Thursday, April 23, 2015

Who knew? Kosher pot holders



     Religion is weird. 
     I suppose there is a more polite way to put that.
     Religion is fascinating or religion is complex—both also true. 
     But "weird" sounds right, at the moment. Every religion has its strange stuff—we know that, because when we encounter unfamiliar religions, we easily smirk at their oddities, never pausing to consider that these off-kilter practices are only a slightly different flavor of what we find homey and ordinary. When Mitt Romney was running for president, for instance, and people were plucking out various aspects of his religion to mock, it was almost sad to see how easily they marveled over something they believed too. To see the people who cooked up the whole idea of heaven snickering at Mormons for putting it in Jackson County, Missouri, as if giving their fantasy celestial paradise an earthly address was the outrageous part.  
     Or Judaism, my own creed. I'm always discovering heretofore unimagined practices embraced by believers. When my son was born, my in-laws, who were Orthodox, informed my wife and me that we had to have a pidyon haben--a ceremony to buy him from God for five piece of silver. I shrugged—when in Rome, er, Jerusalem—and trotted off to a Korean coin store to buy five greasy, worn silver dollars. I figured, God wouldn't mind, and He didn't.
     Having Orthodox in-laws put me in closer proximity to the more arcane Jewish practices.  I was at their synagogue, laying into the buffet lunch afterward, when the rabbi came over and informed me that I couldn't have meat and fish together on my plate. I almost blurted out, "You're kidding, right?" That was a new one -- "Isn't fish meat?" I asked, slightly suspecting he was pulling my leg. No, this was one of the sub-cellers of Kosher. No cheeseburgers, no shrimp, no herring and brisket sitting on the same paper plate, just as a person eating dairy and a person eating meat can't sit at the same table.
     Oh. 
     I always like to ask "Why?" in these situations. I didn't then, but a little digging reveals that... and this is why I don't write fiction, because I could never conjure up something as deliciously daft as this... the Talmud suggests that mixing meat and fish causes leprosy.
     Double oh.
     It never stops. Early in the month I was at Hungarian Kosher Foods, on Oakton in Skokie, picking up Kosher chicken for Passover (why, I don't know, since none of us keep Kosher; tastes better, I suppose, though I could argue that it just costs so much more we make ourselves believe it tastes better).  I noticed this rack of products which I didn't think could be Kosher: pot holders, rubber gloves, sink strainers. You don't eat them, what does it matter? As with the fish and meat taboo, I at first thought they were joking. Maybe there was a brand loyalty scam aspect going on — "Kosher" rubber gloves meant gloves to be bought by Jews, probably more expensive too, like Kosher chicken.
    No. The color coding gave it away. Blue for dairy, red for meat. Just as you have different set of pans and dishes for dairy and meat, so you need separate potholders to handle the pans and rubber gloves to wash the dishes. 
     And for Passover—when bread and all its manifestations are forbidden—special Passover rubber gloves, since some rubber gloves have a certain starchy powder in them, a residue of the manufacturing process (you're not supposed to blow up balloons for the same reason). 
      By the way, Orthodox Jews give their pets --- their dogs, cats, fish, whatever -- Kosher pet food, but not for the sake of the animals, who aren't Jewish—that's an unexpected whiff of rationality—and thus can eat whatever they please. It's the owners, who cannot "derive benefit" from unKosher foods. (An issue, I'm sure, deftly surmounted by a bit of rabbinic jujitsu for, oh, Jews who own chains of supermarkets). 
    Enough. Religion is not only weird, it's a bottomless pit of weird. That's sort of the point. You're supposed to fill up your life with this stuff. If you so choose. Myself, I prefer to focus on other stuff—just as meaningless, but not so rigorous. To each his own. 



   


39 comments:

  1. These are cool! If cross-contamination is a concern, this would be an easy way to solve the problem. I know my cheap cutting boards come in a two-pack with red for meat / green for veggies so clearly this isn't just a religion concern. I'm also constantly keeping the dish-drying towel separate from the hand-drying towel because that just seems smart. Anything to make the distinction more obvious is useful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, "mshuga" to be sure. But you nailed it as usual...to each his own. We have an entirely different world if more people of faith honored that basic principle. But alas...

    ReplyDelete
  3. You put meat and fish on the same plate? That's like putting ketchup on a hot dog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My mother usually bought meat from a Kosher butcher, and, I swear, the meat was better than most of what I buy today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maida, I thought your name was Hispanic.

      Delete
  5. I guess that rules out the surf and turf special. And the salad bar - forget about it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. My goodness, I didn't know half of this. Thanks for the enlightment, Mr. S. It's too bad you never stood up to your inlaws or asked your wife these things before marriage or insist on at least a Reformed following. A pal of mine in NJ, who is an educated pharmacist, always scoffs at the orthodox-she is a Reformed Jew. No wonder some ortho. Jews turn neurotic. No, I'm not saying other rel. are perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One doesn't have to become an atheist though, not just not be extreme. And it peeves me that per Sneed's column, George said women priests when pigs fly, oh really? Thank goodness for certain Prot. movements. And even Worse sexism in ortho-hass. Judaism and Islam. I suppose NS they would be disappointed if you only had girl children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Rahm is an ortho Jew.

