(Editor's note: This is Part Four of our special series on race and culture in families. We recommend starting with Part One.)
On paper, Sporkful host Dan Pashman and his wife Janie are pretty similar -- they're both white and Jewish, both raised in the New York area. It should be an easy fit, right? And in many ways it is, but not so much when it comes to food.
Especially, because Janie grew up in a kosher home -- Dan didn't.
Dan's love of cheeseburgers is well documented, but cheeseburgers aren't kosher because kosher law forbids mixing meat and dairy. (It goes back to a line in the Old Testament about not cooking a kid -- a baby goat -- in its mother's milk.) Of course, it also means no pork and no shellfish.
When Dan and Janie got together a decade ago, they had some tough negotiations around food:
"I remember having a lot of fights. I remember feeling like I was giving up a lot more," Janie says. "I was trying to keep kosher, but then I was slowly chipping away at a few of the rules I had for myself."
In the fourth and final episode in our special series, Your Mom's Food, Dan and his wife talk about their different feelings about Jewish food traditions.
Dan loves exploring new foods, and he's quick to question old rules:
"The religious rules that I want to keep in my life are the ones that have some kind of positive lesson for making the world a better place or for teaching you to be a better person," he explains. "I don't like the idea of saying well this is the way it's always been done therefore we should always do it that way. ... That doesn't seem like a good reason, to me, to eat a certain way."
But Janie likes eating the foods she knows, and it's important for her to preserve her family's food traditions.
"Generations and generations of Jewish people in my family have kept kosher, now is it going to end with me?" she asks Dan. "That’s what feels comfortable to me, and it would feel a little strange for me to have my kids eat a different way than I’m used to eating."
Part of that tradition comes from Janie's mom, Alice, who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Alice grew up in Czechoslovakia after World War II, and her home was strictly kosher:
"[My mom] lost seven brothers and sisters and her parents [in the Holocaust] and she clung to her faith without wavering," she tells Dan and Janie in the episode. "Of course, we children didn’t like [keeping kosher], but now I understand."
Listen in to the full episode to hear how Dan and Janie found compromises about keeping kosher, and how having children changed that debate for them.
Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:
- "Can You Dig It" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
- "Saturn Returns" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "I Still Can't Believe" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Feel Real Good" by William Van De Crommert
- "Legend" by Erick Anderson
Photos: Courtesy of Dan Pashman