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Kosher, Local and Organic: Part 1

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07/21/2009

Kosher, Local and Organic photo 1

Cooking keeps me company when everyone around me is busy or absent.  And, as I've developed a deeper appreciation for what and how I cook, so too with my Judaism.  So here I am: a 20 year-old junior, living in a one-bedroom, eager to make it kosher.  And not just kosher—organic and local round out my trinity of food wants.  Organic, Local, Kosher—two out of three's not bad, right?

Remember that old JIF peanut butter slogan: "Choosy moms choose JIF"?  Incorrect!  Choosy moms grind their own damn legumes.  Which brings us to (pardon the pun) the meat of the situation.

According to Northwestern University Fiedler Hillel's Rabbi Josh Feigelson, kashrut's main (and to some, only) function is to isolate and separate the Jewish people from the others—it reminds us of who we are.  A chosen people.  But aren't we a choosy one too?

Apparently not.

Here in Chicago, on a recent run to KJ (that's the kosher Jewel on Howard), I found approximately no identifiably Illinois-based kosher food products.  I also found no Illinois based regular food products, but since I'm not in the business of buying fruits and vegetables at Jewel, I'll let it slide.  I found tons of kosher dairy products from Israel (Tnuva is really popular, nu?) or from New England (think of all the foodies who've gone kosher there!), a boatload of Manischevitz everything (California) and, of course, US kosher meat.  Because meat comes from the United States, as a whole.  Obvs!

How is it so possible for people to ignore where their food comes from?  I disagree both with the vegetarian (or vegan) who insists on telling me that my food had a face and a thought (at least my food can be certifiably dead and non-responsive when I eat it is my response) and with the carnivores who trot off to BK lounge for three Whoppers, never questioning that they're eating "BEEF" (you mean that comes from a COW? Gross!)  I want to respect my body and my future food.

Currently, there are a few coops in the east coast, who, acting like CSAs, service their communities with kosher, pasture-finished (that means it never ate corn, or worse, cow) meats.  I'm sure there's one or two in Berkeley.  I know there's a burgeoning movement out there in the world that has an ethical connection to its food—the organic one.  So what about here in Chicago?

These days, when I hanker after some protein I make do with what’s available, and buy Empire or Alle kosher meats.  But when I set aside kitchen space for my kosher, yes, but non-organic, non-local meat dishes, utensils, and cookware, I found I didn't want to spare more than two cupboards and a square foot of counter space.  I can't wait for the day to come when I can have all three— kosher, local and organic.  Hopefully then, I’ll have a large kitchen to cook in, too.  Until then, pass the tomatoes—I've got a pizza to make.

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