Archive for the Funny? Category

The Purest

Posted in Food, Funny?, Kashrus, Me, Yom Tov on May 6, 2011 by frumpunk

If my calculations are correct, and I have no reason to assume otherwise, this is the fourth article I’ve written concerning my Pesach experiences to date. The first was silly, a pithy piece using found photos to illustrate the madness involved in Pesach cleaning by displaying an apartment completely clothed in aluminum foil. The second was personal, and involved my ill fated seder when I tried to actually drink four cups of wine. Sweet red wine, as recommended by my cousin, whom I love very much but is sadly, somewhat of an imbecile. The third post conveyed my further dissatisfaction with the four cups motif when I felt sick to my stomach purely as the result of big cups of grape juice; a sacramental drink (seriously, check the label) that apparently contains enough sugar to power a small factory, or at the very least, to fuel the dreams of every kid in Ramat Beit Shemesh of running from one end of the town to the other, screaming continuously. While the sugar attacking my system didn’t make me scream, it was enough to inspire a short lived superhero based on me named Sucrose Man. He had the power to vomit crime off the streets. Okay, down the drain. Whatever.

This one however, comes neither to damn wine nor praise it. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. My body refuses to tolerate fermented grapes, I can accept that. I get through the seder with grape juice, but just a bit. Whoever once fed me the line about having to drink the whole cup to fulfill the mitzvah can go pleasure themselves with a rusty car door. Try a Ford Focus, the rounded sides will make a world of difference. This year I managed to get bothered by the side products, the things we buy kosher for Pesach despite the ingredients list being exactly the same as normal, ie, they didn’t contain wheat in the first place. You know, the chocolates, the cheese, the mayonnaise. Our mayo this year came courtesy of a brand called ‘Goodies’, which I’d never heard of and assumed to be a Geffen product at first glance. I recommend you never hear of it either, unless you want mayo that instantly separates into semi-liquified egg bits and warm oil when exposed to any temperature warmer than a polar bears waterbed. You know what else I only just realized this year? Kosher for Pesach Coke and Pepsi are a crock. Oh sure, it makes sense in America where any beverage with more ingredients than water is pumped full of corn syrup, but in the civilized world it’s always contained cane sugar anyway. You know what they do at Coke bottling plants in Israel for Pesach? Print out a new label. Then laugh a maniacal laugh that they spent the rest of the year practicing (one assumes) as they export it all over Europe at a markup that makes the price of bread in post World War One Germany seem an absolute bargain.

The best thing we had this year though? The water. Pure Spring Water, absolutitious, and 100% Kosher for Pesach. It had three hechshars and a PI rating of 67, which I think means it gets to insult lesser waters on the supermarket shelf while it waits for that special balabusta to scoop it up, the one that has to make sure that the water her family drinks this Pesach contains absolutely no bread, wheat, flour or thrift. I read the label during a particularly strenuous bout of “Ha Lachma Anya”. Turns out it gets filtered naturally at the source. Which simply means they don’t do a single thing to it before feeding it into their own bottling plants, other than using their own filtration systems, because while everyone likes the idea of drinking from a pure babbling brook in the mountains, those pure babbling brooks contain plenty of pure babbling insects. Insects who pee and fornicate in your water. Where do you think they do it?

I’ve worked kosher supervision before. It’s one of the better unskilled jobs, if one of the more boring, and I really like to imagine somewhere out there is a rabbi. He’s standing by a natural stream of freshwater, somewhere in the mountains. He’s thinking of all the relevant halachas that could be involved in making sure the water people drink this year will be Kosher for Pesach. People who trust him enough to cast the fate of their Pesach in his hands. His eyes are closed in concentration. He opens them, just wide enough to see a figure. A figure on the other side of the water. With a loaf of bread. Feeding the ducks.

