs can be considered “unclean” or not eating meat and dairy together (it actually says “thou shalt not seethe the kid in its mother’s milk” in the King James version

And herring is one I know - it comes directly from Leviticus, which says that you can only eat fishes caught in water if they have scales; so herring is fine but dogfish (which have smooth, scaleless, skin) and shellfish aren’t

Because Judaism is a religion of rules, rituals, and tradition there’s a lot of additional detail that goes into the definition and practice of kosher, but an archaeologist could certainly tell from a kitchen midden if the locals were following the lists of permitted foods in Leviticus, and probably rather more

Edited to add the link on a kosher kitchen has all the modern details added to Leviticus

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby KeenCook2 » Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:11 pm

Fascinating! Despite the fact my mother was Jewish and was careful about what she ate she never did that for us and I remain pretty ignorant about all the detail. She, as far as I know, never ate pork or shellfish, (although she used to cook bacon for my Jewish brother-in-law :lol: ), always kept Passover and always fasted at Yom Kippur. I'm sure I remember her cooking a ham at Chistmas although not eating it herself.

Curiously, I actually think that OH knows more than I do about a Jewish upbringing, having grown up on New York's upper east side and been at Bronx Science high school with many, many Jewish children.
Last edited by KeenCook2 on Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Stokey Sue » Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:25 pm

I was at University College London, traditionally popular with Jewish students as it was the first English university to admit them

One of my friends decided she was no longer going to bother with the dietary restrictions, and was rather annoyed when she found that she couldn’t stand the smell of fresh pork cooking although she loved bacon and ham, and once joined me for the classic meal of a bacon joint, new potatoes, broad beans and parsley sauce, which she pronounced a wonderful mixture - though totally non-kosher as it included both pork and meat served with dairy

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Badger's Mate » Thu Apr 08, 2021 3:34 pm

When I was at w***, some of our products, lubricants designed for use in food machinery, were assessed as suitable for preparing Kosher foods. A Rabbi (who happened also to be a chemist) would come to the factory and audit our process. His main concern was that the lubricants were not made from animal-derived ingredients, presumably to avoid the risk of mixing meat and milk if there were incidental contact with the lubricant when processing the food. However, its not as simple as that. Both shellac and beeswax were considered OK iirc. There was a lot of theoretical discussion, (what if a fly landed in a mixer?) but there were also counter-intuitive Rabbinic proscriptions, such as the forbidding of steam used to heat a process involving animal-derived processes also being used to heat the Kosher stuff.

Fascinating stuff, as others have said. A mate of mine from the UEA days was a Jewish lad from New Joisey. He was having trouble getting matzos in Norwich as Passover approached. I was going back to North London for the previous weekend, it really wasn't a problem for me to find them.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby slimpersoninside » Thu Apr 08, 2021 5:57 pm

Badger's Mate wrote:When I was at w***, some of our products, lubricants designed for use in food machinery, were assessed as suitable for preparing Kosher foods. A Rabbi (who happened also to be a chemist) would come to the factory and audit our process. His main concern was that the lubricants were not made from animal-derived ingredients, presumably to avoid the risk of mixing meat and milk if there were incidental contact with the lubricant when processing the food. However, its not as simple as that. Both shellac and beeswax were considered OK iirc. There was a lot of theoretical discussion, (what if a fly landed in a mixer?) but there were also counter-intuitive Rabbinic proscriptions, such as the forbidding of steam used to heat a process involving animal-derived processes also being used to heat the Kosher stuff.

Fascinating stuff, as others have said. A mate of mine from the UEA days was a Jewish lad from New Joisey. He was having trouble getting matzos in Norwich as Passover approached. I was going back to North London for the previous weekend, it really wasn't a problem for me to find them.


Do you come from North London then BM?

