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Food has special place in the Jewish religion
September 24, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
From holiday feasts to periods of fasting, food-related practices are a big part of religious life. To live, we are dependent upon food and drink, so it is no surprise that in the observance of all religions some reference to food is included.
Since many religions believe that life comes from the divine and we know we need food for life, then it is no surprise that food is often an important part of religion. Some religions make recommendations for keeping the body, a gift from the heavens, healthy. In some religions, the eating of certain foods is an important part of daily practices. Sometimes, food is honored; sometimes it is forbidden.
This week, we will look at the Jewish religion. Not all Jews follow all of the traditions, nor do they all follow them in a precise manner. But here’s a look at the Orthodox view of food, the strictest and most traditional:?
“Kashrut” is the body of Jewish law dealing with what foods a Jewish person can and cannot eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten. Foods that are deemed OK to eat are called kosher. Many of us are familiar with the term kosher, as we see kosher foods and purchase them in stores. Kosher foods have a kosher seal, frequently a “K” or a Star of David.
According to the web site www.Judiasm101.com, the details of Kashrut are extensive; the laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules.
Certain animals may not be eaten at all. Of the “beasts of the earth,” one may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. Any land mammal that does not have both of these qualities is forbidden. For example, the camel, the hare and the pig are not kosher because each lacks one of these two qualifications. Cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison are kosher.
Certain birds are permitted, such as chicken, geese, ducks and turkeys, but birds of prey and scavengers are forbidden.
Fish with fins or scales are allowed, but shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams and crabs are forbidden.
Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law. All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or boiled out of it before it is eaten. To be kosher, meats must have a certified ritual butcher, called a shochet, present during slaughter.
Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but they must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten). Meat cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. The Torah advises believers not to “boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” The rabbis extended this prohibition against mixing meat and dairy to include not eating milk and poultry together.
Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Kosher and non-kosher foods cannot be mixed in this way.
Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten. (Certainly we have all enjoyed kosher wine?) Kosher foods typically do not taste any different from other foods; they may be even better. When traveling in Israel, we often visited a kosher McDonald’s. Everything is the same, and everything is different.
Fasting plays a large role in the Jewish religion. In Judaism, fasting means completely abstaining from food and drink, including water. Traditionally, observant Jews fast six days of the year. Yom Kippur is considered the most important day of the Jewish year, and fasting is expected of every adult Jewish man or woman. With the exception of Yom Kippur, fasting is never permitted on Shabbat, a weekly day of rest or worship.
I have given a very brief look at some food traditions in the Jewish religion. To give you a “taste” of it, I have included a recipe for challah bread, a special Jewish braided bread eaten on sabbath and holidays. Challah is usually parve — meaning it contains neither dairy nor meat — and it is delicious.
This recipe is my favorite Betty Crocker version; it’s easy and delicious:
2 1/2-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (rounded) dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, egg oil and 1 ¼ cups flour. Beat with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Add flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead by machine or turn dough onto lightly floured surface.
Knead about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Place in greased bowl and turn greased side up.
Cover and let rise in warm place 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in size.
Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening.
Punch down dough and divide into three equal parts. Roll each part into a rope. Braid it gently: It does not stretch. Fasten ends and tuck them securely.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until double.
Heat oven to 375.
Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water and brush over braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy.
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