As eating well becomes trendier and fad diets and organic foods become more accessible, college seems like a perfect place to experiment with new ways of eating. Although not exactly a fad diet (unless you consider a way of eating that’s thousands of years old a fad), eating kosher can be placed next to the Atkins diet and vegetarianism with its recent surge in popularity. Most importantly, it’s easy to do in a dorm.
Kosher food is categorized into “meat,” “dairy,” and “pareve,” which is neither meat nor dairy. Kosher meat comes from humanely killed vegetarian animals, fish that have to have scales and gills or land animals without split hooves (so nothing from pigs, carnivores or tentacled deep-sea creatures).
It’s treated delicately, with laws specifying what to do in the Bible, and “prepared to a cleaner standard,” said Hillel Rabbi Josh Feigelson. Meat and dairy can’t be eaten together, but pareve can be eaten with either. Basically, your omelet (egg, which is pareve) can have cheese (dairy), but not chicken (meat). This separation requires separate utensils — sometimes even separate grills, refrigerators and dishwashers and a long wait between a hamburger and a glass of milk.
Many Jewish people believe that a major benefit of keeping kosher is having a constant awareness of what you’re eating, providing a much healthier diet. Rabbi Feigelson said that “kosher meat tends to be less fatty” because it is more thoroughly prepared. Eating a kosher diet requires looking at a menu and finding items that don’t mix milk and meat, and don’t have shellfish or pork, making followers conscious about what they put in their mouths. Fortunately, though, rabbis do not actually need to bless food to make it kosher. Instead, they often supervise kitchens to make sure that the food follows Hebrew National Kosher Beef’s slogan: “We answer to a higher authority.”
Although it limits their menus slightly, American kosher restaurants are still competitive in today’s bacon-loving era. Rabbi Feigelson’s favorite kosher meal came out of a kosher fish restaurant in Florida. “For a long time there was an attitude among [kosher] establishments that they were doing the Jewish community a favor by existing, and that translated into their food and appearance”, Feigelson said. Now, these establishments are competing with other mainstream restaurants and the quality of food has benefited from it, as has the enthusiasm of their customers.
South campus’ Allison Dining Hall has a kosher station just past the cash register. It often offers the same meal as the non-kosher stations, yet in kosher form — usually with kosher meat or plastic utensils. This station also prepares the kosher food that is sold in Norris, and is open every day for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, except for Friday night. Similarly, Hillel offers free Friday night dinners and Saturday lunches for students’ weekly Shabbat fix, and even provides free bagel brunches on most Sundays. They cater to anyone, with services on campus supervised by Chabad. Otherwise, saying one is (strictly) vegetarian is another possible way of keeping kosher on or off campus. Not everyone eats kosher at Allison, yet the option is offered so students know what their diet consists of. It isn’t uncommon to see Jews and non-Jews alike eating from the distinctive station there, getting a quick fix of an old trend.