For my family, keeping kosher has never been on the table, so to speak, and I doubt it ever will be.
Three of my picky son's favorite foods are bacon, pork chops and ham sandwiches — and I am not stopping him from enjoying that treyf.
Keeping kosher is something that has never been on the table, so to speak, and I doubt it ever will be for my family.
I wonder if I would feel differently had I been raised that way. Many of the traditions I uphold today — such as lighting Shabbat candles, fasting on Yom Kippur and not eating bread during Passover — were all part of my upbringing.
My mother wasn’t raised kosher but my father was. Still, a childhood following dietary laws didn't inspire him to lay down the same rules in his home. He made bacon on the weekends and loved veal parmesan. When I was 11, he sat me down at a raw bar in Long Beach Island and taught me how to eat clams on the half shell.
The only time I came close to keeping kosher was merely a side effect of the 12 years I spent as a vegetarian who happens to be grossed out by shellfish. This shellfish aversion has little to do with kosher laws and more to do with seeing too many episodes of Planet Earth and Deep Ocean on Discovery. People eating shrimp don't like when I talk about it.
One such shrimp eater is my friend Lysa, who was kosher for 10 years. Before quitting, she believed that keeping kosher was a meaningful commitment, something that knit her to thousands of years of Judaism every time she sat down to eat. I learned a lot about kosher dining through her, and I also was witness to her evolution. I watched something meaningful become something she resented as her desire to eat treyf grew stronger. As she explained when finally enjoying her first shrimp in a decade, cocktail sauce just doesn't taste good with anything else.
Seeing my friend's experience only reinforced my feelings that our dietary laws are way too restrictive. Now that I am no longer a vegetarian and happily back in the carnivorous world, I see no reason not to put cheese, and bacon for that matter, on a hamburger. I will cook pork chops as an alternative to steak (which my husband is no longer eating due to health reasons) without guilt. I wouldn't tell my older son, who eats so few things, that three out of the seven foods he enjoys are off limits, but he could substitute a crispy kosher locust for his Sunday bacon. Keeping the fast, baking a weekly challah and reciting prayers on Friday night — these are some of the things that connect me to Judaism. Even when I make pork chops for Shabbat dinner.