If you’re like me, over the years not a few of your non-Jewish friends/family members/spouses have sampled Jewish cuisine, fasted with you on Yom Kippur, and broken matza with you to remember that we were once afflicted in Egypt. And I’d also wager you’ve had to explain cloven hooves, cud chewing, fins and scales, and the prohibition on eating wild birds at some point as well; when I speak to non-Jewish audiences the complexities and minutiae of kashrut is always the most asked-about topic.
On the flip side, who amongst us has not had corned beef and cabbage (and Guinness) on St. Patrick’s Day, stuck a lime in a Corona on Cinco de Mayo, or partaken in a Christmas turkey? As long as the animal being eaten is kosher, I’ll freely participate. Perhaps you have less stringent redlines. That’s ok.
Last week, though, was a new culinary-religious moment for me. On Friday night I had a fabulous
Shabbat dinner 6th grade end-of-season basketball dinner at a local restaurant. It was basically every other patron’s worst nightmare- a dozen tween boys around a few tables with some skittish dads at the other end hoping that the noise wouldn’t get too loud. When everyone was settled in and drinks were ordered, it came time to look at the entrees.
I had my eyes on an assortment of burgers, but then it became clear that I was out with six other guys who were all Catholic… and on Fridays in Lent meat is definitely off the table. So after two clam chowders, three fish and chips, and a few scallops were ordered I tacked hard left and ordered a pizza instead. I’m not sure why -after all, I have unabashedly ordered and eaten meat in front of vegetarians- but this time I definitely didn’t feel like bucking the trend.
After a lifetime of making everyone deal with my own food hang-ups and restrictions, it was a funny moment in which for once I changed my own habits to make room for someone else’s sensitivities.