Life, Love, Lox

Real-World Advice for the Modern Jewish Girl


By Carin Davis

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Like Manischewitz with a twist, this saucy book will show the young Chosen Ones how to mix their Jewish roots with their happenin’ lifestyles. Bursting with playful anecdotes and amusing advice, Life, Love, Lox is the essential companion for any Jew looking to squeeze a little style out of the ol’ Torah. Ten chapters in all — like “Challapalooza,” “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Plagues,” and “Lox, Stock, and Bagel” — dish on how to put together Shabbat dinner for the real world, how to meet the (observant) parents, and how to embrace the high holy days with style.

Covering everything from Kosher Kissing and making matzah balls to Speed-Dating and the Dayenu Diet, Life, Love, Lox is the best thing to happen to modern Jews since the Glatt Kosher hot dog cart at Yankee Stadium. This is a humorous girlfriend’s guide to living the hip life while keeping it Jewish.


I'm a lifelong ham-dodger. I'm a clam-basher, a crab-evader, an anti-shrimpest. I pass up pepperoni, I just say no to bacon, and I sidestep soft-shell crab. I am the few, the proud, the Kosher.
I can't say the same for most of the men I date. Jewish? Always. Kosher? Rarely. To them, a hamburger without cheese is like Sheket Bevakasha without the "hey." So while keeping kosher enhances my spiritual life, it complicates my dating life.
Take my relationship with Jeff, a quick-witted movie exec who had me at "Shalom." Actually, he had me when his taut tuchus walked through my neighbor's front door, but the "Shalom" shout-out didn't hurt.
On our first date, he took me to a downtown diner that serves upscale comfort food. I ordered truffle mac-and-cheese, he ordered Mama's famous meatloaf, and we split a bottle of syrah I was secretly happy he could swing. Between the good food, the great company, and my slight buzz, our dinner blinked by. As I enjoyed my last morsel of cheesy perfection, Jeff took a bite of meatloaf, slid my way, and stole a kiss. Or at least he started to until I ducked. Yes, ducked. No, I'm not a big tease, I'm a big Jew, and technically a mid-bite kiss would have meant mixing milk and meat. When Jeff 's mouth touched mine, I didn't see fireworks, I didn't hear wedding bells: I heard the great rabbis reminding me not to seethe a calf in its mother's milk.
I tried not to panic, but the whole date had gone to trayf, and I needed to fix it fast. The Talmud doesn't teach us how to apply kashrut laws to kissing; but since I ate dairy and Jeff ate meat, I could have used the milk-before-meat rule, where you wait thirty minutes, eat something pareve, and then gargle. Although I doubt gargling was the deep-throat action Jeff was hoping to see that night. Now, some rabbis say if a dairy knife is accidentally used to cut cold meat, it should be thrust into the dirt ten times. So perhaps I should have stuffed my mouth with soil; I'm sure that would've impressed Jeff—I hear men like it when women talk dirty. I could have just been honest with Jeff and explained why I wasn't in the mood for making out. Not tonight, honey, I had dairy.
I know I could have avoided this whole mishegas by being upfront when we first placed our order, but I don't feel comfortable recruiting my first dates for active kosher duty. I can't tell a man I just met what he can and can't eat for dinner. There are three little words a woman should never say too early in a relationship: "He'll have the . . ."
So when should we have "The Talk"? After a week? A month? A year? At what point should I let a man know that saying yes to me means saying no to other women—and to other meats? Keeping kosher is one of my dealbreakers, so eventually Jeff would have to ditch his little black recipe book and sever ties with all his ex grill-friends. He can't have his milk and eat meat, too.
"Can I have a man cave in the basement where I cook cheeseburgers on a George Foreman?" Jeff asked during one of our kosher coupling chats.
That would render the whole house trayf. And be a fire hazard.
"Can I rent a separate apartment just to cook nonkosher meals?"
I suppose he could keep a small place on the side for all his afternoon delights—or in this case, afternoon snacks. But I don't think I could handle that kind of open relationship. If a man commits to me, he commits to my kitchen. It's all or nothing, ko-way or no way. Keeping kosher is how I connect to Judaism every day in a concrete way, and I want to share that connection with my spouse. I want the Jewish American dream: a loving husband, 2.5 children, and two sets of dishes.
"Well, if you buy two sets of dishes, can I buy two sets of golf clubs?"
By Moses, I think he's got it! I don't see why he can't keep separate golf carts or own two game systems or play in two fantasy football leagues.
"What about two women?"
Don't push it, schmendrik.
A few weeks later, Jeff started whipping up kosher versions of his favorite trayf treats: chili cheese dogs topped with soy cheddar, pizza bagels loaded with veggie pepperoni, and barbeque chicken pizza with soy cheese and a pareve crust. I think he's getting the hang of it, maybe even enjoying it. And while I don't want to count my kosher chickens before they hatch, I wouldn't be surprised if ultimately Jeff and I end up sharing separate dishes but not separate bedrooms.