      Delete
    2. NS, I hope your father in law doesn't read this.

      Delete
    3. then you'd be in trouble, I don't know how you bite your tongue Perhaps you can send it to his email, if he has one.

      I have some booklet appliances on kitchen items with a Sabbath setting on the cooking range-ridic.

      Delete
  8. I like a sort of atheist prayer about food attributed to the physicist Steven Weinberg. "We who are not zealots can rejoice that when bread and wine are no longer sacraments they will still be bread and wine." Weinberg was, more than just a disbeliever, one who thought the harm caused by strict adherence to religious dogmas outweighed the good.

    Tom Evans

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mormonism is still odder than real Christian religions, esp. the polyg. fund. branch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the only real difference between the "weirdness" of mormonism or scientology and the more established faiths is a few thousand years.

      Delete
  10. My favorite Orthodox weirdness are those who buy TVs that turn on automatically to a specific station, so they can watch a ball game on Saturday, without touching the remote.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Regarding kosher chickens, they might taste better because they're processed with salt.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think it boils down to, "How can those people believe that nonsense?" From keeping kosher to transubstantiation to polygamy to dictatorship of the proletariat to dark matter, it's all nonsense if it's not part of your belief system. And sometimes even if it is.

    john

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for your good-natured description of these seemingly ridiculous practices. I keep kosher, at home and outside too, but I agree that many of the rules are truly weird. Many of us continue them because we want to be in step with the rest of our community, which has certain standards -- I think for most of us it's more that than true "belief."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this is crucial for a large subset of religious believers of whatever faith. A combination of "Tradition!" and remaining a member of the club that one has always belonged to. I know there are many Catholics who stick with the faith, in their own way, partly for the rituals associated with big life and death events and partly for the sense of community that means a lot to them, but who don't ever give much thought to some of the things that they profess to believe on Sunday.

      Delete
    2. And somebody needs to tell the CAPTCHA folks -- these new photo robot-detectors definitely ain't kosher -- all kinds of foods mixed together. I kinda feel sorry for the robots, if they can't tell the difference between a tasty bowl of soup and a nice piece of cake...

      Delete
    3. Why would anyone woman, unless she's afraid to stand up to her family or spouse and rock the boat, go to a religion where the leader says when pigs fly-that's when
      women will become priests. I guess if they tried to leave Islam they'd be beaten, near the same if the left the jewish Hassidic communities in NY. Fundamentalists also put women down in born agains.

      Delete
    4. any-one not anyone

      Delete
    5. that's why I only go to formal services once a month

      Delete
  14. lol! good one, J.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My reformed Jewish pal, told off her Conserv. Jewish mother in law, when the mom in law wanted her to put something under her pillow while she was preg. Her hub was wise enough to stay silent-he never stood up to his mom. Why would an agnostic marry into such a family? No more than I would some whacko fundamentalist evangelist or a dangerous extremist Muslim. Though the Muslims have to be the worse or some. And look what Hindus used to do to those widows. The Brits actually helped stop that awful practice. Or the thugee cult to worship Kahili.

    Mainstream Prots and Reformed Jews are the best ones if one doesn't want atheism.

    From what NS said of the FIL in preparing the horseradish, sounds intimidating, I admit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's recall the Deism of our founding fathers in the Age of Reason- doesn't have to be all or nothing.

      Mrs. G

      Delete
    2. Look at the awful human sacrifices of Aztecs who by the not so wise are put on a pedestal as Natives often are.

      Delete
  16. Great blog today and food for thought=-NS always challenges our thinking, even when he gets persnickety.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ever read the police blotter or city beat in the ST? Does Jesse really thing whites are at fault for that?

    And I'm suspect of Hillary's personal fund.

    ReplyDelete
  18. anything to make money for business, manufact. will exploit rel. to sell

    ReplyDelete
  19. ot/ we should all read that INfidel book by this Somali lady on Islamic tribalism, it would be a bottomless pit for U.S. to get into that

    ReplyDelete
  20. Religion isn't about the gods; it's about the rituals.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mr. S, Do you take those pics seen on the blogs does your personal asst. do it?

    Wendy, you have a good point there.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Bill Cosby should be in jail. PC is what kept him out of it. His wife is an idiot to stay with him. She can easily take him to the cleaners.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm just typing this comment to see the captcha.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The 10 commandments are not an unrealistic or totally nonsensical set of rules. More of a beginning for the possibility of a civil society. It's easy to understand how saying GOD sent down these rules, would have more power than saying "here are a few rules we should live by that might make our time on earth a little les stressful and survivable. I get it. Why people take all of this to the extreme where it negates its original purpose, is beyond my feeble intelligence. Is there something that I'm missing?

    ReplyDelete
  25. The innate human need for other people to do their thinking for them? That's my only hunch.

    ReplyDelete