Over a year ago, and over on The Edible Torah, I posted a rant (“Pork-nography“) about an article on Tablet Magazine that highlighted the trend of Jewish chefs to use so-called “forbidden” foods and combinations.
Well, they (Tablet Mag) are at it again with “Unkosher“. However this time the article is written by a Rabbi (and former cook) Benjamin Resnik. After re-reviewing the dastardly dishes (the Brooklyn restaurant named “Treif” – guess what they serve; Ilan Hall’s bacon-wrapped matzo balls; et al), Rabbi Resnik comes to this conclusion:
“At the time I was working in kitchens[…] I learned all the tricks at chefs’ disposals. But now I know some of the rabbis’ tricks, too, and, with this dual knowledge, I can’t help but see the menus offered up by this new generation of trayf-worshippers as lazy—not religiously, necessarily, but culinarily.”
Bravo! Mazel Tov! Yasher Koach!
Take a minute to read the Tablet article, but also read through the comments. Many are thoughtful, trying to tease out the difference between food that was part of the surrounding cultural landscape in places Jews lived, and food that is intrinsically Jewish, and food which has become associated with Judaism even if it didn’t start that way. As the commenter “Adam” says “This isn’t a value judgment so much as an issue of classification.”
He may be right, but I don’t think so. I think it speaks to a willingness (or lack thereof) of chefs to accept the limitations that kashrut imposes and play within the rules of that game. Which is only more iron given that many of the chefs Rabbi Resnik writes about gained fame, like Ilan Hall, by winning competitions in which time limitations and required/forbidden ingredients were intrinsically part of the game.