During your Of Mice and Mensch dating adventures, you may meet up with a man who keeps kosher. Already down with kashrut? You're good to go. Never say no to pepperoni? Don't know your milchig (dairy) from your fleishig (meat)? Don't panic, just brush up on the basics.
The word kosher means "fit" or "proper." It not only applies to food but to kitchenware, Torahs, mezuzahs, tefillin, and tallit that are properly prepared and fit for use. People also throw it around in everyday phrases like "something's not kosher in Denmark." Not that the Danes are known for their blatant mixing of milk and meat.
At its core, keeping kosher isn't complicated, it just involves following a few strict food rules:
NO MILK WITH MEAT. Don't eat milchig and fleishig in the same meal, don't cook them in the same pan, and don't eat them with the same fork. When it comes to food, utensils, plates, pots, cutting boards, even sinks and sponges, you've got to keep 'em separated.
GONE FISHIN'. Seafood must have scales and gills, and can't be scavengers or bottom-dwellers. Forbidden foods include shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, calamari, eel, oyster, octopus, shark, and dolphin. Even swordfish and catfish are off the menu. But feel free to reel in salmon, trout, tuna, halibut, sole, and sea bass. Or just pick it up at the fish market if, like me, you haven't reeled anything in since vying for that Brownie merit badge in second grade.
LAND ANIMALS MUST HAVE CLOVEN HOOFS AND CHEW THEIR CUD. Cows and lamb are in; pigs and horses are out.
IF YOU WANT TO AVOID FOWL PLAY, STAY AWAY FROM BIRDS OF PREY (and the twenty-four other forbidden birds listed in the Torah), including hawks, ostriches, owls, and ravens. Feel free to serve up turkey, chicken, and duck with a clear conscience.
PREDATORS ARE A NO-GO. If an animal hunts other animals, we don't eat it. When was the last time you walked into a Jewish home and saw a mounted moose head above the fireplace? Exactly. Jews don't hunt; our food shouldn't either.
IT'S NOT ENOUGH JUST TO MAKE THE LIST AT THE DOOR! To get into the kosher club, animals must be killed mercifully and soaked and salted properly.
EGGS FROM KOSHER ANIMALS ARE KOSHER, BUT BLOOD IS NOT. If you see a red speck in your egg, toss it out. Out damned spot, out.


If you're shopping at a kosher market, you can be confident everything you toss in your cart is good with God. But what should you do when you run to the corner store? Look for a hechsher. What the heck's a hechsher? A hechsher is a stamp of approval, a thumb's-up, the Jewish a-okay sign. It's an endorsement given by an established rabbinical authority that certifies a food or restaurant's kosher status. Think of the rabbinical council as the Godfather and the hechshered product as a made man.
Hechschers can be found on packaged foods, canned goods, and frozen items in grocery stores worldwide. In an effort to top the twelve tribes of Israel, there are now nearly 400 different rabbinical groups that offer hechsher services. Hechsher symbols often feature the letter K standing alone, inside a shape, beside a rabbinic council's initials, or incorporated into a Hebrew language seal. The Orthodox Union, the largest authority group, drops its OU tag on over 660,000 products, in over 5,000 facilities, in 77 countries. That's status.
The food tattoos don't end there. A hechsher is often immediately followed by the letter D or the letter P. The letter D indicates that the food is dairy and contains a milk product; P indicates that the food is pareve.


