Modern Jewish culinary traditions date back over three thousand years. Kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, govern the selection, preparation, and consumption of all food of observant Jews. These principles are mentioned in the Bible and have been codified and elaborated upon throughout the centuries.
According to the Bible, Jews are permitted to eat meat only from an animal that has completely cloven hooves and chews its cud. This includes beef, venison, mutton, lamb, and goat and excludes, among others, rabbit or hare, horse, dog, cat, whale, and, of course, pig. Edible fowl include turkeys, quail, squab, Cornish hens, chicken, and doves.
Milk (milchig, dairy) dishes must be cooked and eaten separately from meat (fleishig) dishes. (No French cream sauces over meat for kashrut-observing Jews.) Three times, in Exodus and Deuteronomy, the Hebrew Bible states that a kid cannot be cooked in its mother's milk. Although the reason for the prohibition is unknown, the law may have kept the ancient Hebrews from participating in pagan customs of animal sacrifice.
Two sets of utensils and dishes, one for milk meals and one for meat, are used, stored, and cleaned separately, and table linens are separate, too. Between a milk meal and a meat meal, one must rinse out the mouth or eat a morsel of bread. For this there is no waiting requirement. But if the meat meal precedes a milk meal, the normal wait is about three hours. However, some Jews wait as long as six hours after eating a meat meal before having milk products.
Neutral or pareve food, such as fish, eggs, and vegetables, may be eaten with either milk or meat. Religious Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were uneasy about eating with non-Jews because they feared that lard might have been used instead of kosher oil. Today, labeling and identification of products in supermarkets makes it easy to check ingredients before purchasing.
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