Archive for the Kashrus 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.

All Yomtoved Out

Posted in Frum, Kashrus, Me, Rants, Yom Tov on April 16, 2010 by frumpunk

Yes, it took me that long to recover from Pesach 2010. I’m a procrastinator by nature so I spent the last few days before doing all my cleaning and shopping according to halacha, then of course doing the modern post-halachic practices of checking my fruit for chometz, installing a grain filter to my pipes so no chometz would be pumped in through my tapwater and shooting all the pigeons on my roof because they’re notorious for eating grain and you can’t be too careful these days.

Of course, I also had to make sure all my paper plates and toilet paper had enough hechsharim on. Three different ones is considered the machmir standard but most poskim hold you’re not really doing your histadlus unless you have at least five hechsharim from three different countries. I think the worse part of pre-pesach preperations are the laxatives you have to take these days, to make sure your system is completely flushed out of chometz. I don’t enjoy it, but who am I to argue against halacha?

Also, it’s official. I can’t drink any wine without getting a stomach-ache. It’s even worse than Purim, because you don’t eat for hours before the seder, then you drink two cups of red wine. I don’t know what it is, but I usually spend half the seder on the couch groaning while the middle bits of the seder pass me by. I had mostly grape juice the second night, but even the light kedem is so sugary and sweet I feel ill. Maybe I just have a week stomach? All I know is, I need to talk to someone for next year. It’s hardly celebrating yomtov in the proper spirit when what you’re obligated to do by halacha ruins the rest of the stuff you’re meant to do.

It’s always a little jarring when a long yom tov ends. The previous eight days all start to run into each other in a steady routine of put on suit, go to shul, come home and eat, take a nap/read/walk/hang out go back to shul, eat again, go to sleep, repeat. It becomes a week of shul/eat/shul/eat and having shabbos take up most of chol hamoed didn’t help. It’s the one time of year I wish I lived in Israel where I hear rumors that they just have one seder, five days of chol hamoed and then one day of yomtov which sounds like the way it should be. The first seder is nice. When you start to do it all again the second night it begins to get tiresome, especially for me with my wine issues, and the kids questions switch from “why is this night different”, to “why is this night the same as last night?”

Well, now that I got my Pesach post typed up it’s smooth sailing from here until Rosh Hashonah. Although, now that I think about it I’m not sure the lettuce I used for my marror had enough hechsharim. Do I need to do it all over again just to make sure?

Ugh, better safe than sorry. See you in eight days.

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.

Its Not That Simple

Posted in Girls, Kashrus on September 28, 2008 by frumpunk

When I was in yeshiva high school it was obviously drilled into us that relationships (or just girls in general) were assur. Simple as that, right? Nothing good can ever come from a teenage relationship. I tried arguing the point once but was shouted down by an older guy in Beis Medrash who simply dismissed everything I said.

The first crack in that theory came in my first year in Beis Medrash, when I had a shabbos by a family close to the yeshiva whose daughter had gotten married a few months prior. He told me the story, of how she met her husband five years earlier when they were both fifteen and volunteering for the summer at a camp. Both families werent happy but decided against forced separation and according to him they carried on a five year relationship that (he believed, but… c’mon) was shomer negiah until they both reached twenty and got married.

Right now I know this girl, a teenager, who’s religious, davens, shabbos, kosher and all that, I know that for a fact, but she has a non-religious boyfriend. She’s on a plan to make him religious. He spends every shabbos at her family, which he seems to enjoy, he’s never really had a shabbos before. Today I saw her and she was buying tzitzis for him, because apparently he asked for them but his parents refused to get them as they decided it was a waste of money. I’m not going to pretend this is all kosher, I know they’re not shomer and stuff. But they do seem sincere, and through her he’s discovering religion which is doubtful he would have ever experienced under any other circumstances.

I don’t know what to think anymore.

Hello Apikorsim

Posted in Kashrus, Me on August 1, 2008 by frumpunk

Let’s face it: I’m a great guy. Intelligent, learned and humble. I might even deign to call myself a talmud chochom. (Not that I would. That would be geiva.) I believe in keeping what the Torah demands of us. Point is, I’m doing just fine with the big guy. It’s the rest of you that worry me. If I have to eat food that wasn’t made by me, vegetables that weren’t grown by me, wheat that wasn’t grown by myself, etc… I break out in cold sweat. After all, I don’t know where your stuff comes from. You’re so frei, you probably even hold by the OU. Your toilet cleaner is probably treif. Your fruit probably doesn’t have a hechsher. I’m so frickin frum, even my plastic disposables have not one hechsher, but two. And they’re kosher for Pesach. And they were made only by people who are certified shomer shabbos. (By made I assume they mean pressed the ‘Start’ button on the machine.) See:

My bowls, click to enlarge.

My bowls, click to enlarge.

These are what I use only for chicken soups. (The most heimish of all the soups.)

Of course, I have a backup set of bowls that are good for every occasion that involves some sort of modern Jew but excludes Satmar Chassidim. Similar to the lesser ones, these have the added feature of being made in Israel and featuring an Israeli flag even, along with the words kachol lavan which means white *something*.

