While traveling in Washington DC with my boyfriend Dov on a hot summer weekend, I was refreshed by the large variety of seemingly-healthy restaurants around. Among them were a wide range of well-known hot spots like Whole Foods, as well as some lesser known options like the produce stands at Eastern Market. But, finding a place to eat for Dov and I can be difficult: Dov keeps kosher and I do not.
Although I did not grow up in a kosher or vegetarian home, I do not eat meat very often, so Dov’s degree of keeping kosher would not be too great of an adjustment for me. As my exploration of Judaism has deepened over recent years, my relationship with Kashrut has changed and presents me with the potential to deepen as well. This personal struggle was exasperated during my trip to DC with my kosher partner. As it turns out, all these struggles were brought to life in trying to find a place to eat that satisfies the needs of both Dov and myself. Bounded by the battle between Halakha and healthy, I chose healthy.
In an effort to satisfy both our taste buds and our values, Dov and I asked a family cramped next to us on the metro for a restaurant recommendation. They raved about a delicious meal at Founding Farmers which is a local, farm to table, well known restaurant in the area. Dov and I looked at each other in excitement! “What did you have?” As the family members listed what they had eaten at their farm fresh meal, Dov and I grew disappointed. The restaurant certainly had local and sustainable food — but far from kosher. “I got lobster; I got scallops; I had crab; and I got bbq chicken,” the family members cheerfully recited. Although we did not eat at Founding Farmers, after perusing their website it seems that the values exhibited in their food, are similar to what I look for in food: ethically sourced sources, well made, fulfilling, and of course, delicious! If your dietary restrictions allow you to eat out at non kosher restaurants, you should certainly check out Founding Farmers.
Instead, Dov and I ventured to ShopHouse, for brown rice and organic tofu, loaded with fresh veggies and amazing curry sauces. ShopHouse was attractive to both of us; it was a hot dairy meal for Dov that met his kosher requirements, and it met my description of what I look for in a sustainable, healthy meal out. ShopHouse was not a solely vegetarian restaurant, although they have great vegetarian options and a low-key, fun atmosphere! Moreover, you cannot beat the price — a filling meal for less than $10 each in Washington DC!
Our last meal out in DC was at a Kosher Restaurant, Eli’s Restaurant and as stated on the menu a “gathering place.” Eli’s restaurant was superb for Dov, both the menu and facility are certified Kosher, and he was craving a meat meal. Personally, I struggled with the food at Eli’s. Although the menu had numerous options, it was tough to steer clear of salty, oily, or fatty foods and it was lacking in filling vegetarian options. I have yet to understand why kosher carnivores believe that vegetarians are somehow full after coleslaw and a pickle! This brings me back to my struggle with the difficulty of finding a kosher restaurant with the lively Jewish atmosphere, but also adheres to a sustainable, food conscious mindset. However, the atmosphere at Eli’s was truly on par with what a family oriented restaurant should feel like: homey, friendly, laid back, and comfortable.
Thinking about the food that we put in our mouths: where it came from, and what it has undergone to get to our plate is crucial. To me, this is what Kashrut is all about. This kosher lifestyle includes consideration of the lifecycle of whatever food is on my plate, as well as consideration of how it will effect my daily lifecycle, nutrition, and health. How close are we to a more mainstream effort to embrace and embody the laws of kashrut, while still tightly grasping a healthful, sustainable, and nutritious meal?
Lauren Wasserman is a summer program intern at Hazon who is currently studying at Binghamton University towards her Master of Public Administration and plans to graduate in May 2013. Lauren is a Graduate Assistant for the Public Administration Department at Binghamton University, and has worked in the environmental education sector for four years at Grassroots Environmental Education.