Let’s get this out of the way first: I was raised Jewish (albeit with a Christmas tree and an annual Easter egg hunt). I was not, however, raised kosher. This wasn’t because Mom married a Catholic—Mom didn’t grow up kosher either, and I’m pretty certain, though I’ve never really asked them, that neither did my grandparents. So although I was bat mitzvahed and later confirmed, I never gave a second thought to what I ate—which, for the record, often involved some sort of pork. My friends growing up were just as lax about the rules as I was.
In college, for the first time, I met Jews my own age who did care about kosher dietary restrictions. I was taken to the kosher dining hall—a completely foreign experience to me—and for the first time observed the Yom Kippur fast in earnest (except for the restrictions against showering and toothbrushing, because ew). When Passover rolled around, I decided to try out that whole unleavened bread-for-a-week thing. I didn’t go out of my way to eliminate corn, rice, or legumes from my diet, having done my research and decided that those restrictions didn’t make a lot of sense; but I cut out bread, pasta, and beer completely. Lunchtime for a week was composed of sandwiches on matzah instead of bread, and my alcohol consumption was largely limited to vodka.
But here’s the thing: my week-long diet of unleavened bread was symbolic. Jews cut specific foods out of their diets during Passover in tribute to the Exodus from Egypt. The laws of kashrut, on the other hand, are largely public health restrictions that got codified into religious law. Pork and shellfish simply aren’t as dangerous to consume as they used to be, thanks in no small part to refrigeration and modern cooking techniques. And as to the restriction against combining meat and dairy in one meal, well, if you can prove to me that the cheese I just put on my burger came from the mother of the cow slaughtered to make said burger, I’ll happily order the salad instead.
Thus the photo above. That, for the record, was my lunch on Wednesday: a double-decker matzah sandwich with turkey … and ham and cheese. My beliefs on a plate. A nod at history and a firm conviction in modern science and technology.
In case you were wondering: it was delicious.