The Religious Council of Jerusalem last December ordered the Crave gourmet street food restaurant on Ha’Shikma Street near the Mahane Yehuda Market to remove from its menu the dish it calls Lamb Bacon, or risk losing its certification, Ynet reported this week.
A very long list of kosher restaurants in Israel serve some imitation bacon dish, including the Burger King chain. Kosher restaurants also serve cheeseburgers with imitation cheese. In Crave’s case, the lamb bacon is not merely a gastronomical curiosity, it happens to be one of this chef restaurant’s biggest attractions, appearing on the menu both as an appetizer and a side dish with the hamburgers.
Yoni Van Leeuwen, one of the owners, told Ynet: “Last December, while the restaurant—like most restaurants in the country—was doing deliveries to deal with the difficulties of the Corona, the inspector of the Kashrut supervisors showed up and said that he had learned that the restaurant uses the name ‘Bacon,’ and so that people won’t associate our kosher lamb bacon with pork, they decided that restaurants with a kosher certificate should not use that word.”
“I am religious and my partner is religious, too, and this certificate is very important to us,” Van Leeuwen continued. “We’ve always gone hand in hand with the rabbinate and we never had conflicts with them. I explained to the inspector that bacon is not pork but a process of aging, salting, and smoking meat. There’s indeed a connection between the word bacon and pork, but for us, bacon is a preparation process. Today there are quite a few products in the world that are bacon and not pork – there’s duck bacon, turkey bacon, and soy bacon. I explained to him that we didn’t want to give up this name because it is the name of a culinary process. We didn’t come here to make kosher food that looks non-kosher, that’s not our business. We’re only interested in making excellent food.”
The same inspector suggested the restaurant name its dish Fakon, which the owner found insulting. Incidentally, the same inspector had nothing to say about Crave’s cheeseburger, which is made with non-dairy cheese.
The chairman of the Religious Council in Jerusalem, Yehoshua Yishai, told Ynet: “It’s funny and strange that a rabbinate will give a kosher certificate to a menu that includes pork, even if it has another meaning. So we asked to change the name. If he has a more successful name he is welcome to suggest it.” And Yishai concluded: “I have no interest in having a dialogue with a business owner over the media.”
We checked out the following Kashrut Q&A on the Aish.com website under the headline Kosher Bacon Bits:
“I have recently begun keeping kosher and had a philosophical debate with a friend who does not. I want to use soybean sausage and bacon products that have kosher symbols, because as long as they’re kosher, why not? But my friend argued that if I’m going to keep kosher, eating kosher treif is just a loophole and not in the spirit of what I’m trying to do. Do you feel this contradicts the spirit of the law?”
To which the Aish rabbi responded (I edited for the sake of brevity):
The Talmud cites many stories of a pious and scholarly woman by the name of Yalta, who asked her husband, Rav Nachman, to find her something which tastes like the blood which the Torah forbids us to eat. He cooked for her a piece of liver, which is permitted and tastes like blood. Why would Yalta be looking for foods that tasted like forbidden foods (on a different occasion, Rav Nachman gave her the full udders of a recently slaughtered cow, whose milk was considered fleishig, so she could taste a real, kosher cheeseburger).
The Maharsha explains that Yalta, in her great piety, consumed kosher foods that tasted non-kosher because she aspired to extend the mitzvah of eating kosher to the max, to fulfill even more the will of God.
Ah, if only Yoni Van Leeuwen could SMS Yalta, she’d teach that kashrut inspector a thing or two.