Organic Kosher Vegetarian Indian Food at Eden Village Camp

A spread of delicious organic kosher vegetarian Indian food including specialties like palak paneer, dahl, and kofta are served one day as dinner at Eden Village Camp and remind us of our time in India.

Being vegetarian or vegan seems to be gaining popularity in the U.S., but it definitely doesn’t seem to be all the rage in the kosher communities.  In fact, more often than not I find myself having long conversations about why I’m vegetarian with all the meat-eating religious families who are kind enough to host us for meals.

From a practical point of view, it doesn’t matter how much you like meat, if you’re planning to do a lot of traveling you’ll be really restricted if you can’t go without meat.  During our three months of travel in India, we only encountered meat twice: at Chabad of Hampi during a special occasion and at Chabad of Varanasi, and both times only chicken was available. If you’re looking for beef, don’t expect to find it being served in India or Nepal! In fact, in certain very religious Hindu areas of India, such as Pushkar in Rajasthan, it is not possible to serve meat.  In Pushkar, canned tuna is only able to be served because the Indian employees don’t know that it’s fish! So if meat is a vital part of your diet, your travel will be extremely restricted unless you learn how to kill the animals kosher yourself.

Another practical point is that if you really want to travel, you will at some point be in places without a Chabad House, Bayit Yehudi, Lev Yehudi, or other Jewish institution to provide you with food.  Depending on where you go and for how long, you could be weeks without encountering other kosher travelers.  In India, Rabbi Ben and I generally went for about 2 weeks at a time without seeing a Chabad House.  During that time away, you’ll have to fend for yourself and make your own food.

Organic Kosher Vegetarian Croissants at Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley NY

After taking a special course, the resident baker at Eden Village Camp surprised us with these delicious kosher organic vegetarian croissants hot from the oven!

There are pre-packaged kosher meat foods available, but if you’re a longer-term traveler, you won’t want to lug around a suitcase full of them.  And even if you’re planning to slaughter some kosher critters, you may not find it practical to carry around two sets of dishes for meat and milk for kosher cooking on the go.  (By the way, in many of these countries, getting milk is very easy… just find a local with a milking goat, cow, water buffalo, or yak, and ask if you can pay them to let you milk a bit… then you can pasteurize it yourself in your own pot!  Many Jewish organizations we’ve encountered do exactly this, such as the Chabads of Pushkar and Pune, and Lev Yehudi of Hampi in India.)

Right now, Rabbi Ben and I are at Eden Village Camp, which is a primarily vegetarian facility.  It’s actually amazing to see the creativity of the chefs in making us healthy, delicious, organic, vegetarian food.  Even avid meat-eaters would be satisfied!  Don’t even begin to think we’re suffering… we’ve been treated to yummy entrees like eggplant lasagna, Caesar salad, chili (sin carne!), French toast, black bean burgers, and stir fries… and yummy desserts like chocolate and fruit-filled challah, ice cream and sorbet, chocolate chip and sugar cookies, and fresh granola bars.  If you ever worry that going vegetarian while traveling will be hard, just prepare yourself beforehand by learning how to prepare creative vegetarian dishes before you go!

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8 Responses to “Keeping Kosher: Going Vegetarian While Traveling Jewish”

  1. are there any issues, which I have had with oils, vinegars, or grape (or other “all natural” juices, all vegan foods that may have kosher problems?
    Sounds amazing, Rachel.

    • There are definitely a lot of problems that can crop up with vegan foods. It’s easier to keep kosher when you’re traveling if you’re vegetarian or vegan, assuming you’re working with raw food products and checking for bugs yourself. That doesn’t mean you can trust any processed food products. There’s a really good exploration of this topic on the OU kosher tidbits podcast.
      Of course, people do keep kosher at various levels, so what one person may be comfortable with may not be sufficient for another. Nevertheless, no matter what your level of observance, you can always prepare your own food when you travel, provided you stick to raw foods and foods that don’t need kosher certification (such as salt, sugar, extra virgin pure olive oil, etc.). As for “all natural” juices, most rabbis I’ve spoken with approve them as long as they fruit they contain is the ONLY ingredient, or if they’ve been juiced right in front of you and nothing has been added. As soon as other ingredients start showing up on the ingredients list, you have to watch out because some preservatives, dyes, and sweeteners may not be ok.

  2. Rob Roy says:

    The comment about milking was interesting. Why do you recommend a Jew should milk the cow themselves, as opposed to letting the local milk it and then buying the milk from the local?

    • The concept of a Jew (or at least watching over) milk is a concept known as “cholov yiroel.” The basis for this law is that we can’t drink milk from a non-kosher animal, so we want to prevent a non-Jew from mixing non-kosher milk into our kosher milk. In America today, many people don’t hold by this standard because the US government forbids mixing milk and anyone who does so is subject to a fine, although it is still preferable to keep cholov yisroel. In other countries, as you travel, this is especially important. In Rajasthan, India it’s very common for people to milk camels, for instance, and a local farmer might be tempted to mix the two milks (cow and camel) together and then sell it to you as cow’s milk. Furthermore, without proper Jewish supervision, we can’t be certain that the utensils used are actually kosher. This is especially important because most milk is boiled for pasteurization, so it can definitely take on the non-kosher aspects of the pot it’s boiled in. The OU has an in-depth explanation of cholov yisroel available here: http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/common/article/chalav_yisroel/ in case you’re curious to learn more details.

  3. Rob Roy says:

    That was very helpful. Toda raba Rebbetzin Rachel. :o )

  4. Aharon K says:

    You seem to promoting vegetarianism on a few factors, one of them is the concept of tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, don’t you feel like there is tsa’ar ba’alei chayim when comes to dairy just as well, also if concerned about protecting the ecology of earth you have the same issues with dairy.

    • Rebbetzin Rachel says:

      Personally, as a vegetarian, I do support vegetarianism, although my husband is not vegetarian and that’s okay, too. My goal is to educate religious Jews that it is okay to be vegetarian and that it does fit within our religion. In this way we can increase acceptance and tolerance.

      I do think there can be tsaar baalei chayim issues with dairy, although this does not apply to all dairy. Today, it is possible to get free-range organically produced dairy that is kosher in most first world countries. I know that when I buy milk, I am buying from a local farm where I have met with the owners personally and know the animals are treated really well. I have also milked cows myself and can tell you that it does not cause the cow any discomfort if done correctly. In fact, I even lived for a while on a family-owned dairy farm. Personally, I would really love to own my own dairy goats one day, as they give lots of high quality milk and also make great pets for children. But with modern factory-farmed dairy products then yes, I do agree that the same tsaar baalei chayim issues arise as those I mention regarding meat.

      • I rarely eat meat except small amounts of chicken on Shabbat, but I’m certainly not a vegetarian. However, during my vegan during the week (Monday – Friday afternoon) phase I learned to enjoy and cook a wide variety of vegan foods, and became a better cook as well.

        When we go away for a few days, a cooler of food we prepped at home and disposable is certainly easy enough. For car camping, I find having multiples isn’t that big a deal, but if I traveled like you guys, vegetarian (and mostly vegan for practical reasons) is the only way to go.

        Love you site!

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