Care for some dove minestrone soup? How about roasted grasshoppers? Or spice encrusted elk? These delicacies were on the menu at a unique 15-course dinner served last summer in a Los Angeles kosher restaurant. Described as a "halakhic adventure," the meal was meant to preserve the Jewish tradition of kashrut, not gross out diners.
Although the Torah gives clear instructions about which animals are kosher-look for split hooves and cudchewing-the laws for birds and insects are more complex. For example, according to the Torah, all but 24 species of birds are permitted, but because we can no longer identify the prohibited species, Jews rely on a chain of tradition for guidance. Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan have traveled the world-from Morocco to Gibraltar to Croatia-in search of shohtim (ritual slaughterers) who can verify the kosher tradition of exotic and rare animals and birds. The Los Angeles dinner, along with previous feasts in Jerusalem and New York, is their way of keeping these traditions alive.
Knowledge about the kashrut of these exotic animals is like a family heirloom that's about to be lost, said one of the organizers of the Los Angeles meal. To outsiders, the heirloom may only have sentimental value, "but to the family, it's the most important thing."