The Kosher Renaissance
THE SOURCE: “American Processed Kosher” by Jeffrey Yoskowitz, in Gastronomica, Summer 2012.
No food from animals that have cloven hooves or chew their cud. No seafood that lacks scales or fins. Nothing made from meat that has been prepared, served, or stored with dairy products (and vice versa). These are just a few of the many rules of kashrut, the dietary code stated in the Torah, the holy Jewish text. About 1.5 million American Jews, mostly followers of Orthodox Judaism and other relatively traditional expressions of the Jewish faith, “keep kosher,” as the practice of adhering to the code is known. But “how exactly does an ancient code of dietary ritual get applied to the Nabisco factory in East Hanover, New Jersey?” asks writer Jeffrey Yoskowitz.
A little more than a century ago, few Jews fretted about whether the outside world kept kosher. Jewish people prepared food themselves or purchased it at local shops in their tightly knit communities. But as white bread, eggs cradled in stiff paper, and other industrial food products appeared, the question became more salient. How were kosher-keeping Jews to know whether ham, a prohibited food, was used in a can of soup, or if mass-produced marshmallows contained gelatin from pigs’ hooves? Not until 1966 did the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require food labels to contain ingredients.
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