My Fall From Kosher
Hi, my name is Alex and I use to be Kosher. You’re probably thinking, “What the Hell is she talking about? She doesn’t look Jewish.” Firstly, that’s racist, so shame on you, and secondly, I am in fact Jewish. I am actually a JAP squared, that’s Jewish-American Princess and Japanese-American Princess for your information! However, I just think of myself as Hapa (half Asian, half something else).
I am a Japanese, French, Russian Jew who grew up in a Kosher household. My mom and Grandmama aren’t crazy extreme, no separate ovens or refrigerators, but they do have separate flatware and dishes. For those of you Gentiles, Kosher means you don’t mix dairy products with meat products and no pork or shellfish. That steak you like seared in butter? Or how about a cheeseburger? Yeah, those are big no-no’s. Sorry, not sorry.
At school, kids would eat their ham sandwiches with mayo, and there I’d be eating my Hebrew National salami sandwich on rye with mustard. Kids are assholes, and many times the kids would tell me I was going to Hell cause I am Jewish. I just told them they were unclean eating their stupid pig.
My family and I kept the High Holidays. During Passover you’re not allowed to eat any products made with leavened flour. Mmmm... matzo salami sandwiches. Matzo is unleavened bread (aka, a cracker). You want to eat cake? Better use some matzo meal. Ever had a cake made of matzo meal? I don’t recommend it.
Like I said, my family isn’t crazy extreme Kosher. I was allowed to have the occasional cheeseburger out and pepperoni pizza, just no pork. Occasionally I’d get to have bacon at a restaurant. My grandmama secretly loves bacon. I mean, who doesn’t? Though bacon never came into our household. Instead, we ate beef fry.
Flash forward, I grew up, and moved to NYC. There, temptation got the better of me. I love food and I love trying new things. I became emboldened, took a road trip to Maine and tried lobster for the first time. Holy Mother of God! What have I been missing out on my whole life?! I think picking out that live lobster to get boiled was my first step in shunning my culture.
Next I found myself in Boston for a show, and I tried oysters for the first time. Dear Lord, that slimy briny goodness just slid down my throat like heaven.
I realized there is way too many foods and food combinations I had been missing out on. I made a choice then and there to try everything deemed “unclean.”
Back in NYC I ran wild with the Gentiles. Shrimp? Yes please! Crab Legs? Hell yes! My family was oddly supportive. They knew of my downfall and didn’t ridicule me too much. Though my Grandmama likes to tell me I’m a bad Jew, she doesn’t have room to talk. I got her to try pork belly once… and she liked it!
I have now become a connoisseur of all things pork. My Japanese side is in heaven with pork bone ramen soup! Though I still find myself at a ramen restaurant asking the waiter to “please hold the pork meat in my soup.” As if that will actually make a difference to the pig based broth I am slurping.
Maybe I should blame my fall from kosher on peer pressure, but really I blame it on the food itself. Seriously people, one word. Bacon. Have you ever had a bacon maple cookie from Schmackary’s? Get one. It will make a believer out of you.
I love food, and life is too short to limit yourself from so many yummy possibilities!
If I do find myself in Hell it’s not going to be because of my Jewish heritage (sorry classmates), it will be because I am a glutton.
*This article was originally published in Swirl Nation on March 10, 2016.
Alex Chester is the creator and producer of the theatre company WeSoHapa - a theatre based on diversity and inclusion. She is a New York City based columnist for On Stage Blog and contributing writer for ManhattanDigest.com and HuffPo. She also hosts a podcast with fellow writer Melissa Slaughter, We're Not All Ninjas. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @AlexFChester if you like food and cats.