The Jewish Chronicle recently published an article which asked the question "is Kashrut past its sell-by date?", and which interested me more than I thought it would. I’m not very good at keeping kosher - even at times where I pay attention to what I eat (which isn’t often), my knowledge of the food laws is so rusty that I often forget how to follow them.
I also wouldn’t describe myself as much of a foodie. I would go into detail about some of the stuff I’ve tried to cook recently, but since I’ve had one friend tell me that one of my recipes “should probably be illegal”, and another close family member inform me that one of my culinary creations “made him ashamed to be related to me”, I probably shouldn’t. All I’ll say is, my watchword for food is if a dish can’t be improved by the addition of baked beans, it’s probably too fancy for me. More seriously, I also suffer from type one diabetes, which makes eating something of a minefield. It’s hard to eat something for the unalloyed joy of it when you’re also conscious that miscalculating it’s sugar content could make you ill.
And yet, I’ve been chewing over that article in the back of my mind since I first read it a couple of days ago. I think that’s because- philistine as my eating habits might be, I’ve always connected food to Judaism in my head. It’s not too difficult to understand why. Growing up as I did in a secular - even agnostic - family who rarely went to shul or observed other tenets of the Jewish faith, food was one of our only shared avenues into Jewish culture. In my head, Chanukah always meant latkes, Pesach always meant chicken soup, discussions with my Non-Jewish friends about my faith always circled back into jokes about bacon (And circumcision too, to be fair, but let’s not get into that.)
I think that also might be why - in my admittedly uninformed opinion - Jewish food is the best in the world. Sure, it might be heavy and indelicate, and its status as a health cuisine is most certainly questionable, but it also speaks of a centuries old heritage, of family and homeliness and all the things I’m currently missing as I sit in an emptying university library, flicking between this article and an essay I’m forcing myself to care about.
And that’s why, despite being a heretical secularist in the world of food as well as Judaism, I can still see magic in the rib-sticking stodge I eat on Jewish holidays. It might be full of cholesterol, but it’s also got plenty of other stuff in it to. Memories. Heritage. Even the love of a family. That’s not a recipe that you throw away lightly.
Jamie Rodney is one of the JC's regular student bloggers for 2017-18. He is studying English at St Andrews University