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How to Keep Kosher: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws

How to Keep Kosher: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws

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by Lise Stern

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"Traditional Judaism injects sanctification into the ordinary habits of everyday life.Keeping kosher helps us pause and think about what we eat, and how we eat it, and elevates the act of eating."

What does it mean to keep kosher? Many may be familiar with the basics: no bacon, no shrimp, no cheeseburgers. But the Jewish dietary laws go deeper than that, and


"Traditional Judaism injects sanctification into the ordinary habits of everyday life.Keeping kosher helps us pause and think about what we eat, and how we eat it, and elevates the act of eating."

What does it mean to keep kosher? Many may be familiar with the basics: no bacon, no shrimp, no cheeseburgers. But the Jewish dietary laws go deeper than that, and How to Keep Kosher explores the ins and outs. Why are some foods deemed kosher while others are not? Why can't you mix meat and dairy dishes? How do you turn a nonkosher kitchen into a kosher one? Do you really need multiple sets of everything -- dishes, pots, pans, and utensils? How do you keep track of what's what?

Whether you are thinking about adopting a kosher lifestyle or already have a kosher home and just want tounderstand what it is all about, Lisë Stern's How to Keep Kosher is essential reading. You will learn about the biblicaland historical origins of keeping kosher, the development of the kosher certification system, specific food preparation requirements for Shabbat, Passover, and otherholidays, and how to actually set up a kosher kitchen.

In straightforward language, drawing upon explanations from the Torah and Talmud, along with interviews with rabbis, academics, and laypeople who keep kosher, Lisë explores all aspects of Judaism's ancient dietary traditions as they are carried out in today's kitchen, with its range of modern appliances -- dishwashers, food processors, and microwave ovens. For the first time, one book explains both Conservative and Orthodox perspectives on kashrut, as well as opinions from other Jewish affiliations.

When Lisë was nine, her parents decided to make the change -- transform their home to a kosher one -- as a core part of their evolving commitment to Judaism. Because Lisë experienced the transition as a child and keeps a kosher home today, she is uniquely qualified to explain all aspects of this traditional practice.

Setting up a kosher kitchen lays the foundation for implementing the tradition; the proof is in the potato pudding. As Lisë notes, the Talmud says, "Room can always be found in one's stomach for sweet things," and the wealth of information is sweetened with more than forty recipes for Shabbat dinners and lunches as well as holiday and festival celebrations. Traditional recipes include Chicken Soup with My Mother's Ethereal Matzo Balls, Sliced Potato–Onion Kugel, and Hamantashen; new classics are Chilled Cucumber–Yogurt Soup, Rosemary Sweet Potato Kugel, Enchilada Lasagna, and Chocolate-Flecked Meringues.

Stern's How to Keep Kosher is an inclusive, user-friendly handbook filled with answers to the fundamental who, what, where, when, why, and how questions surrounding the Jewish dietary laws -- making these laws both accessible and appealing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For some, keeping kosher is as simple as eschewing bacon and cheeseburgers. For others, keeping kosher is a complex series of rituals that may appear intimidating to the uninitiated. Whether readers are simply curious or are considering keeping kosher themselves, Stern's resource is a good place to start. The author, a conservative Jew who started keeping kosher as a young girl, provides a clear, concise summary of Jewish dietary restrictions. This isn't a simplistic overview, but a serious and impressively researched digest that tackles basic and complex issues, and examines the historical and legal reasoning behind the laws. Stern offers both Orthodox and conservative opinions on a range of issues, from what's considered an appropriate hechsher, or symbol, to how to make a kitchen kosher, and she discusses the laws of the Sabbath and various Jewish holidays, too. Of course, many of the topics Stern covers in a paragraph or two have inspired pages and pages of Talmudic discussion, some of which rabbinic authorities still argue about today, and as Stern herself isn't such an authority, she advises readers to address further questions to their own rabbis. Her recipes for traditional Jewish foods, such as Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls, as well as her suggestions for innovative kosher dishes like Enchilada Lasagna, nicely complete this enlightening book. Agent, Doe Coover. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Kashrut, the practice of observing dietary laws, is one of the things that set Jews apart from non-Jews. These ancient laws, which appear in the Bible, designate acceptable and forbidden foods. While some may attribute health benefits to a kosher diet, the only reason for observing these rules is religious, thus transforming the ordinary daily act of eating into a spiritual ritual. Food writer Stern (Pasta Pronto!) has written a compact but comprehensive guide for those who wish to begin keeping kosher. Following a discussion of Kashrut's history, she provides step-by-step instructions for setting up a kosher kitchen, noting that there are various degrees and methods of observance. Stern recommends that those with more questions should consult their rabbis for definitive advice. The recipes she includes range from traditional favorites like Chicken Soup with My Mother's Ethereal Matzo Balls to the more contemporary Enchilada Lasagna. Highly recommended for synagogue libraries and public libraries serving Jewish communities. Barbara Bibel, Oakland P.L., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

