This is the time of day when I have to ponder dinner. I think Owen’s going to make meatloaf. He does that well. Better than I do. I used to make pot roast to die for, but somewhere along the line, the cuts of meat have gone down hill. Back in The Day, pot roast was a cheap cut. Now, pot roasts and stew beef cost as much as sirloin … and sirloin, assuming it’s not laced with gristle, does NOT turn into a good stew.

The longer you cook it, the tougher it gets. About the only meat that still comes out more or less as expected is minced beef and chicken. In Israel, we ate chicken so often I thought we’d all begin to cluck. Beef came from Argentina where it was “grass fed.” In kitchen terms, it meant the cattle was out there on the range for most of its life. It had muscles.

It’s illegal to grow pork on Israeli land, so the kibbutzniks grow it on cement slabs. The pork chops and ham were great. You couldn’t buy it in a grocery store, so you had to go to the Arab butcher shop or Bethlehem. They had great meat in Bethlehem. What they lacked was proper refrigeration and I couldn’t buy it. All those flies. You can’t unsee that.

There were a lot of vegetarians in Israel because if you ate only vegetables (usually with dairy, and fish), you didn’t have to contend with separating dairy from meat dishes and associated cooking pots. A classically Kosher kitchen needed a LOT of storage space because you needed a set of dairy dishes, another set of meat dishes, with a separate set of pots and pans for each. Just to finish off the the storage conundrum, you needed a special set of everything for Passover.

If you weren’t really Kosher, but you had parents, friends, and family who WERE Kosher, you needed a secret stash for non-Kosher meals. My mother’s family were home-Kosher but were total heretics in the face of Oriental cuisine. That was before the arrival of Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and other amazing Asian dishes. You had to be ultra super orthodox to comply with the laws of Kashrut when the smell of Asian spices food wafted your way.

Ah, the memories.

The original reason for Kashrut (kash-root) laws is the line in the Torah which says “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.” Translations vary, but that’s the gist of it. After a thousand years of arguing, the Rabbinical Courts decided you couldn’t eat meat and dairy together. During the 1400s, they added chicken to the meat category, even though chickens don’t make milk. They just decided chicken was meat-like and should therefore be considered meat. If it wasn’t meat-like, it would have had to be fish-like and lacking gills and scales …

You can’t make this stuff up.

Shellfish isn’t kosher. Kosherly-speaking, you are forbidden the joys of shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, calamari, or octopus. You can only eat fish which has gills and scales. Depending on your family, they may be even more frenzied about shellfish than Oriental food. My mother ate non-Kosher food with gusto in restaurants and on vacation, But at home? Nope.

Owen doesn’t like fish except (sometimes) well-chilled shrimp with hot sauce. Garry is a shellfish guy, but is unenthusiastic about salmon — which I like a lot. Now that it’s a 2-to-1 negative vote on salmon, so I haven’t seen any in months. Both of them are okay with flat white fish. Haddock and cod — my two least favorite offerings from the sea — along with sole, scrod, and whatever else lies on the bottom. They are all tasteless. It’s fish without flavor except whatever spices or sauce you put on it. It’s easier to take fish oil capsules.

The most important thing to know about legally Kosher fish is that it’s a vegetable. You can eat it with dairy OR meat, though why you’d eat meat when you’re already eating fish, I have no idea. Overall, if you can grasp the concept of “fish as a vegetable,” you have conquered the most complicated part of Jewish law as practiced in the kitchen. There’s much more complicated stuff, but only men get to think about it. Equality of the sexes has not come to Orthodox Judaism. I doubt it ever will.

We’re having meatloaf and Owen’s special Brussel sprouts. At least someone around here likes vegetables.

Categories: Culture, Food, Gallery, Jerusalem, Judaism, Kitchen, Photography

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Feed the birds with it for sure… my Mom used to love mincemeat around Christmas…


  2. All meat is so expensive now but I like it too much to become vegetarian. When I was a child we had a regular diet of lamb chops or cutlets and roast every Sunday. We were not that well off but we could manage that. We rarely had roast chicken. Now lamb is a treat, especially a leg roast but I eat a lot of chicken because it’s reasonably priced and goes a long way.
    Many Australian pubs serve “Surf and Turf” which is steak and prawns served on the same plate. I’ve tried it but generally I prefer one or the other not both at the same time.


  3. Fascinating. Especially the part about having to raise pigs on cement slabs!


  4. I loved the photos, especially the family dinner at the end. The lighting and mood were so rich, i could almost smell dinner. There is also something nice about seeing a family sit down to dine together. My son usually has inhaled everything and left the table by the time I sit down with my meal (he doesn’t like my food and vice versa.) So, it’s a slice of life that I only experience if we go out for meals. And lately, that means he’s eating fast food in the seat behind me in the car. Sigh. I somehow missed out on the Norman Rockwell dining with family experience.


  5. That extra place setting looks like it’s for me…, I’ll be right over..


  6. Does he do the sprouts in garlic and butter?


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