October 14, 2013

Many Myths Still Exist About Kosher

I happened to be at a wedding last week of a friend who had a number of business associates participate. There was a rather lavish spread at the reception, lots of color and props. I couldn’t help but overhear one of the senior members of the group say: “This food is probably not kosher.” He added: “When I went to my supplier’s Jewish wedding about 19 years ago, they did have kosher chopped liver and coleslaw.” It was then that I realized that despite all of the gains of kosher we are still dealing with some major myths. Like how many of you have heard someone say “food blessed by a rabbi?” Or as I heard last summer: “My friend tells me that kosher means that you can’t mix milk and meat” as if that were the only requirement.

Some will have you believe that we’ve come a long way and we have, but we still have a ways to go. Why does it matter? Because if we wish to be taken seriously as an emerging food category, we would like to be understood. A dairy case manager showed me where the kosher cheese section was and then added: “It’s like all the cheeses here but this was blessed.” When I asked him if he had actually seen the rabbi bless the food, he said: “na, he probably comes before I get here.” Sure, I am picking on some extreme cases, but my point is that there are still some significant myths about kosher. Education is probably the answer and I was delighted to hear that some kashrus groups are doing just that, educating hotel and supermarket staffs.

Many supermarkets are clamoring for such education, particularly before Passover. Those that are lucky enough to have a mashgiach are well ahead of the game, but for some it is just working in the dark.