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Badger's Mate » Thu Apr 08, 2021 6:51 pm

Yes, brought up in Edmonton. Lived in Norwich for a while, almost moved up to Norfolk permanently but didn't, before dividing my time between London and Ware. Finally moved out 25 years ago, although commuted back for another 17. I've now got no ties to the area, family and friends have all passed on or moved away.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Suffs » Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:28 pm

He’d have been ok for Matzos now BM ... the W’rose here (near the UEA) has a Kosher section :thumbsup

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Earthmaiden » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:41 pm

Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food is very interesting even if you have a fair idea about many Kosher rules. It follows the history of the many strands of Jewish peoples and ties in many of today's marriages of interpretations with their geographical backgrounds (which of course, dictated available ingredients). I don't recommend the Kindle version, one needs to keep referring back too much.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby jeral » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:12 pm

As I have always understood it, kosher food (animal/plant/fish) is not blessed, but does have to be given approval by a qualified Jewish person to be correct (permitted), including alcohol types, to allow it to be sold as kosher.

To achieve that in commercial concerns, the approval of a suitable overseer/inspector has to be given both in terms of the food item it is and how and by whom it has been prepared and on what equipment etc up to that point. Therefore the "blessing" is an approval which confirms that food is eatable in line with religious kosher teachings and rules.

As to herrings or fish generally and scales, I've never understood why scaleless fish, or scaled fish if de-scaling tears the skin, is not kosher. "Round" swimming fish aren't bottom feeders and mammals as such aren't forbidden, so I'm at a loss as to the significance of removing scales..

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Pampy » Fri Apr 09, 2021 12:02 am

This is interesting https://oukosher.org/the-kosher-primer/
Although it's a US website, I would imagine that it's applicable internationally.
It's irrelevant whether a fish is a bottom feeder or not - it whether they have scales and fins which defines whether they are kosher or not (eg carp is often considered to be a bottom feeder but is a popular kosher fish).

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby jeral » Fri Apr 09, 2021 12:45 am

I think I've sussed the mystery of why fins and removable scales is important. It's because it is written thus and that's all we need to know:

Quote:
"As with the other laws of kosher, the Torah doesn't give a reason as to why only a fish with these signs is considered kosher. These laws are considered a chok (a decree beyond comprehension)." Endquote.
https://www.cor.ca/view/114:88/abcs_of_kosher.html

I was thinking there might be a more ground roots reason (like pig meat being unclean as worms in it were common at one time) but perhaps fish fins and scales is just a dictate that's taken as read, literally, despite interpretations of which fish do or don't meet the criteria.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Pampy » Fri Apr 09, 2021 1:19 am

From chabad.org :

Torah laws can generally be classified into different categories: those that are logical and those that transcend human logic. Kashrut, for which no reasons are given in the Torah, falls into this second category.

Kashrut - the set of dietary laws dealing with the foods that Jews are permitted to eat and how those foods must be prepared according to Jewish law

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Badger's Mate » Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:36 am

the W’rose here (near the UEA)


I guess it wasn't there then. The supermarket I remember was a branch of Roy's of Wroxham. That was on my way home to Keswick Mill iirc. Before then I'd use the shops on Unthank Road.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Stokey Sue » Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:44 am

Yes, I’ve always understood that for the dietary laws, some had a practical base but most are religious rules not laid down for practical reasons

Judaism is very much a religion that depends on following the rules as given in the codex, rather than trying to decide for oneself what the spiritual basis is for that part of life and choosing actions based on that

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Suffs » Fri Apr 09, 2021 2:59 pm

Badger's Mate wrote:
the W’rose here (near the UEA)


I guess it wasn't there then. The supermarket I remember was a branch of Roy's of Wroxham. That was on my way home to Keswick Mill iirc. Before then I'd use the shops on Unthank Road.


Same building :D ... now quite a large W'rose with a Boots pharmacy adjoining. Very useful as our corner shop just half a mile away. We moved here from just off the Unthank Road.

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby KeenCook2 » Fri Apr 09, 2021 6:22 pm

Unthank Road! What a name :lol:
Wasn't it round the campfire we were talking about weird/strange/memorable street names?

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Re: Meaning of 'Kosher' foods

Postby Stokey Sue » Fri Apr 09, 2021 6:32 pm

Unthank is a surname, not a common one, but The Unthanks are a folky band, led by two sisters of that name

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unthanks


Apparently also a village in Cumbria

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