Kosher: Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws
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Also called, ‘kashrut’, kosher is used to describe food that complies with a strict set of Jewish dietary laws. It is a way to show faith in God and also feel connected to the community.

Kosher means fit in Hebrew, and so kosher food is any food that’s deemed fit for consumption by Judaism. The laws of kosher define which foods Jewish people may and may not eat, and also how certain food must be produced and handled. Kosher also governs which combinations of foods must be avoided.

The Torah, which is the first part of the Jewish bible, lays the foundation for Jewish dietary laws. Religious Jews believe that adhering to kosher is God’s will. 

One of the most important rules of kosher is that meat and dairy cannot be eaten together. In orthodox Jewish households, people use separate utensils for meat and dairy. Indian Jews eat curries and have resolved the meat-dairy matter by using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk in them.

Laws with regards to combining meat and other food also apply within the body. It is customary to wait until the next meal to consume dairy if meat has been eaten, and vice versa.

Pareve (foods that are neither meat nor dairy, including plants, eggs and fish) are considered neutral, and so can be combined with either meat or dairy. The only exception being fish, which is pareve, but cannot be eaten with meat. Also, if a pareve food is prepared using the same utensils as meat or dairy, it should be considered equivalent to meat or dairy.

Meat must be slaughtered in a specific manner, known as shechita (the procedure of slaughtering animals for food production, which must be performed without stunning the animal), to be considered kosher. A shochet or certified slaughterer must carry out the killing. Kosher dictates that only the forequarters of permitted animals may be eaten, and the meat should be soaked to remove every last trace of blood.

Wine is essential to most Jewish religious festivals, too. To be considered kosher, the wine must be produced by a practicing Jew, using equipment that has been deemed kosher.

Seafood, meat from pigs, birds of prey, the hindquarters of permitted animals and insects are not deemed kosher.

Despite its restrictions, a kosher diet can include lots of variety and nutritional value. The certification of kosher foods ensures that the foods have met all necessary requirements as per Jewish dietary laws, and has helped make the process of buying kosher food easier.