09 July 2006

"Kosher" means "clean"...

[Text included here for those who can't read the tiny print.]
Bernie: Hi, I'd like to open a kosher franchise of your restaurant. What's involved?
Subway rep: Your kosher restaurant must use our menu.
Bernie: Menu, check!
Subway rep: Your kosher restaurant must use our logo.
Bernie: Logo, got it!
Subway rep: Your kosher restaurant must be clean.
Bernie: Thanks, anyway.

and other misinformation.

Growing up in a non-frum environment, my understanding of kashrut ranged from some archaic laws that no longer serve a purpose to "the food is cleaner." The second definition seemingly comes from one who has never set foot into a kosher restaurant.

In my community, we have several restaurants, at least three of each "gender" (our family's code for "fleishig" and "milchig"). Of these, like shuls, I classify them under the following guidelines: those I would never set foot into (the ambience/food leaves too much to be desired), those that I will bring out food for entertainment or sit with just my own family and like-minded friends, and those that I can entertain my non-kosher observant family and friends (because they seemingly live up to the "clean" definition of "kosher").

The above cartoon was sent to me by a friend who feels the same way about this situation. Look at it, enjoy, and feel free to leave comments. I'm sure all of us have had similar experiences in kosher restaurants. Some of us may feel obligated to patronize these places, despite the poor service and substandard food, because we may feel we have no other choice. On the other hand, if these places operated in the "real world", they would have been shut down years ago, because the restaurant public is fickle.

When I was serving time back in high school in fast food hell (a few years before I became frum), my 40 year old manager had us operate under this mantra: "One happy person brings us one return customer, but one unhappy person loses us five customers." Kosher restaurants do not necessarily get return business because of the excellent service by the wait staff or the food is tasty (there are some exceptions). They get it because people who keep kosher are limited to a few dining experiences. FFBs do not know anything else and many BTs seem to operate under a paralysis that good restaurant food went out with the beef tenderloin and lobster.

Of course, there are those who for whatever reason, personal chumra, economics, or just a natural cooking ability, who just don't happen to frequent restaurants. I happen to enjoy creating at home all those specialities that I sometimes "miss", but in a kosher version. For example, I found this pareve "cheese" that is not made from soy and melts wonderfully. I saw it at the local natural food store and it had recommended by a vegan acquaintance of mine, who happens to not be Jewish. I used it to make "real" French onion soup this past Shabbat. [Onion soup, slices of toasted baguette rubbed with olive oil and garlic, and shredded cheese melted on the top while in the oven; it was so-o-o-o good.] I made a meal that would rival any three star restaurant but I would be hard pressed to find, even in our local "fancy" place (that has white tableclothes, herbed olive oil, a wine list, and a lot of food cooked in a "demi-glace", which a reduced stock for you non-foodies).
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