So what do you think will happen if I put a piece of meat on this milk plate?” I asked my new husband. “I know, I know” he said, “but…”
There you have it, the “but…” is because my husband is a fully-fledged, fully-traditional, Orthodox Jew.
Don’t get me wrong, I am Jewish down to my very bones. Cut me and I bleed chicken soup. As a child, I went to a Jewish school. As an adult, I made Friday-night dinner for my mum and other family. I observed High Holy-Days and holidays. Did I keep kosher? Not really. I did have two sets of plates but they were everyday and “best”.
I led a busy life as a show business journalist. A life full of glamour, glitz, travel and not a shochet in sight. The only thing that stopped my mother from full blown kvelling was that I had never married. Then, at the ripe old age of 52, I met my husband. A man who is as witty as he is wise, handsome, down-to-earth and strictly kosher.
My husband is a man who puts family first and, while he loves the showbiz soirees, he is happier around a Seder table. He’s a man who is so proud of my ability to make chopped liver from scratch, he even mentioned it in his wedding speech. In his eyes, my greatest asset is that I am a balaboosta.
Since we married two years ago and bought our shared home together, I run it fully kosher. Having been blessed with the aforementioned Jewish education, at least I knew what to do. Putting it all into practice after decades of living a relatively secular life presented its challenges. According to the National Jewish Community Survey carried out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in 2013, I joined 52 per cent of all respondents who separate milk and meat utensils at home, and the similar proportion of 48 per cent who only buy kosher meat for their home. Get me!
Shopping initially took twice as long as I examined every packet for a trace of treif. The mere mention of gelatine made me flinch. I once mistakenly bought a bacon and egg quiche instead of cheese and tomato. Luckily it was spotted by my husband before he took a bite into damnation. My mortification knew no bounds.
When we moved into our new home, we spent ages planning the kitchen. Having left behind a small kitchen in my singleton home, I was excited about the new spacious one I would soon have, with so many cupboards and drawers. Except, of course, there weren’t. Not when you have two sets of crockery and cutlery and pans. Did I mention we bought an induction hob? That all our joint existing pans were not suitable? So, we bought two lots new. It cost £65 for an induction friendly griddle pan for meat. “Let’s go vegetarian,” I suggested.
I’ve always loved entertaining and I will say, somewhat immodestly, I’m quite good at it. As my mother used to say, “Oh what a table she puts on.” Planning a dinner party, I would scour recipe books, designing my menus with meticulous detail. I still do. Except now of course, I can’t whip up my “best” dessert of lemon wine syllabub, heavy on the double cream, after Ottolenghi’s braised lamb with figs, chicory and radicchio (delicious, by the way). Dishes like lasagne or moussaka with their “milky” sauces are tricky. I have discovered all the alternatives the deli has to offer, Quorn is marvellous and supermarket shelves teem with “dairy free”. Mainly, though, if we are having guests, it’s fish.
Or when we are on a health kick; usually every other week, we can’t eat a low fat yoghurt for dessert after the extra lean steak. In fact, recently, following copious amounts of my hamishe cuisine, the health kick has become more meaningful. We’ve joined a slimming group. Now a whole new set of challenges are unfolding. I beg the butcher for low fat sausages. I peruse the group’s recipe books for healthy lunch options that don’t involve prawns or ham, which apparently are very low in fat. Who knew?
At last though, the local deli comes into its own. The shelves are lined with kosher American imports that are “sugar free”, 0% fat, “low in carbs”. Oh the delights. Never have I been so grateful to overweight Jewish Americans!