Kosher food and kosher cooking seems to be more popular than ever. Many people assume that “kosher” means “healthy.” Actually, the Hebrew word “kasher” means “proper.” The term refers to ingredients and animals that are determined to be “proper” according to the Hebrew Bible or “Torah.”
The three criteria set out in the Torah that define a kosher land animal are 1) they have a split hoof, 2) they chew their cud and 3) they are slaughtered according to tradition with as little pain as possible. For instance, a cow fits this description but a pig only has one element (the split hoof) thereby rendering itself non-kosher. By extension, anything derived from a pig becomes non-kosher, such as ham or pickled pig’s feet.
So hamster contains “ham” but is not kosher to eat because of the split hoof and cud thing. Hamsters are, however, kosher to own and raise as a pet. Other things that may become confused as to their kosher status are “hamstrings,” “pygmalion” and “sporks.”
Fish, according to the Torah, are kosher if they have two elements as well. 1) fins and 2) scales. Sharks are not kosher, but tuna is. Catfish is not kosher, but not because it contains “cat” in the name. Catfish do not have scales.
I myself am a vegetarian, because I don’t like the idea of anything dying if it’s not absolutely necessary. And over the years I have come up with some recipes that are excellent substitutes for meat and meat products.
My favorite vegetarian recipe is “Steak Tartar.” First of all, you should know there is no meat in my steak tartar, but there is tartar sauce. Lots of it. In fact, I usually find a nice ramekin dish and fill it with tartar sauce. That’s it. Garnish with pepper and serve with a spoon. Simple, elegant, and very tasty. If you’re a big meat eater, I guarantee this dish will make you forget why you were drawn to meat in the first place.
Another recipe I like a lot is called “Cheeseburger Extraordinaire.” For this dish, I excise the burger and replace with cheese. So, two buns, two slices of cheese (cheddar or muenster) and cover with tartar sauce.” I can whip this up for company very quickly. It also works as a lunch or mid-afternoon snack. I’ve submitted this recipe to all the big fast food restaurants in America, but none of them have incorporated it into their menus, yet.