Happy New Year, my Jewish friends. The countdown to Rosh Hashana is on, as is my search for some of the city’s best kosher eateries.
Creators of the South Beach and other fad diets, hop on a low-carb cruise out of here. Nicole Richie – you’re about to become my biggest fan.
I have single-handedly discovered the easiest way to lose weight: try to keep kosher in Philly without a car.
You’ll spend your mealtime hours traipsing the streets, brow furrowed, as you ask shopkeepers and restaurant servers if they even know what kosher means. It’s a foolproof plan to lose weight. You’ll find ribs you never knew you had. And toes?
You’ll discover that they do, in fact, exist on your lower extremities.
In all seriousness, I give major credit to Philly’s Jewish population who manages to keep kosher and still enjoys meals out on the town. Much like food allergies, you cannot assume
anything about how food is prepared before it hits your table.
But, what exactly makes something “kosher” or not?
There are several very specific laws in the Jewish faith on the preparation of kosher food, particularly meat. For instance, no dairy products and meat products may be eaten at the same time, cooked together or prepared with the same utensils or cooking equipment. No shellfish are to be eaten and only fish with both scales and fins are allowed by kosher law.
Chicken, turkey, duck and goose are the accepted poultry types, but must follow specific preparation laws. Similarly, animals with cloven (split) hooves that chew their cud, like cows, are permitted. Fish and meat may not be eaten together, as well.
These guidelines barely scratch the surface of kosher eating. Anywhere food or food products and ingredients pass through must be certified kosher by a rabbi.
The most widely recognized symbol on a package or at a restaurant is the “OU” which stands for Orthodox Union.
This organization regularly certifies and supervises places as well as packaged commercial foods. The commitment to keeping a kosher lifestyle is of great magnitude and self-discipline.
So, back to food in Philly. For a city known internationally for its diverse food, we seem to be lacking in the kosher department. I tried to picture menus, remember servers’ little monologues at restaurants and recall reviews in magazines and articles about kosher eating.
After some phone calls and a re-visit, I came up with a few decent places where you can at least order something kosher.
The Famous 4th Street Deli has a pretty good selection of sliced kosher meats for sandwiches. In the koshering process, there are steps involving extensive salting of the meat. If possible, make sure you taste before ordering.
The deli has a special kosher menu for the upcoming holiday, so check for some possible treats that may be hard to find elsewhere. Maccabeam, on 12th and Walnut Streets, is a completely-certified kosher establishment. I actually had forgotten this fact since I ate there last year.
The food is Middle Eastern, with excellent kabobs, platters and sandwiches. Its fresh pitas and falafel are some of the best out there and prices are relatively cheap. Who needs McDonald’s?
Grocery stores are no longer just places to get yelled at by self-checkout machines.
The Whole Foods Market on South Street has plenty of packaged kosher foods (check for the OU or other kosher markings) to bring home and taste, if even just for the curious foodie.
So, do just that. Educate yourself and while you’re at it, ring in the Jewish new year with a kosher beer. Check out the highly-rated Genesis 10:10 HE’BREW at schmaltz.com.
Brianna Barry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.