The Final Countdown

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Yom Tov on July 12, 2010 by frumpunk

It’s getting late, down to the wire. It’s not about the food anymore – hasn’t been for longer than you can remember. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. How many spoonfuls has it been? Don’t know, don’t care. You have to keep going. Suddenly you regret all those supermarket trips. Did you need that much ground beef? Were you really going to use that chicken? Doesn’t matter now. There’s no time for regrets and there’s no time to ponder. You have to keep eating. Two more spoonfuls and half the plate of meatloaf is gone. Only three more trays and half a chicken. You can do it. You know you can because you must. You check the clock again. A bead of sweat drops by your plate, more evidence of your foolish overcooking. You question your zealotry. You promise to change, to be better, to learn how to portion and conserve. You’d promise anything to not have to keep eating meat; everything that won’t keep or freeze for the next nine days. You’d feel guilty for having the pain of over-consumption in a world where millions starve, but you can’t. You’re too bloated to think of anything but the inevitable bowel movement this will end in and the porcelain havoc it’s sure to wreak.

And there you are. You’re consumed with that odd blend of sickness and pride that comes from finishing all the meat in your fridge before the nine days. Like sushi in a bad restaurant it creates an awkward sensation in your stomach and one that you hope you don’t have to meet again later that night.

But for now, you’re done. Your mother will be so proud.

The Other Side

Posted in Funny?, Girls, Rants, shidduch, Shidduchim, Yeshiva on March 17, 2010 by frumpunk

In my estimitation, there are over eleventy million blogs out there written by single girls about dating. In fact, studies show that blogging about dates (or lack thereof) has overtaken tzedaka-based square dancing to become the number one pre-marriage activity for frum single girls. But while they’re writing (complaining) about how hard it is to know how to act around boys, people don’t get to see a date from a boys perspective.

Where does she want to go?

You can’t just ask her. The onus is on you to make sure it’s interesting, not too showy, not too boring and leads to a good first impression of the type of person you are. And this is when you know very little about her. You can end up trying too hard. If she’s described as “outdoorsy” that doesn’t mean a five mile nature hike was a good idea. She might be described as “quirky” but taking her for a walk through the markolet just makes her think you have an unusual attachment to the smell of fish, rather than the intended impression that you want to look at interesting things while talking. She might be a reader, but used bookstores don’t smell very nice, not to mention they don’t facilitate much conversation when other people are trying to read their vintage copies of ‘Simple Truths’. You could take her to a hotel lobby, but then you’re just boring and conventional. I know someone who tried a boat ride for a first date. The lesson he learned was, boats can capsize and so can relationships. Can you take her bowling, or will she think you just want to see her from behind? If you offer to go for a walk around a mall does that mean she thinks you’ll spend money on her, or will she appreciate having an air-conditioned place to walk through with a food court?

What should you wear?

This is an easy one if you’re yeshivish or chareidi. Black, white, black, black. (Yarmulka, shirt, pants, shoes). But what if you’re frum yet not yeshivish? What if you want her to understand that you don’t dress a certain way, yet are a certain type? Wearing a white shirt on the first date might lead to a surprise if you wear a colored shirt on the second. Do you wear a bright shirt on the first date to make it clear you like having choice in your wardrobe or will that scare her off by making her think you’re a loud hippy type? Is a suit too formal? Is just a shirt and pants too casual? Will a polo make you look underdressed or will it make you look neat, confident and relaxed? Tzitzis out or in? What if you planned on taking her on a picnic? Do you wear older pants that can get dirty, or will you shock her by looking sloppy? What if it’s the summer? Black wool in the Israeli sun in July? White pants after labor day?

How much can you spend?

Do you spend a lot to show you’re a good provider or will she take that as you being a show-off? Do you spend a little to show you’re thoughtful with money or does that make you look cheap? Do you take out cash to show you can spend money on her, or do you use a card to show you’re careful and possibly have a good line of credit? Do you take her to a nice restaurant or are you trying too hard? Do you take her out to pizza because it’s just a first date or does that make you seem like an inconsiderate schmuck? Can you offer to split the bill so that she doesn’t feel she owes you anything or is that ungentlemanly of you? If it is a nice place do you surprise her and run the risk she already ate, or do you spoil the surprise by telling her what’s happening? What if you do tell her and you get the impression you made the wrong choice? Is it then alright to switch on her to something you think she’d like better, or does that make you appear indecisive? What if you don’t tell her and she feels bad that she either overdressed for pizza or underdressed for steak? Should you ask about food allergies on the first phone call just in case? What if she’s vegan? (Happened to me once at a shabbos table when the brisket was served. Awk-ward.)

