October 12, 2016

Kosher food – what is it, exactly?

What is kosher food and how can you make sure you're providing food that conforms to Jewish practices? Here is a breakdown of the 7 tenets of kosher food.

What is kosher food

The word kosher simply means “fit”, or more precisely – fit for consumption. Eating kosher for a Jew is following God’s command (a mitzvah), and consuming divine food. The rules governing food kosher food are called the ‘kashrut’. They are recorded in the Torah. For Jews, God commanded them in the Sinai desert and it is Moses who taught them to man. Respect for kosher food is actually a mark of Jewish identity, a way of living one’s faith, to perform an act of God in everyday life.

Here are some of the main principles of kosher food. Of course, it is not an exhaustive list.

Kosher Food 1: Animals

For an animal to be kosher it must have cloven hooves and also be a ruminant. Some examples of these are bulls, cows, calves, sheep, lambs, or goats. If we’re to eat kosher animals from the sea they have to have fins and scales. For birds, there is a very defined list, which excludes predators – birds that are allowed include geese and chicken. Certain grasshoppers are allowed in specific communities. It’s the kashrut which defines how animals should be killed and which parts are eaten. It’s strictly forbidden to consume a live animal.

Kosher Food 2: Animal products

The basic principle is that anything which comes from a prohibited animal is also prohibited. For example, eggs and milk from forbidden animals cannot be eaten. Anything from a licensed animal can be consumed. For eggs, check that they contain no traces of blood as fertilised eggs are sometimes left on the ground. Honey is an exception to the rule – it is not considered an animal product (although it comes from bees that are not kosher) and can be consumed.

Kosher Food 3: Slaughter

It must be performed by a specially trained rabbi, with an unserrated knife. Death must be instant – so the rabbi must slit the animal’s throat without it being stunned beforehand. This causes instant brain death of the animal, which therefore suffers very little. Once it is emptied entirely of its blood, it is kosher. The rabbi then proceeds to do a veterinary examination of the dead animal, to make sure it is safe for consumption.

Kosher Food 4: The mixture of milk and meat

The mixture of meat and dairy products is strictly forbidden. They must be prepared with separate utensils, and there must be a delay between when you eat one meat dish and where we consume a dairy product (roughly the time needed for digestion). Other foods like fruits and vegetables, for example, can be mixed.

Kosher Food 5: Fruit and vegetables

In principle, they are all kosher. The important thing is to check that they are free of insects.

Kosher Food 6: Wine

It is permitted as long as the production of the wine was supervised by a rabbi.

Kosher Food 7: Preparing and cooking kosher food

For food to be kosher it must be prepared by a Jew or in the presence of a Jew. This is also true for bread.

La Belle Assiette can offer meals at home that follow the rules of kashrut.


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