People who keep kosher are always tossing around the word pareve, which means "neutral." Pareve foods—like eggs, nuts, fish, fruit, grains, and vegetables—are the culinary khakis; they go with everything. They are neither milk nor meat and can be mixed with food in either column. Think of it this way: pareve foods swing both ways.


Kashrut laws not only apply to food but also to beverages. Many juices, sodas, and wines wear a seal of approval. What makes wine kosher? Despite what you discovered from breaking into your parents' liquor cabinet and stealing swigs of Manischewitz, wine is not made kosher simply by making it sweet.That "one lump or two?"practice started in the early 1900s, when low-sugar Concord grapes were the only ones available to immigrant winemaking Jews. So they added sugar, and then a little more sugar, to help fermentation and balance out the wine.
Today, many vineyards around the world produce award-winning, high-end kosher wines that stand up to their nonkosher counterparts. Specialty wine stores, kosher grocers, and kosher wine Web sites carry hechshered vino from South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Italy, Israel, Napa, and dozens of other regions. Jews can actually make good wine? I'll drink to that! L'chaim!
Like food preparation, kosher winemaking has special laws. In short, no animal products can be used during filtering (non-K wines often use egg whites or gelatin), all ingredients used (like yeast) must be kosher, vines must be at least four years old, and only Shabbat-observant Jews can participate in the winemaking process. A flash-pasteurizing process called meshuval helps kosher wines get around this last one. Remember kosher wine gets you just as drunk as the nonkosher stuff; so chug away, fellow Jews, chug away.


Let's talk about Heebs and hard alcohol. Jews hold wine to strict standards because it's used in religious rituals, but we tend to be more lenient when it comes to our liquor and beer. Most assimilated Jews don't even look for a hechsher on the hard stuff, but observant Jews want all their booze approved by a higher authority. Why? Some beers and liquors are fermented with nonkosher yeast or contain blenders that are derived from nonkosher cream, wine, or glycerin. No matter how observant you are, don't get so drunk that you swallow the tequila worm—insects are always trayf.


Modern Jews keep kosher to varying degrees, ranging from glatt kosher to kosher-style to a total no-go on the ko. There are more approaches to keeping kosher than there are colors in Joseph's coat. Here are a few of the more standard varieties:
Some Jews keep kosher at home and will only eat out at certified kosher restaurants and other kosher homes.
Some Jews keep kosher at home, but eat vegetarian or fish dishes out anywhere.
Some Jews keep kosher at home, but eat nonhechshered meat out anywhere. They won't order a cheeseburger, but they'll devour a hamburger.
Some Jews keep kosher at home, but order in from nonhechshered places and eat on paper plates with plastic silverware. They'll get pizza delivered, just not pepperoni.
Some Jews don't keep kosher at home, but won't eat shellfish or pork products anywhere. Home or away.


What if only one person in a relationship keeps kosher? Don't let the bacon come between you. If your boyfriend is a ham-dodger and you're not, don't put him on the defensive. Show him you're willing to learn about his kosher way of life. Let him know you're open-minded and flexible . . . men like women who are flexible. Who knows, you may discover that saying "so long" to trayf is simple. And using separate dishes? It's no schvitz off your back.
Now, if you're the shrimp-shunner of the two, show your boyfriend that your kosher routine won't make dating difficult. Movies, parties, and concerts don't involve food, so you can still hit the town for the night. Many ballparks have kosher concession stands, and all have veggie options, so he can still take you out to the ballgame.You can order veggie dishes at mainstream restaurants, and most major cities, including New York, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Philadelphia, and L.A., have kosher pizza, Chinese, Italian, burger, steak, and fish joints. So you can still go out to eat. And every city has bars. So you can still get piss-drunk, go back to his place, and play with his kosher salami.