Where to look?

You know what I mean. Can you let her know you find her attractive? Will she be flattered and more likely to warm to you, or will she take you as a creep because it’s too early for you to be looking at her like that? (Pro-tip for girls: we’re looking at you like that from the first second. We’re visual creatures and attractiveness is important. We just have to pretend like it isn’t.) When can you compliment her on her appearance? End of the first date? Beginning of the third? (Tip: Compliment the shoes. She’ll think you’re gay and let down her guard.) Is it a faux-pas to have your silk heart boxers peeking out? What if they’re cotton? (Polyester is a no-no. Poly-blend is only okay if the ratio is 30-70 or less.)

Music in the car?

This obviously only applies if you’re driving. Will playing Jewish music while you drive give her the impression that you only listen to that or are a certain “type”? Will she be turned off if you play secular music, thereby not even giving you a chance on the rest of the date? Is speed metal a bad idea in any circumstance (Answer: yes). Will talk radio bring out her strange political views or reveal her as a simpleton who has no idea what’s going on in the world? Which is better? Will no radio create an awkward silence? Should you play Weird Al on the chance that she likes him and therefore solidifies her in your mind as the woman you better marry, pronto?

What do you talk about?

If you give a devar torah are you being preachy? If you talk about college are you being a show-off? (If you attend anything at Landers or any other Touro affiliate, don’t worry about the last one. Knock yourselves out.) What if you get so nervous you forget the ending to the devar torah? Do you flub it and hope she doesn’t notice? (Really? That pasuk is referring to how we should try to be like the chocolate chip and not like the cookie?) Do you try to have topics written beforehand or is that trying too hard? I know someone who went with a whole list in his pocket of conversational topics that people had recommended. Do you want to be the guy who during a moment of silence fishes a crumpled up piece of paper from his pocket and asks “so tell me about your fascism. I mean, famine? Sorry, family!”

This was a long post, wasn’t it? And you know what? We’ve barely covered half the things to think about when planning a date. So next time you’re fussing about what shoes to wear based on how tall he’s expected to be, please, spare a thought for the boys. It’s no picnic either. Do you want to go on a picnic? Can we sit on the same blanket or will you take that the wrong way?

Spotting The Greenhorn

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, New York on March 7, 2010 by frumpunk

So there he was, spotted as soon as I entered the shul. Couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d been wrapped in neon and fitted with the bass system from a riced out Honda Civic. He eyed me the same and proffered an Ashkanazi siddur, one of the rare ones in this little nusach Sefard chassidic place. I accepted the siddur and sat down next to him. He asked where I was from, I told him. He apologized for not recognizing me, offering by way of explanation, “I’ve been in yeshiva for the past few months, this is my first time back since Elul.” I smiled at him. “I know,” I said. “I know.”

You can spot them everywhere at certain times of the year. Many greenhorn spotters (or “grotters” as we prefer to be known) will tell you that chanukah is the best time for this widely practiced, yet little talked about sport. Others, the ones with less finesse, you might say, will dig out the binoculars and set up camp only at pesach time. Not to be too arrogant, but they’re amateurs. My preferred game is the unexpected. It takes more skill to find them, but when you do they’re unawares and therefore easier prey. I tag the species and the location in my little book and release them back into the wild. Just this past week I saw a fantastic example of a Medrash at J2. Perfect specimen, a prize catch. He was talking about how he’s just recently started to buckle down and work on himself. It really made my week. I eschew the obviousness of catching them when they come back for yom tov in favor of spotting the ones who trickle in here and there for the family bris or wedding. It makes them more of a catch because you never know if there will be many, if any at all.

They’re an interesting species to be sure. This time last year they were just another batch of seniors obsessed with pog cards and their hippety-hop music (I think. I have no idea what the kids are into these days), totally unaware of the evolution that would soon transform them. They head off to Israel to their chosen (or not so chosen) yeshivas and then, I wait. When they start to trickle back, the season begins.

