That’s kosher

by Jonah

Knoxville, TN

After taking a detour north, we’re finally heading west. Memphis is tonight’s stop (and the last chance for Krystals). I-40 our home for today and tomorrow.

We left the Schwarzbarts’ this morning (well, a bit after noon). Visiting them is always interesting, particularly because they keep a kosher kitchen. Food becomes a major production because we can’t help or clean up after ourselves. As Arnold put it the first time I visited them, cleaning up incorrectly makes life a lot more complicated for them, “So just let us do it.”

Keeping kosher means not eating meat (beef, chicken, etc…) and dairy for the same meal. Each has its own dinnerware and utensils. The Schwarzbarts’ kitchen has a butcher block bar in the center, divided in half by two grooves that go around each side. One side is for eating meat and the other for dairy, with the grooves keeping spills from contaminating the other side. Parve foods (that contain neither meat nor dairy, like fruit, vegetables, grains, eggs, fish, etc…) can go on either end of the bar.

Kosher meat is a little more difficult to get a hold of than other foods. Animals like pigs and shellfish cannot be eaten. A clean animal must not be sick when killed; it must be slaughtered humanely, it’s veins removed, and all the blood drained out. Arnold and Mary Linda’s favorite brand of kosher chicken costs a couple times over regular chicken in the grocery. But it also tastes much better.

Typically, we have dairy for breakfast (usually lox) and meat for supper. When Arnold discovered I liked herring, he broke out some of his special stash, and I had some last night for a late night snack, as well a few bites this morning. Both Arnold and Mary Linda are wonderful cooks. Berck’s challa bread recipe comes from Mary Linda, though his is his own creation and not exactly parve, since he uses butter instead of margarine. Berck makes challa only on special occasions, while Mary Linda tries to make hers often enough to keep a supply on hand. Smoked salmon and cream cheese doesn’t seem to go with it as well as with rye, so I’m afraid we put quite a dent into Arnold’s bread supply he imports from New Jersey.

We had omlettes our first morning this trip, a dish that Arnold has perfected the process of making. Berck arrived at the bar later than I did and exclaimed, “Mushrooms?!”

Arnold looked at him. “What would you suggest as an alternative ingredient?”

“Bacon.”

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