1. For starters, people have no idea what “keeping kosher” actually means.
In simple terms, you can’t mix meat and dairy, you can’t eat anything from a pig (yes, that includes bacon), and you can’t eat any shellfish. There are some acceptable fish — any fish with both fins and scales. Eggs are OK and can be eaten with meat or dairy. Also, after eating meat or dairy, you have to wait a certain amount of time, depending on where your ancestors are from, before you can eat the other category. Any questions?
3. After that whole explanation, people assume that you’re super-religious.
Well, I’m not. I use electricity on Saturdays. My male family members don’t have “those weird curly sideburns.” I didn’t even attend a Jewish day school as a child.
4. And they think keeping kosher isn’t as “cool” as other diets.
When people act like it’s a second-class diet compared to eating vegan or gluten-free, I’m like…
5. But despite your best efforts, people can’t grasp the concept, especially waiters.
For some reason, it’s impossible to explain the very basic rules of keeping kosher to a waiter. Ordering a Cobb salad can take 10 minutes because you need to hold the bacon, decide if you want turkey or cheese (you can’t have both), and change the dressing if you stick with the turkey. No big deal.
But at this point the waiter is either is too confused or doesn’t care and will most likely bring out your order completely wrong.
6. And restaurants always serve you a cheeseburger instead of a hamburger.
Regardless of how hard I try, every time I order a PLAIN hamburger, it arrives with melted cheese all over it.
ALERT: A hamburger isn’t supposed to have cheese on it. That’s why they created an entirely different name for burgers with cheese.
7. Or they refuse to cook your meat in oil instead of butter.
Most kosher meals cannot have butter, so it makes eating all the more difficult when restaurants (and everyone else) secretly put butter in everything.
In the end, I usually just lie about having a butter allergy.
8. And you always have to ask the world’s most detailed questions about food.
Asking “What’s the base of this soup made of?” makes you sound a little OCD. But knowing if that liquid is vegetable or chicken stock can make or break a meal.
In my family, you have to wait an hour after eating meat before you can have dairy. So that makes the whole dessert situation very complicated: If you want dessert that has any dairy in it, you have to make sure nothing in your meal is meat (and awkwardly ask for the dessert menu before the waiter can tell you the specials). I have, in fact, sat around for a full hour after I finished my entree because I just had to have dessert.
Kosher law requires you to have separate plates and dishwashers for your milk meals and your meat meals so that the two never, ever cross. This is not cheap or space-efficient, and it makes you feel like you have double vision.
Also, if you ever mess up and put meat on a dairy plate or vice versa, you have to bury the plate in the earth for eight years. We did this once at my old house and moved three years later. We couldn’t take the plate with us.
11. And kosher meat is always double the price of regular meat.
Seriously, this diet is so expensive.
12. Furthermore, when you try to adjust a recipe to be kosher-friendly, it doesn’t quite work.
Apparently there’s no way to make a dairy-free cake taste decent.
13. Traveling, which is supposed to be relaxing, is always stressful because you’re starving the entire time.
Cruises always have amazing buffets. Unfortunately, the only kosher item is usually the bread basket. Most trips, I just pack granola bars in my suitcase.
Office catering? Event buffet? Just turn around and go back to your seat.
Sometimes you can’t even eat kosher Jewish food ordered to your office. One time, a batch of hamantaschen arrived at the office right after I finished eating chicken noodle soup. By the time the hour had passed, everyone in the office had devoured the dessert. True story.
15. The most annoying thing of all: all the amazing-looking food that isn’t kosher.
Yes, I think this food looks delicious and it’s THE WORST that I can’t eat it.
16. In fact, not being able to eat bacon is enough for most people to question why you do this diet at all.
Bacon is pig, and pig is the treifest of treif (non-kosher). But people are in love with bacon. And people LOVE to feel dramatically terrible for you when they hear you can’t eat bacon. The pitying looks are almost as bad as sitting and watching someone eat a BLT.
BUT! Here’s a little good news: lots of packaged goodies are actually kosher.
And some surprising chip flavors.
Artificial bacon ranch flavoring: It’s a mitzvah.
And most sugary candy.
They may be terrible for you, but they fit the guidelines!
This post is specific to how I keep kosher and is not as strict as the practice of some orthodox Jews who, for instance, only eat meat slaughtered under Rabbinic supervision. There are many different levels based on how observant you are.