Kosher, kasher

[Hebrew, "fit", "proper"] - Foods allowed according to Jewish religious law. Judaic dietary principles, known by the Hebrew term kashrut ("suitability") belong to the oldest and most enduring elements of Jewish culture. They are included in the Five Books of Moses (Leviticus, 11; Deuteronomy, 14: 9-21). Only certain animal meat can be eaten. Pork, shellfish and eel, for example, are forbidden-treyf. Beef should come from the front of the animal. The animals must be killed by ritual slaughter (shechita). Meat and milk products may not be consumed simultaneously, which is why separate dishes and pots are used during their preparation and consumption. Meat and milk products must undergo special treatment throughout the entire cooking process. Before preparing meat, the meat is soaked in water for half an hour to rid it of any blood that may remain, and then in salt; after an hour, it is rinsed in cold water. Another method is to roast it over the fire. All veins should be removed.

Vegetable dishes are treated as ritually "neutral", or "pareve" [Hebrew, parve]; nevertheless, not all vegetable-based products are pareve. Although alcohol is pareve, spirits prepared for Pesach may not be prepared from grain. Wine must be kosher, which means it must be subjected to special ritual treatment during its production. This also applies to raisins.

All these complicated rules and principles are justified by rabbis, who point to the influence of what one eats on one's spirituality and ethics. Today, these rules are observed by Orthodox Jews. All food produced in or imported to Israel must be kosher. Most of Israeli society, living according to secular norms, treats these kosher principles more as their national culinary tradition than as a religious obligation. Kosher food has much in common with health food and vegetarianism. The Orthodox rules of kosher cooking are being modified as well: modern rabbis overseeing food production also pay attention to the chemical additives and preservatives used, as well as to the products' nutritional and health value.

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