 There are certain signs to start your hunt with. My favorite is the linear siddur. You know the one, the hebrew is on one line with the english below it so the words match up rather than the block of english text being on the opposite side of the block of hebrew text. These siddurim are used by only two people; those becoming frum who are trying to learn hebrew, and newly minted yeshiva guys trying to learn the meaning of all those words they’ve been mumbling daily since they were eight. You could also look for the copy of Pathway to Prayer, that little book where it goes into detail about one part of the davening (the greenhorns tend to prefer the shemonai esrei one), but I think that’s too easy. Other things to note: the white shirt. Is it crisp, like it’s new to him and he still takes pride in his appearance? A favorite tactic of mine is to check the collar if it’s on shabbos. Is it buttoned up to the neck, with the tie properly done? See, if it looks like it fits correctly, then he’s new to this. Look at the ex-yeshiva guys in their late twenties and thirties. They’ve been wearing it for so long that the neck hasn’t fit in years, so they simply go to the second button and pull the tie up partly, for comfort. If he’s more Mad Men than Hocker, you’ve got a greenhorn on your hands, my friend. Other things to look for are shoes, belt, glasses and type and frequency of chumash used for leining, but this has become a wall of text so those, my friends, are for the next installment.

Father June Is The Hottest

Posted in Funny?, Heimish on March 5, 2010 by frumpunk

Just while I’m still at the computer, I’d like to show you my two favorite pictures from Italy. The front and back covers of the, *ahem* Sexy Priests Calender. Yours for only six euro. Now when do we get the heimish equivalent?

Mi Scusi

Posted in Funny?, Me, Vanish, Weddings on March 5, 2010 by frumpunk

I’m sorry. So so sorry. This has been a very difficult time for all of you, I imagine. This long without a Frum Punk post? With no warning or hints as to my sudden disappearance? Sure, there were signs here and there. You knew my brother was getting married. You all know about my exploits and celebrity romances. I’m sure you’ve all seen the tabloids and that embarrassing video that a certain paparazzi website that shall remain nameless had up. I’m a very busy man, what can I say?

Well you’re partially right. It’s not that I didn’t want to post, far from it. But between the familial obligations that a simcha magnifies, the test taking obligations that midterms throughout December don’t deny, and the travelling obligations that I can’t deny myself, I simply havent been near enough to a computer in the past two months or so to give you what you want. Nay, need.

Yes, I got to do a bit of travelling. Spain, Italy, France… if there was a cheap flight there, an available list of kosher eateries and/or the promise that it would be sunny and potentially blizzard-free, I was there, tried to be there, or at least suggestively fondled a map of the place. But do you think I had fun? No! Picture me in Madrid, tanned and sun-blessed, holding a cup of coffee and trying my darndest to look European. It’s a pretty picture, but you couldn’t see the tormented man behind the curtain, racked with guilt, knowing the pleasure of the moment for me was at the cost of giving you, the people, what you want. Because you want me, you need me. I lift your spirits and tickle that special spot beneath your chin with my words, anecdotes, stories and terrible metaphors. You need me like an ant needs a wheel of cheese. Like a rebbetzin needs to model her husbands streimel when he leaves the house. Like a kosher lamp needs a shabbos clock to talk to at night when you go to sleep. (What, you don’t think they come alive at night?)

So I’m going to give it to you. Sure, I’ve missed the pre-purim season which is the best time of the year for bloggers to write all those things that don’t fit the rest of the year, but you’re getting it anyway. This is going to be some hot bloggeration. Shield the kids eyes.

In conclusion; thank you, thank you. You’re the best readers ever. Thank you for your support and patience. You’re the real winners here. These roses are for you. Thank you again, and good night. *Exit stage left*

How To Chanukkah Correctly

Posted in Chanukah, Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Yom Tov on December 16, 2009 by frumpunk

Chanukkah is here, and frankly, I can’t think of a better time to be celebrating it, seeing as Chanukkah is basically just an eight day celebration of fuel savings and conservation. I mean, eight days of oil from one small jug? When can I get that technology in my Buick? (Hey-oh!) Maybe we wouldn’t need carbon offset charges if the maccabis were running Chevron. I mean, eight days of continuous fuel from a jug that small? Are we sure that menorah wasn’t hybrid? Please, settle down. I’ve got a million of ’em.

