When I was living in Arlington, VA, I had a catholic roommate. Said Catholic Roommate was a real Catholic, or perhaps a Less Common Catholic, as she actually went to mass every week, was a good woman in myriad ways, and would've made the loveliest nun if she hadn't been engaged to (and now married to) a good Catholic italian hunk. But I digress. Catholic Roommate took part in Lent of course, and because I have a condition known as "worshipus infectious envious," I joined her in Lent, and took on the great task of not eating out for 40 days. It was hard, I broke down once for a McFlurry on a particularly terrible day of work, but otherwise remained devout and saved a great deal of money in the process.
So when Hanukkah came around this year, I reflected on my Jewish Ancestors, pulled out my simple little menorah, and thought to myself, "I ought to do more than light a few candles. Maybe I should try to be Kosher!" and so began my experiment.
I made two enormous assumptions: 1) that I can do anything for 8 days and 2) being kosher means like no pork and no shellfish, right?
The part that is actually the hardest is the rule that says that you should not eat meat and dairy (or their derivatives) in the same meal, and should wait 1-6 hours between partaking of the two. this rules out the most elementary of things, like cheeseburgers, sandwiches, creamy chicken soups, sausage and pancakes (unless you make your pancakes with water- no wonder Jews like potato pancakes), or if you're like me, love a tall glass of milk with pretty much any meal.
Even food that seems safe, like cereal, is only REALLY safe if it has the right symbol. Unless you're Jewish, have Jewish friends, played a devout Jewish person in some sort of theatrical telling, or have an obsessive compulsion about reading everything on a nutritional label before shoveling something down your piehole, you probably never noticed that there are kosher symbols all over your packaged food. They will look like one of these things, generally:
and that is just confusing as a pig in a car wash. (which I'm guessing would also be some form of non-kosher, seeing as how they don't much care for pigs.)
And don't even get me started on eating out.
Essentially, I've more or less become a vegan for Hanukkah, which is cool too. A lot of beans, salad, rice, fresh vegatables. And I will admit that 6 days in, a lot of these rules get aggravating, and seem to have no logical application, and other rules are really sort of neat, and dare I say even remind me of the word of wisdom?
For example, the meat/dairy rule effectively cuts your ability to make a lot of meat dishes, which aids one to eat meat sparingly. When I HAVE eaten meat this week, it was planned, thoughtful, and deeply appreciated.
Kashrut also requires you to only eat domesticated animals, which doesn't necessarily come up a lot, but I really like the sentiment of letting wild beasts and birds just be.
And one of the most interesting: it is strictly forbidden to eat insects. And while that only seems to be a bother if you have a hankering like John the Baptist for a good locust and honey lunch in the breakroom, it actually affects all sorts of Kosherness. It means you can only drink certain juices, have to wash all your fruits and vegetables to the nine (you'd be surprised at how often insects linger in your cabbage unnoticed) and perhaps most daunting of all for 98.2% of all women who end their day with a coin sized dove bar or equivalent: virtually no chocolate. there are a ton of bugs in your chocolate, it's true, and while undectable to us, it's not undetectable to a rabbi. So chocolate must be specially prepared and blessed by a Rabbi (this also applies to some meat, wine, and a variety of other goods) and I tell you what, I haven't found it yet in Salt Lake Valley.
Paradoxically, this also means that I can't eat the chocolate treats from my Advent calendar. grrrrr.
But honestly, it's been an entertaining ride, And I have immense respect for the 1 in 6 Jews who live their whole lives by this law. They are good and merciful people, who might even be so good as to forgive me for completely spacing all kosher sense last Saturday and ordering a bowl of clam chowder at Soup Kitchen.