Aside from the music scene, New Orleans is known for its abundance of delicious, mouthwatering seafood. Bacon is next on the list and can be found in dishes ranging from appetizers to desserts. This all sounds amazing, so what’s the catch? I can’t eat any of it.
I’m not allergic to any of these foods and, in fact, I love crab and lobster. However, I’ve been keeping kosher since the fourth grade, which is when my dad converted to Judaism, and for me, that changed my culinary outlook entirely.
When people notice my seemingly odd eating behaviors, they inquire as to what dietary restriction I follow. My answer of “kosher” only elicits puzzled faces. Keeping kosher refers to a set of dietary laws described in the Bible that practicing Jews are required to observe. Restrictions include abstaining from all sea animals that do not have fins and scales, eating only mammals that have both split hooves and chew their cud and not mixing meat and milk in a single meal.
These laws have modern explanations, but more importantly, they are all derived from direct statements in the Old Testament. In addition, kosher food must be prepared according to certain processes, and rabbis are employed to “certify” that those have been met.
For me, some foods are easy to avoid. I have never eaten bacon, and nothing about it looks or smells attractive. I have, however, eaten crab and even used to go crabbing with my dad and sister, so crab has both sentimental and physical value for me. I still crave fresh crab with melted butter and always have a hard time seeing fresh crab in a market or on a
It is very easy to keep kosher in some places. The food in Israel is almost exclusively kosher, so I don’t have to think twice before purchasing something.
New Orleans, of course, is a lot more difficult when it comes to finding menus catering to Jews. To be safe, I usually go vegetarian, but I have found that not all restaurants are careful in how they prepare their veggie dishes. The Rum House, for example, will cook all of their food in the same place, meaning a cheese quesadilla may be cooked in the same place as a shrimp taco. This automatically makes the quesadilla un-kosher.
Many restaurants will also cook their food in pork fat, so I have to make sure this is not the case every time I order out. The Orleans Room is also questionable for me, especially when vegetarian and meat items are so close together (think scrambled eggs next to bacon during breakfast).
Keeping kosher can be unbelivably hard, especially in a city with a strong love for shellfish. Being kosher allows me to always carry a piece of my faith with me wherever I go and is a constant reminder of my Jewish heritage. Not to mention, I get to eat Matzah ball soup and latkes, so I’m not really complaining.
Maya Schacker is a political science sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]