In my childhood home, meat was king. Due to some health issues, my mother maintains a high-protein, high-vegetable diet and the emphasis on balanced meals with lots of niche vitamins was not lost on me. I cringed from shellfish due to its texture and told classmates that I wouldn’t eat pizza with cheese on it because it wasn’t kosher, but my family didn’t keep kosher in any real capacity.
On the other end, my partner, Olivia, was raised vegetarian. She has never eaten meat and delights in asking meat-eating friends what chicken tastes like to watch them struggle to explain it. As such, her diet lends itself extensively to the rules of kosher. She never has to agonize over what is trayf and what isn’t; she just goes for the cheese made without animal rennet and calls it a day. But after we moved in together, I found myself debating the benefits of pursuing a more kosher lifestyle in our almost completely vegetarian home.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I prefer vegetarian food at nearly every turn. When a prepared meal is offered, I lean toward squash ravioli over steak. I still eat and enjoy meat, but much less than I did when I lived at home. Vegetables rarely sneak up on you with strange textures or a burger with an eerie crunch. An undercooked bite of pasta might be a bit chewy, but an undercooked chicken is a veritable smorgasbord of unseen assailants, and I’m a nervous person. Olivia also loves to cook and plans most of our meals, which means I’m happily eating vegetarian fare whenever I’m home. And more than that, I’m eating kosher.
The progression of our Jewish life together has always revolved around food. We both show love through acts of service, and as I become more confident in my own cooking skills, I’ve found myself attempting more complex vegetarian recipes for her. Even before we were dating, she cooked for me often in a way that no one had before, and I associated good vegetarian food with her affection and time. As our relationship progressed, I became more active in the kitchen as well as within Judaism, and both intersected in the pursuit of keeping kosher in our home.
In a step further, we purchased meat- and fish-specific cutting boards for the times when I want to cook meat, but they get far less use than the vegetable ones. The cat (who has never been a vegetarian and never will be) has her own spoons for her food, and meat is cooked on pans or plates covered in foil.
I will probably never become a full vegetarian, for varied and diverse reasons, but creating a kosher home has made me feel closer to Olivia and to Judaism. It’s always wonderful to come home to a Jewish space, and pursuing kosher in our home is one way we are creating that environment.