Dei Zionist Bowls

Dei Zionist Bowls

By now you must be asking “but heiligeh punk. What hechsher is good enough to be allowed into these bowls? And what makes it so special?” Good questions. The only hechsher that I allow to feed me besides myself is also the only one that certifies it’s food “Kosher Perve”. Perve. It conjures up images of food that are not just kosher, but obscenely kosher. Anti-Socially Kosher some might say. Creepily Kosher almost. “Strange man in trenchcoat with one hand hidden”-style kosher. And that’s kosher enough for me. Remember- look for the sticker on your food that tells you it’s pervertedly kosher. Kosher Perve. Accept no substitutes.

So kosher, it almost perverted.

So kosher, it's almost perverted.

The Hardyberg Boys

Posted in Israel, Kashrus, Politics, Rants on July 14, 2008 by frumpunk

So the latest international scandal in the old mining village of charediville is the case of the smuggling chassidim. Otherwise known as “the type of story I would never hear about if I didn’t read Mishpacha”. (Incidentally, I once tried to start a conversation at a Shabbos table about something I read in Mishpacha. Before I got a chance to explain what it was everyone laughed at me for mentioning I read Mishpacha.) The story of the young bochrim who were caught smuggling cocaine through Japan? Apparently they agreed to smuggle, but they thought it was art, or so Mishpacha said.

If you missed it, it’s been the topic of all the editorials for the past three weeks or so, and is also apparently the cause of chassidim worldwide being stopped for extra security checks. Personally, I’m wondering how one would confuse art with white power. The way you’d smuggle art is quite different as well, I’d imagine. Here’s a hint: neither Monet nor Rembrandt ever painted on small granules of anything. They may have been on small granules of things, but they never painted on them with the notable exception of Michelangelo’s three day bender when he did a large Iron Maiden mural in the Sistine Chapel that he later had to paint over. I noticed the initial letters on the subject seemed to convey the idea that the Japanese government are showing their anti-Semite colors by arresting the boys. One column inch I particularly enjoyed was a bit talking about how the Japanese prison system has been in touch with Chabad to provide the boys teffillin and have also been cooking their fish on foil and serving it on plastic as they were instructed to do so that the boys could eat kosher. This was one page after an article mentioning how cruel and inhumane they were being treated and the Japanese system is in general.

If nothing else it’s been a boon to Mishpacha, who after several months of lazy issues have managed to milk this for all its worth, even doing a full feature on customs officers in Ben Guerion to see if they really are pulling aside all chareidis.

I’m So Frum

Posted in Kashrus on June 25, 2008 by frumpunk

In relation to this post by Insanity now, serenity later. While getting out a spoon just now I noticed that my plastic spoons are also kosher for pesach. Good to know.

Well my Pesach cleaning is done.

Posted in Kashrus on April 14, 2008 by frumpunk

Think about how much you spend each year on foil to make sure you cover anything that came into contact with chametz during the year. I think Pesach was created by tinfoil companies. Maybe Moshe had shares in one!

(These aren’t my pics, someone sent them to me. Be’ezras Hashem, we should all aspire to be this frum.)

Treif in Miami

Posted in Kashrus, Miami, Rants with tags , , , on March 12, 2008 by frumpunk

The Yeshiva World reports on Fu Xing

The Yeshiva World reports that the kosher chinese restaurant in Miami, Fu Xing was selling non-kosher chickens. Now it probably shouldn’t matter as Miami is trief anyways, but there is a silver lining; I now know conclusively that non-kosher chicken does not taste better than the kosher variety.

Now on a serious note, let me tell you what the problem is: the standard of kashrus. I know many kids who made extra money as teenagers working summers as mashgichem for restaurants in Miami. This is a typically low paying job and you can’t support a family on it, so its high school to college age kids that work at this. Now I’ve done this myself and I’m pretty sure I know most of the people who worked as mashgichem in Miami restaurants.

The only requirement was that they met with the rabbi who headed the position in the beis din who would ask them if they were shomer shabbos. Thats it. The only people who had any training were those who did it full time which wasn’t many. They were taught the basics of shomering: unlock the fridges, light the fires, check the fridge for hechshers on everything, lock up at night.

The main problem is that noone checked on the teenagers who were mashgichem and noone checked if they kept kosher themselves.

I know one person very well. He worked at a restaurant as the mashgiach for almost three years. He had gone off the derech years before. He didn’t keep kosher and he didn’t keep shabbos, yet he was responsible for a prominent restaurant being kosher.

Now in fairness to him I know he was actually meticulous. He knew his stuff (learned on the job of course) and nothing treif passed through that resturant. He may not keep kosher but he knows its importance to everyone else who eats there. Unfortunately, he split the shift (mornings or nights) with another guy who I’m pretty sure didn’t care.

The whole system needs revamping. Right now its based around money. Restaurants want the kosher business so they tolerate having a mashgiasch, however they pay around $7-8 an hour and so as not to have a dead hand around they always require the mashgiach to work preparing the food as well, further limiting his ability to be checking on the workers.