But more important than jokes about gas savings is making sure the holiday is celebrated correctly. A quick summary for those who may be in the dark; Chanukkah is a festival where the Jews, after taking back the Beis Hamikdash, managed to light the menorah for eight days with only one small jug of oil. This is so they could use the rest of the oil to fry things. Ever since then it’s been a mitzvah to fry things in oil on Chanukkah. What most people don’t realize is that it’s actually an aveirah to eat things that aren’t fried on Chanukkah. I recently had to grab my sister to stop her eating an apple when she came home from school. Remember, as Jews we have to watch out for each other. If your neighbor sins the blame is on the whole congregation for not stopping and helping him. That’s why I threw that sucker in the deep fryer, then made her eat it. She may be mad at me now, but she’ll thank me later when she doesn’t go to gehenom for her sinful unfried-fruit eating ways.

But it’s not enough to simply fry everything you eat. You have to eat the right things. Just yesterday I organized a protest outside my local bakery after I witnessed them selling doughnuts on Channukah that weren’t jelly. Sadly, in our modern days this is just another commandment that people seem to think is optional, like not having a haircut before the age of three or not owning a kosherlamp. We have a mesorah to only eat jellified doughnuts on chanukkah, just like the maccabis did right after they conserved that gas, just like Yehudah did when at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopened Beis Hamikdah, just like moshe rabbeinu did right after he defeated Voldemort by throwing his streimel over his eyes, then squirted the jelly in them, blinding the dark lord, as so often happens to us when we bite into a doughnut from a Brooklyn bakery. Point is, these traditions have kept us alive as a people through a long a dark exile, and to abandon them now is to ensure our death as a nation.

So light your menorah and shine a blaze into that ever darkening night. Preferably with your kosher lamp.

Frum Punk Rates Your Humor Column

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Reviews on December 14, 2009 by frumpunk

We are fortunate to live in an age of variety in frum reading material. Whether you want to hear about right-wing opinions, or the even further to the right opinions, everyone is catered for. There’s such a push to provide a frum equivalent for mainstream newspapers and journals that much of our literature even has a resident humor columnist. Just like Newsweek and Time!

With so many choices, how do you know what to spend your valuable time on? Normally I would recommend simply reading my archives over and over but I’ll accept that many of you don’t have internet with you everywhere you go, so you get a pass. So if you must look for a weekly chuckle in a frum paper, let me tell you which are worth a guffaw and which are worth a guff-don’t.

Seriously Speaking – Michpacha:

Let me summarize this one with a peek into the authors mind during brainstorming: “Israeli service is slow! Obama is a liberal! Frum Jews don’t like Obama! Bibi! Israeli politics! Obama! Hahahaha, amirite people? What’s that? My column is due in two minutes? Hang on, let me just mention how this institution could be giving me the prize money instead! In shekels! Cause I live in Israel! Hahaha, amirite? Comedy gold!”

Hamodeia – Mordechai Shmutter:

I haven’t read the Hamodia in so long that I can’t remember the title of this column, but it’s easy to remember the content. Lets see; start off with a mention of something that happened to you recently then… steal one of Dave Barry’s bits from a decade ago. I understand the appeal, you write for a frum paper. Even if someone recognizes the source they won’t say anything because that’s an admission of reading secular material, which means you’re no longer frum. It’s the same way that Lev Tahor can rip off an entire Scorpions song for their second album. If you say anything, you’re a shaygetz. Problem is when I was in yeshiva Dave Barry’s anthologies were passed around like a crack pipe in a ghetto. He’s clean and hilarious. I don’t know how he gets away with plagiarizing him, but it irritates me.

