Defending Treyf

I love bacon and pulled pork sandwiches. I love lobster bisque and New England clam chowder. And I love cheeseburgers – oh yes I do. There, I said it on a Jewish web site. I love treyf.
I’m a proud Jew and a supporter of all things delicious. I’m also here to say that it’s ok. In a culture such as ours that treasures food, it is a shande that so many morsels of yum are seemingly off limits.
Why am I ranting about this now? Firstly, I am sick and tired of the kosher racket. Rabbi Jason Miller’s HuffPost piece last week, “Ending Kosher Nostra: How to Bring Sanity to the Kosher Industry,” shed even more light into the industry of keeping kosher.
As mentioned in Rabbi Miller’s article, this ancient holy practice is filled with modern problems that completely turn me off to the concept. The kosher certification industry is wrought with corruption and backroom deals. And we all know about the kosher meat processors and their shady practices. I won’t even mention the blatant price gouging that goes hand-in-hand with kosher foods.
But like sheep to the slaughter (sorry, had to do it), most who do keep kosher just keep up the scam. They continue to overpay. They don’t ask questions. We’re Jews in America here, not Iran – it’s time to ask some questions. And it’s time for some of these extremely wealthy fellow MOTs to answer them.
Miller says, “we have become so far removed from the kosher laws of the Torah and Talmud that we focus less on why we keep kosher and more on how punctilious we can be, only to “out frum” the next person.” Whenever I hear that Hebrew National products aren’t “kosher enough,” I just want to go out and stuff my face with pork rinds.
What makes me sad is that so many people have such good intentions when deciding to keep kosher. I can appreciate honoring traditions and what was written thousands of years ago, but the abstractness of kosher is what boggles me. Obviously, some people are born to kosher parents and are essentially forced to follow suit. Others make their own decisions later in life. Some people keep kosher at home, but will enjoy a surf and turf dinner at the local Red Lobster. Some people claim to be kosher by ordering plain pizza from the same guy who handles the pepperoni. My very own old school/old world grandmother loved a good shrimp scampi from time to time. Rules are made to be broken I guess.
Much of modern Judaism is based on convenience. Many of us tend to observe when it doesn’t impede on our daily lives. And much of what we observe is based on Jewish guilt. Maybe if I keep kosher, I can get away with driving to synagogue. If I have a bris for my son, maybe G-d won’t care that I named him Christopher. I’m here to tell you not to feel guilty. You don’t have to sacrifice your taste buds any longer. You can still be a good Jew and have a flavorful steak that doesn’t resemble cardboard.
That brings me to the other reason I am writing this piece. I was recently made aware of a new restaurant in New York. Sadly, it’s in Williamsburg and wannabe hipsters are like kryponite to me, so I doubt I will visit any time soon. It’s called Traif and it’s owned by a nice Jewish boy who is tired of hiding his feelings for good food. I not only respect Chef Jason Marcus, but I admire him.
To those who keep kosher, all I ask is that you question where your food is coming from and the practices by which it is certified. If you can afford to pay double for certain items, don’t feel deprived of flavor, and truly enjoy eating plain pasta while I chow down on a lobster, well then, I applaud you.
For those of you in the middle, join me. Life is too short and treyf tastes too good.