Food and belief systems share a rich history. A number of religious dietary considerations have fallen out of favor, however, making way for socially, politically and health-motivated trends to eat local, vegan or gluten-free. Yet, in some religious communities, "dining out" can require careful planning. For this month's Dining Out column, we set out to keep kosher while enjoying a meal on the town, rather than in one's kitchen.
The word "kosher" means proper or acceptable. For starters, there are certain categories of food that are not kosher, including some mammals, fish and fowl (e.g., pork and rabbit, eagle and owl, catfish and sturgeon), most insects, and any shellfish or reptile. In addition, kosher species of meat and fowl must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner, and meat and dairy products may not be manufactured or consumed together.
These tenets seem simple enough, but in modern food preparation many foods require supervision to ensure that all units and subunits are kosher. For instance, a cereal might appear kosher, but upon further inspection the raisins in the cereal could be covered with a non-kosher, animal-based glycerin. Because these subtleties are not always discernible to the hungry eater, kosher certification ensures that a Jewish authority has inspected the food and that it conforms to kosher law.
The Va'ad HaRabanim of Greater Seattle (Seattle Va'ad) is an independent, nonprofit, kosher certification agency in the Seattle region. Rabbi Moshe Kletenik serves as "Av Beit Din" of the Seattle Va'ad, loosely referred to as the "chief of the court." Although the Seattle Va'ad is not the only agency through which restaurateurs, food processers, caterers and grocers can achieve kosher certification, it is by far the most well-known agency, and it shares a special relationship with the Orthodox Union.
Rabbi Kletenik's inspections vary with each customer's needs and circumstances - some establishments require inspection daily, while others require much less-frequent observation. The level of supervision depends upon the presence of non-kosher ingredients, food preparation practices and a host of other factors.
Our search for kosher food in downtown Seattle took us to Britt's Pickles in Pike Place Market (253-666-6686; www.brittsliveculturefoods.com). Both Britt's "Pickle Hatchery" on Whidbey Island and the storefront in Pike Place Market are regularly inspected to maintain kosher certification with Seattle Va'ad.
Britt's product line is limited to pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut, so stop by for a pickle on a stick (or a jar), but not for a full meal. Britt's offers an impressive tasting lineup at the Pike Place storefront, as well as complimentary shots of pickle brine.
We were particularly fond of the hot and sour pickles and the Market kimchi (made with cabbage, broccolini, carrots, apples, oranges and Meyer lemons). The "Black Market Kimchi" is a spicier mix made with black garlic.
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