As Jews, we have a pretty restricted diet. As we travel around the world, we see more and more just how restricted we really are in our kosher diet. In South America, we can’t put pork in our rice and beans. In Germany, we can’t eat the bratwurst or rostbratwurst. In Spain, we can’t eat the octopus or squid. In Japan, we can’t eat the eel. There will be no frog legs or snails to eat in France. In Thailand, you can’t try the fried crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions, or worms for sale…. and in Ecuador you can’t eat the ants. In Rajasthan, India, you can’t drink the camel’s milk and in Australia, there’ll be no kangaroo for you! In Iceland you can’t eat the shark and in Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, you’ll have to miss out on trying the nearly-mature chicken fetus cooked in its egg. Closer to home, we can’t eat the cheeseburgers or Philly cheese-steak… plus, in the American midwest you can’t eat the snake and in Florida, you can’t eat the alligator.
Now, I know you’re salivating at that list of worldwide delicacies you, as a kosher Jew, will have to go without. So for many kosher Jews, the thought of going vegetarian gives them chills. After giving up all those spiders, sharks, snails, scorpions, and squids to keep kosher, how on earth can I give up even more to be vegetarian?! How can I sacrifice chicken soup, steak, brisket, and fried chicken? If I do that, there will be nothing to eat. I WILL STARVE!!!!
Well, yes, even if you become vegetarian, there will still be plenty to eat. And no, as a vegetarian, you will not starve. In fact, most of the time you won’t even really miss meat, although you don’t realize that now. The truth is that vegetarian cuisine is neither bland nor is it boring. In fact, you may find that if you explore vegetarianism, you will get more creative and expand your food opportunities even more than before. You might even go out on a limb and try some new veggies you’ve been too scared to try before. (I did this, and discovered that okra is actually the magic ingredient that makes my vegetable soups almost too delicious to bear.)
We’ve been spending a lot of times lately at farms… at Eden Village Camp and farm in New York, at Farmer Ben and Lisa’s farm in Virginia, and at Kayam Farms in Maryland this weekend. All of these farms are vegetarian: They’re not slaughtering any animals. So what on earth will we do with all those extra vegetables?!
The best thing about being vegetarian is that you will pretty much never have to go without dessert! Desserts rarely include meat (and if they do, it’s usually lard and that’s not kosher anyway). In fact, the yummiest desserts typically have diary, which means you can’t eat them after you have meat anyway. To make life even better, when your friends are sitting around eating parve chocolate chip cookies after their meaty dinner, you can run to the kitchen and dip yours in milk. How’s that for a reward for being a Jewish vegetarian?
But you can’t live on desserts, so you will have to eat some real food eventually. What if you’ve had a hard day and you are just craving that fried-chicken-comfort-food your loving Jewish mother used to make you? Well, there are plenty of comfort foods that don’t involve meat at all. Just whip up some macaroni and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich to satisfy those cravings!
Part 2 coming up soon!