You've heard keeping kosher is a pain in the tuchus. That's all you need is one more source of tsouris (trouble) in your life. You barely have time to defrost a frozen entrée; who has time to cook a kosher meal? Well, good news, lazy Jews: no need to kick your microwave habit, there are plenty of kosher frozen entrées. And since many mainstream food companies (including Kraft, Keebler, ConAgra, General Mills, Tropicana, and more) have their products hechshered, your pantry may already be stocked with kosher goods.
Born to shop? Kosher grocers and butcher shops will have the widest kosher selection. But if you don't want to schlep to one, many grocery chains (like Kroger, Ralph's, Jewel, Albertson's, Vons, Publix, Shaws, ShopRite, and Winn-Dixie) and specialty food stores (like Whole Foods, Costco, and Trader Joe's) shelve kosher brands or have designated kosher aisles. Some carry prepackaged kosher meat from companies like Hebrew National, Empire, and Aaron's Best. Who knew you could grab kosher ground chuck while picking up a bottle of Two Buck Chuck?


You're living paycheck to paycheck; you have to cover your rent, your car, and your utilities. And your bar tab. And those new knee-high black boots you bought. So how can you afford to keep kosher? Isn't it expensive? It's true that kosher meat can cost more, but you're getting top quality. Who wants to eat subpar steak? And stocking up on a second set of kitchenware doesn't have to be spendy. A second set of silverware: $50. A second set of pots and pans: $100. A second set of dishes: $150. Getting in good with God: priceless.


With South Beach, Weight Watchers, and so many other fad diets, why are Jews still keeping kosher? Why should you keep kosher?
Because I said so, that's why. The Torah doesn't give a reason behind keeping kosher; it just lays down the law.
It's a simple daily act that reminds us of our Judaism—in the one place God knew Jews would see it. On our plates.
Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax. . . . Keeping kosher connects us to our Jewish ancestry. My parents, my grandparents, and all my crazy relatives since Mount Sinai have all been ham-dodgers. What, like I'm going to be the one to break that chain?
It turns out what's good for the soul is good for the bod (It's worked well for my little size 2 number.) While kashrut wasn't necessarily created as a health code, kosher foods are held to a higher standard.
Getting married? Keeping kosher is the perfect excuse to register for two sets of silver, china, bowls, pots, and pans. And what Jewish bride can say no to that?


