This has come up a few times, and I thought it would make things easier for all involved parties if I just put up a page explaining it… briefly, because to do it in full would take forever.
I keep kosher. This means different things to different people, so in addition to the general explanation, I’m going to specify what it means for me.
Even though I don’t eat meat, I’m going to include it in the general overview, just for the sake of it!
- A land animal must meet both of these requirements: split hooves and chewing its cud
- Predatory birds, such as eagles, are not kosher
- Fish and seafood must have fins and scales; shellfish is not kosher
- Reptiles, worms, amphibians, and insects are not kosher
- Milk and meat are never to be combined; a kosher kitchen will have separate utensils for each
- Eggs and milk are kosher only if they come from a kosher source (fowl / animal)
There are, of course, myriad levels of stringency involved in keeping kosher. I am not judging anyone else’s choices; this is just what I do.
The list above are really just the basics. Nowadays, with the abundance of commercial products, there are a whole bunch of other things to worry about. The one that bugs me the most is the dairy — to ensure that the milk actually did come from a kosher animal, there is a certain type of dairy which indicates that someone was watching the entire milking process. Grab almost any yogurt or bar, and you’ll probably see a symbol like one of these somewhere on the package:
There are more kosher certifying agencies in the world than I can count, so I’ll stop there; but on most of the yogurts / bars, these symbols are followed by either a “D” or the word “dairy.” This excludes it from the class of dairy that I can have. This is why I got so annoyed when my soy milk became “OUD” … also why Greek yogurt makes me so sad!
I’ve also mentioned that Amy’s products make me sad. I first tried them when I was IP — at that time, I spoke with a rabbi about it and somewhat relaxed what I would and would not do, given the circumstances — and when I returned to “real life,” I investigated the kosher symbol on it. For various reasons, it turns out that I would not rely on it… and so no more Amy’s for me.
Because meat and milk can’t be combined, my kitchen actually has three separate “workstations”: one for meat, one for dairy, and one for foods that are neither (called “pareve”). We don’t have a dairy oven — only a toaster oven — and so all of my baking is done in the pareve oven. That’s why, even though I do eat dairy yogurt, I was so excited to finally find soy yogurt that’s not marked dairy. Frankly, using soy milk + vinegar and calling it “buttermilk” as a yogurt substitute in baking was getting kind of old.
I hope that clears some things up… if not, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!