Yesterday I received an email informing me of the newly founded newkosher.org food related internet site. That the site promotes kashrut is fine with me but I do have a problem with the content, especially the recipes. There are traditional Jewish recipes (stuffed peppers, latkes, etc) and those are fine so long as you accept the use of a good many tinned, frozen and other pre-packaged products instead of using fresh ingredients.
My real problem comes in with recipes that are attempt to reproduce traditionally non-kosher dishes in kosher form and that is a serious problem indeed for a great many of the recipes rely on the use of substitutes that not only change but diminish the nature of the dish being prepared. Among other examples – the use of soy milk, parve margarine, vegan cheese, "bacon" made from beef, lamb, duck, turkey or even tofu, tofu cheese.. And of course there are recipes calling for surimi shrimp, lobster, calamari and crabmeat. And then there is something called a "vegan cheese burgers.
As should be clear to all, I have no problem whatever with those who keep kashrut. I am, however, firmly convinced after years of sampling such substitute-based foods in too many kosher hotels and restaurants, that these substitutes are often so abysmal that I would rather skip a meal than have some of them on the table in front of me.
With all due respect let me therefore point out to my kashrut observant readers that tofu, in any form whatever, is not, will not be and cannot be a substitute for meat; bacon made from anything other than pork does not look like real bacon, does not smell like real bacon and does not taste like real bacon; shrimp, calamari or lobster imitations made from a slurry of North Sea Pollack may be forced by large machines into the shape of the things it is imitating but will never have the richness of flavor or aroma that those things offer. More than that, I can assure one and all that sautéing beef in parve margarine is nothing more than a second way of killing the steer that died to give you its meat. I will go so far as to say that I would prefer a Hell in which I would be damned eternally to eat McDonalds' hamburgers than to have to eat another tofu burger in my life.
It is clear that keeping kosher places certain limits on what one can eat. That is fair enough. The truly good news is that there are literally thousands of traditional French, Italian, Austrian, American, Caribbean, North African, and South American dishes that are perfectly suited to the laws of kashrut without the use of any substitutes whatever. As a single example, that some use non-dairy creamers because they choose to have "cream" based dishes such as ice cream or even whipped cream cake as their dessert after a meat-based meal is not the fault of the laws of kashrut. It is the fault of the diner, for I can assure one and all that there are a plethora of desserts that contain not an iota of milk products that can be consumed with great pleasure after a meat based meal.
Substitutes (with the exception of people whose diet is restricted because of health reasons) will take us to no place good in the culinary world. As a single example, let me point out the ingredients in two of the products of Rich, one the most popular non-dairy cream for use in coffee and the other a substitute for whipped cream are made from diglycerides, sodium stearoyl, lactylate, polysorbate 50, dipotassium phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate. While it is ture that these products also contain such normally edible items as water, corn syrup and soybean oil, they also have the nearly unpronounceable hydropropylmethylcellulose. More than that, in order to give us the illusion that these things are real food,they also contain artificial color and taste materials, without which they would probably taste similar to the plastic bags we receive in the supermarket. Personally, I would rather see these ingredients in the engine of an automobile than in my stomach.
Enough said. The internet site in question can be found at http://newkosher.org/