How to Keep Kosher

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws
By Lise Stern


ISBN: 0-06-051500-7

Chapter One

I have been keeping kosher since I was about nine years old. That's when my family made the switch, and I remember the elaborate changes that I objected to initially, changes that evolved into personally meaningful practices. As I was a child at the time I began keeping kosher, I just accepted the various laws of kashrut at face value, without questioning the source and reason - this is just what we do. No pork, no meat with milk, only "kosher" meat - meat that has been slaughtered according to the laws of shechita. Chicken, which many general cookbooks categorize separately from meat, is as fleishig as beef under Jewish dietary laws. Fish, however, is considered pareve, neither meat or dairy. Fish could be served before meat, but it couldn't be served with meat. And eggs, which come from chickens, are also pareve, and can be served with meat.

Yes, it is confusing, but I just filed away the rules and followed them. Later, however, I wanted to understand these dietary laws; I thought, it may be easier to understand the various laws of kashrut if I had a better sense of where they came from.

I wanted to understand why the laws are what they are - not the philosophical or spiritual reasons, but the practical reasons. The why I was seeking was not really the logic or justification of kashrut, but the historical roots. I was curious about the sources for the laws of kashrut. What were the origins of the basic laws of kashrut (not to mention the wealth of detail) that we observe today? What exactly does it say to do in the Torah, the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, and other writings of Jewish sages over the millennia and beyond, and how did that all evolve into the way kashrut is observed today, in the twenty-first century?

Regardless of the whys, I appreciate kashrut as a way of sanctifying meals, but understanding the sources helps give a sense of the bigger picture, of how kashrut has been a part of Judaism since the time of the Torah. The biblical verses that set down the basic laws of kashrut provide a fascinating glimpse into our own history as a people. To think that we have maintained some observance in how we eat for thousands of years - it is a kesher, a tie, a connection between our ancestors and us as Jews living and eating and working in the twenty-first century.

My friend Elizabeth Sternberg trained as a professional chef before becoming the Combined Jewish Philanthropies' Director of Housing for People with Disabilities. A meal at her house is always a treat. "Chicken is my favorite food," she told me and rattled off a list of chicken recipes she makes regularly. Her favorite is a simple roast chicken. "I prefer a whole chicken; I think it cooks better," she says. "It seems like there's more flavor when you roast chicken, it's the right consistency. And I like carving it."


One 4-pound whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
Zest and juice from 1 lemon; save lemon halves
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove any excess fat from the chicken and discard (or save for making schmaltz). Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity, if they're there. Put the squeezed lemon halves in the cavity of the chicken.

Combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice, rosemary, and parsley, and mix well. Lift the skin and cover the back and front of the chicken with the parsley mixture, slipping it between the skin and the meat.

Tie the drumsticks together. This helps the chicken cook more evenly. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, legs down. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rotate the bird so that the legs face up. Continue roasting for 45 to 60 more minutes, until the skin begins to brown and the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.

Remove from the oven, let stand for 15 minutes, and then carve and serve.


Excerpted from How to Keep Kosher by Lise Stern Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lisë Stern grew up in Washington, D.C., where she attended a Jewish day school. Torah study and a love of reading contributed to her lifelong affection for text and for delving into the multiple layers of the written word.

Lisë is the editor of Taste of the Seacoast magazine and food editor for Hannaford supermarket's fresh magazine. She also writes on topics ranging from software to health to travel, but her specialty is food, including recipe development, culinary customs and history, product reviews, and chef profiles. She lives in Massachusetts.

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How to Keep Kosher: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE only book you will ever need to understand the historical and spirituality behind keeping kosher. Author has a great writing style and is very easy to understand. Book is organized very well and covers everything. Several pages toward the end are devoted to websites and catalogs that offer kosher food and other things of jewish interest