I was a picky eater as a kid. I still am in a lot of ways, but I’m more open to trying new foods, which has been one of the fun things about exploring Judaism and kosher food. The traditional Ashkenazi stuff has all been new to me, and a lot is stuff I would never have considered trying otherwise. Gefilte fish, it’s a problem. I was delighted and vindicated to read that the British Jews do fry it, as that seemed to me like the only possible strategy when I first opened a package of it. My people! You understand! Similarly, cold marinated herring in a jar just creeps me out. But kippers, nice and hot and buttery, that I can do.
The meal above is one of my fusion attempts, trying to merge stuff that’s traditional for me with a Jewish diet. Kippers with butter, toasted challah rolls with more butter and a dab of Marmite, and by G-d a cup of tea. (The Guinness glass to the side is unrelated as it’s my all-purpose water glass.) The challah rolls are working for me like gangbusters–putting out two full loaves every Shabbat is just wasteful for me, living alone, but a bag of the small rolls can last me pretty well in the fridge and they look cute. It looks to me like having two rolls set out under the cover fulfills the obligation just like having two big loaves, since a roll is certainly more than the size of an olive and complete in itself, but I might be wrong. If you already like Marmite or if you think you can appreciate the delights of a salty-yeasty table spread, then I can tell you that yeah, putting it on challah is a good idea. Is it kosher? Looks that way!
Kippers do have a bone issue, so not so good for Shabbat, but the ones I bought fresh from the fish section had wayyyy more bones than the frozen Neptune-brand package which is boil in the bag–if those could be heated up and drained before candle-lighting and kept warm for dinner, they’d work. All dat Omega-3 fo me, and apparently they’re not too mercurified to eat more than once a week.
Tea with dinner is a major comfort thing for me that reminds me of my mother; I don’t know how widespread it is outside the Maritimes, and it feels like it’s in decline, but when I was in the hospital here in Ontario it was served with every meal, so who knows. I made tea ahead of time for Shabbat dinner this week (I like it strong) and it felt like everything clicked into place. A nice warm teapot on the Shabbat table is, dare I say it, heimisch.
This classic old George Carlin bit sums up one of the things I love most about both Catholicism and Judaism: both have a concern with rules that gives them a huge capacity for generating convoluted questions and answers. They approach questions with very different methods, and take them in different directions, but Thomists and Talmudists both make a meal of them.
A rare case where both took a similar approach to a very stupid question is, of course, the barnacle goose, whose medieval legend reads like a version of the famous Canadian house hippo PSA: the Irish felt that since the birds grew from barnacles or maybe from trees (seems legit) they were technically fish, and therefore okay to eat on Fridays. Sed contra est:
…Bishops and religious men (viri religiosi) in some parts of Ireland do not scruple to dine off these birds at the time of fasting, because they are not flesh nor born of flesh…. But in so doing they are led into sin. For if anyone were to eat of the leg of our first parent (Adam) although he was not born of flesh, that person could not be adjudged innocent of eating meat.
I admire this effort, but it’s only partially convincing. Rabbis, meanwhile, were trying to determine if the birds were kosher. From what I read it seems like there was some appropriate scepticism: “birds growing on trees, if it be true they grow on trees, are not forbidden food.” Another rabbi declared that since they grew from barnacles they were shellfish and therefore treif, thus agreeing with the categorization of the Irish clerics.
I guess I could draw some larger epistemological point from all this (perhaps that legal reasoning isn’t very useful when your science is shit) but really I just find the barnacle goose delightful.