View random article

What Is Kosher Food?

Some Jewish people follow strict dietary customs, set by ancient Jewish law or halacha. Foods that have met those requirements are called kashrut, or kosher. The word means “fit” or “proper”—indicating that they have been prepared in the traditional way, in accordance with the directions set in the Torah (which include the five books of Moses, the Old Testament, and the Pentateuch) and accepted rabbinic interpretations.

The dietary laws are quite complex, and only a few can be listed here. For example, it is acceptable for people to eat mammals who chew cud and have cloven hoofs (like sheep and goats). This immediately prevents them from eating pigs or rabbits, who don’t fit that description. Some birds are kosher—chicken, goose, duck, and turkey. Some fish are kosher, if they have fins and their scales are easy to take off. Thus, tuna and herring are okay, but they must be properly prepared by a kosher fish monger with kosher tools. Unfortunately, lobster, shrimp and clams are not considered acceptable fare.

The dietary laws also cover how the food is presented. For example, it is forbidden to serve both fish and meat, or milk and meat, at the same table. Interestingly, it is permitted to serve milk and fish together.

The kosher rules also dictate who can kill the animal, and how. These guidelines are called shechita, and make sure the animal is killed humanely, and without pain. The experts will also check if the animal is healthy, paying particular attention to the lungs, and then stripping it of its fat and blood.

The laws also have specifications on how to set up a kosher kitchen, mainly because they are particular about anything that touches the food.

Featured in Life