Life & Culture

I smuggled kosher meat to Spain for our family holiday

The perfect solution to our kosher catering conundrum


Five go mad in Mallorca! Hurrah! My family were all excited about our holiday villa in Cala d’Or.

“It’s got a pool and four bedrooms, all en suite and a barbecue!” we exclaimed. We began planning how many nights we’d have a barbecue for dinner. Then we realised very quickly there would be nowhere to buy kosher meat in Mallorca.

Being the balabusta my mother brought me up to be, I had the idea of taking kosher meat with us.

“It’s only a two-and-half-hour flight, we can freeze it all and take in freezer bags in our suitcases,” I reasoned, and bought up most of the suitable barbecue stock of Leeds’s only kosher butcher, Gourmet.

Which is why a few weeks later we were sneaking through Palma airport, massively swerving away from the Guardia Civil and their dogs. My husband, Ray, said,urgently, “Don’t let the dogs sniff the suitcases!” as he tried to drag our four-year-old granddaughter away. Nina, of course wanted to see the dogs.

Clearly, we’re not a gang of international drug smugglers. But two of our suitcases had freezer bags stuffed full with frozen burgers, sausages, and chicken and a pack of Viennas for good measure.

It is legal to transport meat products between EU member states. The small matter of Brexit had suddenly rendered us criminals.

Before evading the Guardia, we had the panic of standing at the conveyer belt, worrying if our suitcases and precious contraband were lost.

After all, we all know the price of kosher meat! It didn’t help that I remembered a friend of mine who loved bringing back cheeses from his native Cyprus.

On one trip, he arrived at Leeds Bradford airport but his suitcase didn’t. It was found two weeks later, largely detected by the smell.

Surviving the airport, we arrived at the villa, which fulfilled all our expectations, and quickly put our illegal imports in the freezer.

We’d ordered a welcome pack of essentials stressing “no meat”. Something was lost in translation. We opened the fridge and there was a pack of jamón rebanado, sliced ham on top of a pack of sliced cheese. Noch, mixing milk and meat!

We momentarily considered whether we should wipe the fridge out with boiling water but in the end simply put the jamon in the bin.

We all keep kosher at home but we’re realistic enough to know that if you’re renting a villa there won’t be meaty and milky cookware.

Like many modern Jews, we observe and adapt accordingly. Jewish law states to make say pots and pans kosher, you should take them an immerse then in a mikvah. Ray wondered: “Will it work if we put them in the swimming pool?”

Supermarkets in Spain are stocked full of all sorts of culinary delights not seen in this country but sadly no kosher specialities. Our last family holiday was in Florida where we were spoiled for choice for kosher products and restaurants.

Supermarket shopping with the younger and elder Mr Whites is an experience. Mr White junior, Lee, goes off in search of essentials always with economy in mind, armed with Google Translate on his phone.

Ray looks for “treats” with no concern for price, while I trail after one or the other wondering what the Spanish for bagel is? I did ask one assistant, she took me to the bacon counter…

It’s fair to say we didn’t starve in Mallorca. Delicious breads and cheeses, and the fresh fish is amazing. Along with our Leeds meat barbecues we had a couple of fabulous fish ones with sea bass and sardines and bream.

We later found out that twice a week, the shul in Palma, Comunidad Judía de les Illes Balears, sells kosher food including meat and chicken.

For those who do want to keep strictly kosher and go self-catering there is a marvellous app and website that is a booking and search engine for strictly kosher holiday accommodation, some even within an eruv. Research is the key. And good freezer bags.

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