The Evolution of Kosher Dining

kosher-foodEating Kosher has changed over the years. You can now buy Kosher meals prepackaged and frozen in mainstream grocery stores. In major cities, there are usually a few restaurants that keep Kosher. And of course Kosher eating is available at Fall River Jewish Home in Massachusetts.

How Kosher Dining Has Evolved 

The Basics Stay the Same

Eating Kosher is based on two sources of Judaic instruction. In the Torah, there is a set of rules and laws that outline what is permitted in the diet, specific ways of preparing food, how to slaughter animals and fowl, which utensils to use and when and the protocols for Passover and fasting.

The Talmud has taken these rules and refined and developed them. Over the centuries, this oral tradition has helped to address the needs of modern life. In this century, one example is figuring out where preservatives and artificial ingredients fit into Kosher law. Rabbis study, expand and make clear how the original dietary laws should be interpreted when confronted with new ingredients and lifestyles.

Eating in the Early 1900s

The giant wave of migration into North America in the late 1800s and early 1900s includes millions of people of the Jewish faith from Imperial Russia and other Slavic countries. They brought their own take on Kosher eating into the country.

With this vast population to feed, Kosher stores and restaurants were easy to find in major cities. It was possible to find the ingredients you needed to fix meals and home. If you could afford it, Kosher restaurants were a good place to relax and socialize. Weddings and bar mitzvahs could be celebrated at catering centers that kept Kosher.

Easier and Harder

According to an article in the New York Times, it is easier to find pre-packaged foods today that follow Kosher eating rules. They are found at mainstream grocery stores like Safeway and Kroger in both the frozen food aisles and on the shelves.

In areas with enough of a Jewish population to support them, there are Jewish bakeries, delis and butchers...but these are few and far between. As younger generations have moved away from strict Kosher eating, it is more difficult for cooks to find the meat and other ingredients they need for their own meal preparation. And few cities outside of New York have even one or two Kosher restaurants.

Looking for the K

If you’re confused as to which foods in the grocery stores are Kosher, there is help. In 1935, a food chemist introduced Kosher certification for food producers. The company he founded, Organized Kashrus Laboratories, is more commonly known as OK Labs. If you look at canned and packaged foods in the grocery store, you will often see its logo, the letter K inside a circle.

OK Labs has supervisors who monitoring the operations of food manufacturers all over the country. They check that the company complies with Kosher rules.

The company has a timeline of Kosher eating through the centuries that traces dietary practices from 1275 B.C. to its current state. For example, it notes the boom in Kosher eating with the influx of Jewish immigrants before and after World War II. And in 1962, airline food met Kosher for the first time, with meals made by famous restaurant owner Lou G. Siegel.

Eating Kosher has changed through the decades, but it is still going strong. The strong Jewish culinary tradition, firmly in the hands of the iconic Jewish mother, is alive and well.

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