Before I actually moved into the homeless shelter, I planned to tell them that I am a vegetarian who also eats eggs, cheese, and fish. I imagined there would be a lot of fresh fruit, apples, and celery to eat – because these items are inexpensive and healthy. As a Torah Jew who keeps kosher, I also expected to eat a lot of Clif bars, my go-to kosher food when I am travelling. Boy, was I wrong…
The first crisis for me was that residents of the homeless shelter are NOT allowed to keep any personal food because it attracts bugs, roaches, and mice. Nor are they allowed to bring it into the shelter and eat it in the dining hall because the shelter has its own overpriced convenience store. I was not going to be able to keep kosher. I could either a) stop eating food, b) eat one kosher snack per day at my expense or c) eat in the dining hall for free. There were no other options because of the lock-down hours. In another post, I will describe what happens to me when I eat traife food (not kosher).
I was praying and hoping that my first meal in the traife dining hall would be fried chicken… but it wasn’t. I started nibbling on the stringy meat on my tray. It had a bar-b-que flavor to it. I carefully picked at it with my fork because if I inadvertently ate some gristle, I would puke. I always used to blithely spew forth my opinions about the needy because my Aunt Karen had volunteered at her church’s food pantry and she told me that hungry people would refuse perfectly good food because it was generic and not Campbell’s soup or Kellogg’s cereal. From this story, I decided that if a person were really hungry, they would eat what you gave them and say ‘thank-you’. Of course, this was before I knew what kosher means. Well, I was really hungry and I was going to eat what the shelter gave me. However, I started freaking out.
It’s beef brisket. It’s beef brisket, okay? Gramma Ruth used to cook beef brisket. You can eat this. Don’t look at the meat, Rivka, just eat it. Stop it. Don’t look at it. You can do this and you are not going to puke.
My dear friend, Ms. Bebe, says, “Rivka, if you have to eat the whole hog to survive, then you eat the whole hog.” Well, at least it wasn’t bbq pork!