Book Review: The Great Game of Kashrut

The Great Game of Kashrut- Demystifying Kashrut in a Fun and Engaging Way by Rabbi Don Channen and Rabbi Yaakov (Jon) Goldman 

“Welcome to the Kashrut revolution- an exciting journey in learning the most interesting and relevant concepts in Kashrut. The Great Game of Kashrut allows readers to quickly and easily engage with concepts and halachot which were, until now, locked behind the complex Hebrew texts of the Shulchan Aruch and its commentators.”

Just as the title suggests, this book is fun! Filled with colorful illustrations, color coded arrows and engaging text, each “chapter” presents a potential kitchen, food, or preparation disaster and decodes that disaster using halachic sources, sometimes resulting in a dinner deemed kosher, sometimes in a pot destined for the trash bin. Alliteration is used liberally- “Busy Bubby’s Bungled Breakfast” places Bubby in the kitchen frying eggs with butter in a meat frying pan (writer’s benefit of the doubt: perhaps she hadn’t had her coffee yet). Bubby’s eggs were thrown out, in this scenario, as “they absorbed a mixture of…meat and milk.” 

Case #06 asks, “Does My Dog Have To Keep Kosher, Too?” The bag of dog food has both meat and milk ingredients, the dog is panting and drooling over said bag, the dog’s tail is wagging with anticipation over the looming traif meal, but, alas, “we are not allowed to have any benefit from meat and milk cooked together, not even to feed it to an animal.” Our golden retriever, of blessed memory, enjoyed challah on Shabbos, any table scraps offered or nosed off the table, and even soap scented with fragrant florals (obviously, she was not a fussy eater). But she knew enough to not mix her milky bone with a steak bone.

Moving right along, dishwasher mixups are discussed, dirty dairy spoons stuck in meaty stew pots are analyzed, worms in your Mezcal liquor are scrutinized to determine if the “volume of the liquor remains 60 times greater than the size of the worm to negate its flavor.” The next few cases deal with the “Kamikaze Fly” and that old standby, waiter there’s a bug (or two) in my soup. As I am composing this review close to my dinner time, I will let you the reader investigate worms and bugs while drinking your liquor and slurping your soup. Let me know the halacha.

Case #09 in particular caught my eye. “While my macaroni and cheese was cooking I stirred it with a meat…fork. I know I need to kasher it. I heard that my Bubby used to bury her forks in the ground. Would this work?” As a child (certainly not THAT long ago), I would gleefully run outside to the backyard with a shovel, tainted silverware in a grocery store paper bag, and fling dirt, grass, and leaves aside as I dug a hole and buried the offending utensils. Three days later, if our little dog hadn’t already found the offensive forks, I would retrieve the silverware and present it to my mother, clumps of dirt testifying to its much purer state. Alas again- “there is no source for this ‘baba maisa’. It’s time for this one to be put to rest.” The dog did appreciate the pre-dug holes in which she would deposit her aforementioned steak bones, however. But I digress.

The Great Game of Kashrut is entertaining, with a back page challenge to find the items (knives, worms, milk, butter) and identify the corresponding case, a glossary of terms from A (achila: eating) to Z (zeia: steam), engaging pictures and everyday scenarios. I read, learned, empathized and memorized. I can now cook, boil, stir, mix, bake, roast, steam and eat with confidence. May we all celebrate around our table with family, food…and forks free of dirt!

Randy Rubinstein lives in Sharon, Massachusetts