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„It is Kosher.“ But what does it actually mean that something is „Kosher“? Which groceries, meat and plants, insects etc. are considered kashruth? And why should we not cook meat in a pot which had been used for milk before?
How do we recognize what is Kosher ?
The word „Kosher“ comes from Hebrew and means suitable, ritually pure. Kosher is a set of dietary rules in Judaism. It includes complete lists of dishes which can be consumed without breaking the ritual purity of meals in scope of the Jewish cuisine. Despite the fact it is used in reference to gastronomy in particular, it is more and more often used not only by the Jews for general indication of everything that is permitted, correct or suitable. The propriety of a meal or drink or whether it „deserves“ the labelling „Kosher“ is defined by the Torah. To put it in a nutshell, the Torah is a source of the Jewish religious law.
Currently we can find the lists of the Kosher groceries – they are updated every year and published also on the internet websites.
Restriction of blood
The Jews are not allowed to use blood for any purposes. Blood is a symbol of life and spirit. Another related rule concerns the slaughter of animals. A ritual slaughter is called shkhite. It needs to be performed by a specially trained butcher (schochet). He uses a perfectly smooth and sharp pointless knife to cut the larynx and esophagus of the animal. In this way the throat arteries should be affected and the animal should rapidly bleed. The purpose is to prevent it from unnecessary pain and fear.
As for the mammals, it is permitted to eat all even-toed ungulates that chew the cud – i.e. beef, goaty and mutton. Beside the domestic animals also some other game species are permitted, as long as they meet the given requirements – e.g. deers, European bisons and other. It is interesting that for instance giraffes are is forbidden although they meet the terms. It is simply because of the lack of tradition.
Concerning the birds a principle „what is not explicitly forbidden, is permitted“ is applied. It means that it is possible to eat only poultry (chickens, hens, ducks, gooses, turkeys) and squabs. Birds of prey, carrions and carnivorous birds are forbidden.
As for the fish, those with flippers and scales are Kosher. But careful – not with any scales. Let´s make a small trip into biology – only two scale types, keeled and cycloid, correspond to the „correct“ scale type. The other two, namely ganoid and placoid, are similar to dentine in appearance, in fact they are transformed skeletal sheets or skin extensions covered in enamel. slonovinou.
Perhaps because it was not very common to eat insects nearly all species are forbidden, excluding four types of the locusts. The tradition of their preparation and consummation is still alive in some Yemeni communities.
Groceries of vegetable origins
The plants are in general considered less „problematic“. Nearly all vegetable species are permitted, even those which had originated with help of the forbidden crossbreeding. Somewhat stricter rules have to be followed during wine and grape juice consumption. If they are not heat-treated with help of pasteurization or destillation they can only be handled by a believer and practising Jew. If anybody else wants to transfer, distribute or store them they need to be properly closed and secured by double seal.
Milk versus meat
So what is the point? Why should it matter to use a pot for cooking milk first, wash it and then use for preparation of meat? It is derived from a direction from the Torah, saying: „You will not cook a young (kid) in his mother´s milk.“ Based on that it was derived by the rabbis that it is not allowed to prepare the meat of the Kosher cattle together with milk. Yet it is not enough – the pots and kitchen utensils are divided in „dairy“ and „fleshy“ ones. We can even come across separate fridges or even two kitchens in Israeli hotels. It is easier compared to diffficult porging of the utensils
because mere washing is not sufficient. Basically, the utensils are porged in the same manner they had been polluted. In case the pot was polluted by cooking or serving hot meals, it needs reboiling. In practice it means immersion into boiling water for a few seconds. Likewise we porge also the kitchen unit – by pouring boiling water over it – or the microwave oven – a glass full of water is placed inside and the oven is set for maximum output for about ten minutes. The utensil needs to be taken out of the boiling water quickly or there is a risk of return of the undesirable „taste“. If flame was present during pollution, we need to use it again. This concerns the pans and grills. We heat the pans over the open fire, the grills have to be brought to red heat, so that sparks fly from it if touched by an object. The description proves that the method is very demanding and there si a risk of damaging the dishes, therefore it is reasonable to have special dishes.
The Orthodox Jews must not even eat a fleshy meal and directly after it a dairy meal, sometimes the rule is applied even reversely – it is for instance forbidden to eat hard cheese and then fleshy meat. The time which has to pass between the two courses is distinctive, according to some rituals one hour should do, in other areas it is necessary to wait even six hours.
As you can see it is absolutely not easy to follow these rules. It is necessary to be very self-controlled or accustomed to follow these rituals from a childhood.
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