I’m fairly restrictive about what foods can come into our house. It’s not just that we don’t eat unkosher meat or shellfish; I also don’t buy any foods with high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial food coloring, or most ingredients that I can’t pronounce or don’t know what they look like. I buy local milk and eggs, mostly organic produce…..the list goes on. If we didn’t have a Trader Joe’s I’d probably spend about half our income on groceries.

But last week, we were on vacation at the beach. My mother rents the house and does most of the grocery shopping. There’s no Trader Joe’s, no local co-op, no Whole Foods. Suddenly, amidst the fruits and vegetables and whole grain crackers appear foods my kids have never even seen – artificially sweetened beverages, caramel corn, dairy queen cakes, and candy bars. And you know what? It’s all ok. (Well, except maybe the artificial sweeteners.) It’s vacation. They understand that we don’t eat the same way at home as we do on vacation, and so far, it’s really never caused a conflict. Mama has even been known to indulge them in a few sugar blasts.

But some things remain non-negotiable. We bring frozen kosher chickens, and when those are gone, that’s it for meat at the beach. Once-in-a-while foods don’t include treif.

But oh, those hard-shell crabs. I grew up in Baltimore, where hard shell crabs caked in Old Bay seasoning are a source of pride and great joy. I ate them as a kid, and how I long to indulge on vacation. I’ll admit, it’s crossed my mind more than once to give myself the same permission to “ease up” on the food rules while on vacation, just like I do for the junk food that doesn’t tempt me in the slightest.

I’m not a Jew who believes in Torah m’Sinai. In other words, I don’t think God made the rules, and consequently, there are rules I break all the time. But faced with a plate of amazing smelling bacon or a pile of messy crabs, the guilt is stronger than the temptation. And guilt…..well, that’s just not such a compelling reason.

Do you observe kashrut? What keeps you faithful to the rules in the face of great temptation? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – please share.

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