Your Local Jewish Weekly:

“Oh boy, we Jews sure like to eat food and do Jewish things don’t we? Goyim, they don’t do these Jewish things, not like we do!” Oh Jackie Mason, you devil. Curse you for what you’ve spawned upon the world. Here’s a Jackie Mason joke, “Jews do this, Goyim don’t do it like this, and then the Jewish woman complains in this Brooklyn accent”. Trust me, I once did improv where I just made up Jackie Mason jokes on the spot with that formula. As long as you do the voice, you’ve got a punchline. I did it just to prove the point that that’s all there is to it. My dad loves Jackie Mason. I heard enough of it in the car to last a lifetime. Even when I was ten I saw the formula. Problem is it’s so simple that when your local Jewish Times wants a humor column, that’s all they print every week. It’s the law of the lowest common denominator.

The Coffee Room – Yeshiva World News:

Yes, while not strictly a column, I’d like to include a review of it. If only to get to my word count to appease my editor. From topics asking if it’s okay to date someone wearing an off-white shirt, to rants about how women in tight shirts are causing tsunamis in Asia, this is the best humor going in the Jewish world today. Find out if you can eat ice cream on a shidduch date, or does it run the risk of not being tzniyus. Your question will be answered by “numberonetzaddik” who assures you he’s a posek and fluent in all areas of halacha and gemora. And why would he lie?

Watch this space for a how-to on how to write and publish your own frum paper! (Hint: it involves simply printing random articles from AP News that week. Add in a columnist, letters page and some puzzles from the internet for the kids page and you’re good to go. Rinse and repeat weekly.)

I Can’t Eat This

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, Me, Yeshiva on November 15, 2009 by frumpunk

I’ve done time. Hard time. Yeshiva time. I went to yeshiva, post high school for multiple years. When it comes to food, I’m a tough battle-hardened son of a gun. I’ve had the month old cholent. And yes, I cooked that cholent in my dorm rooms George Forman. I’ve choked down my fair share of grease based meat substances.  I’ve got stories of rummaging through left over simcha food that could make your intestines curl up and beg for mercy. I once had milk that was four years old. It was a little crunchy, but still good.

Or so I thought.

One of the standout meals I had this past year was a shabbos lunch spent with a chassidic family in Jerusalem. When I say chassidish I mean Chassidish, capital C. The women ate in the kitchen. Everyone but me owned a streimel. Yiddish was flying haphazardly in all directions. The peyos  were swinging and the gartels were tight. For the appetizer, my host was brought a massive tray with about thirty hard boiled eggs and several whole onions. While we watched, he proceeded to shell the eggs and chop the onion, enrapturing us with what was presumably a chassidic tale from his rebbe about how generations before us had prepared their own egg and onion dishes at the shabbos table while the guests waited slavishly wondering if for the main course, he would be brought a live chicken and all the ingredients of a cholent, to prepare it in front of us and tell us more tales in yiddish, leading us to take mental bets on whether or not we would finally be eating by tuesday.

It’s not that I’m spoilt. I can appreciate different customs and foods. It’s that I’m squeamish. Very American, chicken-soup-and-brisket type. I can try new things, I just don’t like to eat them when they’ve been passed hand to hand to reach me. I was polite, I ate my eggs and fish and it wasn’t bad, but seeing it passed under all those beards made me choke it down. Something that was almost reversed when the next course was passed down – boiled cows hoof. They told me it was boiled for a full day until it was just a blob of wobbly gelatin. I can try new things, but not the part of the cow that spends it’s life wading through feces. And it looked… wrong. It doesn’t look like food, and watching people slap it on bread and eat it with a gusto made me reconsider my previous plans to digest my food rather than regurgitate it across the table. (I found out afterwards that it’s more common than I thought. My grandmother knows what it is, but I still don’t understand why you would eat that part of the cow unless forced to by poverty or some sadistic poretz.)

But nothing could have prepared me for the main course. Initially I breathed a sigh of relief when the cholent was served. Finally, something familiar. Meat, beans and potatoes. Nothing can go wrong with this, right? That was until the boy next to me shows me the special delicacy his mother puts in the cholent. A whole chickens foot. Bones, skin and all. The whole thing, sitting right there on his spoon, practically squawking at me a warning to consider what other delights might my cholent contain. I’ve never lost my appetite faster, especially as he described how she cooks it until the bones are soft so it doesn’t crunch that much in your mouth. I’ve nothing against chicken feet per say, but they don’t look like an appetizing part of this complete breakfast. I spent the rest of the meal picking the potatoes in my bowl, too grossed out to eat the meat, but trying not to appear rude.