After six months of dating your kosher boychik, he invites you to the suburbs to meet his mishpacha (family). Nothing fancy, just a casual dinner, a brief interrogation about your childbearing potential, and—oh yeah—his parents keep kosher. Don't worry—if their boy likes you, they'll like you. What's not to like?
So you talk too much, rarely go to shul, and are currently schtuping their son out of wedlock: they'll still think you're the best thing since sliced challah—as long as you don't mix their milchig dishes with their fleishig silverware. Here are a few pointers so you don't Focker things up:
BYOB—BRING YOUR OWN BRIBE. You don't want to be greeted with "Nu? She couldn't bring a little something?" It doesn't have to be expensive, just thoughtful. And kosher.
IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE ON THE KOSHER-STYLE SPECTRUM your hopefully future in-laws fall, assume they're as kosher as they come. Don't bring anything from the supermarket that doesn't have a hechsher. This stamp of approval lets you—and your host—know it's all good. Cookies, chocolates, cheese, salad dressing—it all needs the telltale tattoo. Bypass the bakery and deli counter; the food and equipment haven't been kashered (made kosher). And choose a whole fruit basket over a sliced fruit tray; what if the grocery store's deli knife sliced a ham before it cut the pineapple? Oy!
IF YOU HEAD TO A BAKERY, MAKE SURE IT'S A KOSHER ONE. How can you ID a kosher bakery in your hood? There will be a certificate on the wall that confirms its kosher status. Also, they're usually named something subtle like "Shlomo's Kosher Bakery." Be sure to ask if the bakery is dairy or pareve. You don't want to bring a cake that's kosher, but dairy, if his mama's making roast beef.
REMEMBER TO SHOP EARLY; kosher businesses are closed Friday nights and Saturdays for Shabbat. You'd hate to make a special trip for nothing. Sorry, folks, park's closed....
KEEP THE KOSHER SWEETS IN THE BOX WITH THE BAKERY'S NAME. Like a Coach bag's signature C, it lets everyone know who made it. Not only will the designer label put his folks at ease, but they'll know you went through the extra effort. Parents give As for effort.
WINE. Hopefully you haven't been hitting the bottle so hard that you've already forgotten what you read in the kosher wine section (page 9). If you are that farshikkert (drunk) wait until you sober up to meet the folks. They won't want their son dating a lush, even if you're guzzling the kosher sauce.
FLOWERS. Everyone loves flowers. Tulips, sunflowers, Gerber daisies: you're good with any kind of foliage. Just skip the poinsettias, holly wreaths, and schlocky (cheaply made) grocery store bouquets. The first two are a little goyish, and the third is a little tacky. Actually, a lot tacky.
KOSHER WINE, CANDY, AND SWEETS ARE SOLID, but if you're celebrating a holiday, staying for the weekend, or gunning for Bubbe Malka's heirloom engagement ring, think outside the gift box. Bring a matzah tray for Passover, a bagel slicer for Break Fast, or a challah board for Shabbat. Bring something that says, I'm grateful for the invite, I'm happy to be here, and I'm way better than the last girl he brought home.
WANT TO RIDE OFF INTO THE SUNSET? Get to his parents' before sunset. Shabbat and Jewish holidays start at sundown, so leave work early and arrive on time.
OFFER TO HELP IN THE KITCHEN, BUT STOP AND ASK FOR DIRECTIONS FIRST. Find out which drawer holds the right silverware and which cabinet has the proper plates. The last thing you want to do is serve his mom's award-winning brisket on her favorite milchig platter. It's the culinary equivalent of pairing your brown Steve Madden platforms with your black Armani dress—total mismatch.
GOT MILK? DON'T ASK. If something's not on the table, it's probably not supposed to be.
YES, YOU'VE GOT A GREAT RACK AND A TIGHT TUSH. SAVE IT FOR THEIR SON. You want to look pretty, classy, and like you have no personal knowledge of how their son's bris went.
Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight's closing act will be my family's world famous mandelbrot (almond bread). Think of them as my bubbe's biscotti. An outstanding pareve dessert, these versatile cookies have costarred opposite milk and have appeared onstage after meat. They're also perfect for dunking in your morning coffee or sneaking as a midnight snack. They're easy, traditional, and impressive. Thou shall not serve bland pareve desserts again.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the oil, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla together by hand. Add almonds and chocolate chips, if using, until thoroughly combined.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon for the topping together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Roll the batter into two (12-inch) logs (about the size of a sub sandwich before you throw out the bun to avoid eating the carbs). Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar topping to taste, reserving some.
Place the logs on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Catch up on your TiVo while waiting.
Remove from oven. While still warm, cut the logs into ¾-inch slices. Like you, the cookies want an even tan. So turn each slice on its side, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until sides are lightly toasted. Since you're double-baking, keep an eye on the cookies, so they don't get farbrent (burnt).
Let cool. Smile and gloat as guests kvell about your baking.
Pareve chocolate chips can be found at Trader Joe's and kosher groceries.
I know I said the chocolate chips were optional, but really, when is chocolate ever a bad choice? Can I get an Amen?
Torn between chocolate chip and plain? Split the batter into two. Add 1 cup chocolate chips to one half, leave the other half bare. Roll both into logs, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Who said you can't have it both ways?
To step up the sweetness, I skip the sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, and pour the cinnamon and sugar topping onto a piece of waxed paper and roll the log through it, so the mandelbrot is covered on all sides.



On Sale
May 25, 2010
Page Count
208 pages
Running Press

Carin Davis

About the Author

Carin Davis is an award-winning feature writer and singles columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Her articles have also appeared in numerous other Jewish newspapers and websites. An in-demand public speaker, she has been invited to speak at conferences, synagogues, colleges, women’s groups, fundraisers, and community events. Carin is currently the Vice President of Film Roman, the animation company behind The Simpsons and King of the Hill. She lives in Los Angeles.

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