The Kosher Omnivore’s Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, sets out to answer the seemingly simple question, “What should we have for dinner?” Pollan traces four meals to their origins: a meal from McDonalds, a meal cooked from ingredients bought at Whole Foods, a meal from a small local farm, and one that was made hunter-gatherer style. Pollan discusses the taste of the meal and the environmental impact of each meal. As you can imagine, the meal from McDonalds was the worst meal both environmentally and taste-wise. It is also the only meal that one can eat while driving on the highway. The meal from Whole Foods was good flavor-wise. The milk at Whole Foods is organic, meaning the corn the milk cows are fed is organic. It does not mean that they are treated humanely. The free-range chickens are not allowed outside until they are ready to be killed. The local meal was all grown on a small local farm, was completely free-range, and all grass fed. The fourth meal was all made with food either hunted, foraged, or grown by Pollan. He goes hunting for wild boar, tries to forage for abalone, forages for mushrooms, and grows lettuce from his garden in Northern California. This meal was the best of the four; he described it as “the perfect meal.”

As I thought about this book, I realized that a kosher omnivore living in New England would have a very hard time preparing a meal hunter-gatherer style.

First, one of the most common types of meat that one can still find in the wild is boar (which is unkosher). Second, way the hunter kills the meat is most likely unkosher, which means that even if a kosher hunter finds a deer (which are kosher) and shoots it, it won’t be kosher. Then there is the issue of shellfish, which, although it’s extremely common in New England, is not kosher.

Furthermore, hunting, gathering, and growing one’s own food is difficult in most of New England (except perhaps Maine) because most of the area is so densely populated that there is little room for forests in which game can live. The New England weather is another factor in why it is so hard to make the “perfect meal.” The New England winters feature of freezing weather and lots of snow. Not ideal for growing plants. That leaves fewer than six months of good weather that is suitable for growing plants in. Even mushrooms, which can grow in almost any weather, cannot grow when the ground is frozen.
What’s a kosher omnivore who lives in New England to do?

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2 Responses to “The Kosher Omnivore’s Dilemma”

  1. Michael Kay Says:

    Hey Adin,

    This is your cousin Michael. Loni found your blog, and I’m really glad she did. This post gets to the heart of some serious dilemmas that arise when you try to eat within a set of values, such as keeping kosher, eating locally, etc. Is eating locally enough? Is keeping kosher enough? How do you choose? When two values collide head-on, it can be tough to figure out what to do. I applaud you for thinking about it.

    Keep up the blog – I for one will read avidly.


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