I’ve never thought before that there were things I simply couldn’t stomach to try and eat. Years of yeshiva food is supposed to steel you for anything. By all rights I should be able to eat anything anywhere. But I learned there’s a difference between spoiled litvish food and properly cooked chassidish delicacies. And I’ll risk the infection of a piece of schnitzel from three months ago thats been sitting under my dorm mates bed, before I’ll attempt to eat a fresh chicken foot, cows hoof or even a fresh piece of salmon passed hand to hand to hand.

No London Love for Sephardi Kashrus

Posted in Food, Funny?, Kashrus on August 31, 2009 by frumpunk

I have relatives in London and travel there at least once every few years. For the uninitiated, London is in England, or so they tell me. Personally, I have my doubts. I’ve been there a few times and I still haven’t seen any royalty tromp through on horses, lopping peasants heads off. Not even so much as a public hanging. But I digress.

Keeping kosher in England is sort of like keeping kosher in Brooklyn in 1930. Almost everything you buy is from a Jewish owned company (who are usually better known for their standards of kashrus than their standards of taste), very few things in general have hechshers, and most of what you buy is kosher by word of mouth. Is this okay? “Of course! Everyone I know buys it!” But it says “boiled in only the finest pig anuses”. And the company is called “Porkeys McTreif”. “You see that guy? See how long his beard is? Well he buys it! You think someone who looks that chashuv would buy treif? Plus, my friend buys this all the time. Are you calling my friend a bad Jew?”

Luckily for the Kosher Konsumer, the London Beis Din publishes a yearly guide to everything on store shelves thats kosher. It’s quite good, and quite comprehensive. Or it looks that way until you realize the duplicates. For example, you can buy veggie/soy meat products from Tivall, Tesco and Sainsburys. But if you check the packaging, you find out that it’s all the exact same thing, made by Tivall. In general, it’s not bad though, and there’s most of the good stuff. By which I mean, they tell me that Ben & Jerrys and Baskin Robbins are kosher, and that’s really all one needs to survive.

Some stuff is sorely missing though, such as fries not made by Rakusens or yogurts not made by Herzl Dairies. I’m sorry, but I like my YoPlait with the candy in the lid. It’s not bad for you when mixed in strawberry yogurt! But going back to the first point, last time I went shopping there with my cousin, I was surprised to see him grab a bag of McCains fries and toss them into the cart. Even more surprised when he picked up a pack of Kingsmill Pancakes for my aunt. It’s a horrible revelation to find out that your Golders Green living, black hat wearing, very chareidi cousins don’t keep kosher. My head was spinning, wondering what the pork content of the cholent on shabbos must have been. Considering the fact that he was my ride and all my stuff was at his house, I decided to try the teshuvah approach before throwing stones. To be safe though, I still grasped a rock behind my back like it was made of gold.

I took out the book and tried to make him aware of the grave sin he was committing, buying products not sanctioned by the London Beis Din. He smiled the gentle smile of the wise man, or maybe he was just trying to disarm me before I hurled my rock, and flipped the packages around to show me the “SKA” printed on the back of each bag. Now I adore ska as a form of music, but whats it doing on the back of these glatt treif products? Turns out it stands for “Sephardi Kashrus Authority”. But if these things were kosher, why weren’t they in the book? Surely everyone should know that they have more options for their culinary delights, if you consider fries and pancakes to be a culinary delight. For the record, I do. But then I’m the type to consider anything edible if it has enough chocolate or melted cheese over it.

The London Beis Dins book lists everything kosher, whether certified by them or not. Hundreds of products are listed under every type of reputable kashrus possible. But apparently not by Londons own Sephardi kashrus. I don’t know what the politics are, but that’s a shame. Because living in kosher England is like being one of those little chassidic kids you feel sorry for on summer days, when you’re sucking down your Iced Mocha Crapachelli Strawberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and all they have to eat is a tub of Kleins Kosher ice cream, made in Brooklyn since 1934, and each batch appears to have been made in 1934. Basically, it’s the color and consistency of frozen pus. You know I’m right.