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Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority 1st Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805242652
ISBN-10: 0805242651
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this informative and revealing primer on kosher food, practice, business, and history, Fishkoff delves into the ins and outs of why the kosher industry continues to grow at an astounding rate despite the small number of observant Jews who actually require kosher-certified food. Having spent years researching and following mashgichim (Orthodox Jews who supervise the production of kosher food and ingredients around the world), Fishkoff has an impressive arsenal of firsthand stories and inside information to keep the narrative moving. The volume provides in-depth chapters on what kosher means, what mashgichim do, the growth of the kosher supermarket, kosher winemaking, and going kosher globally, among other related topics. With an obvious zeal for what she writes, Fishkoff will engage readers with both the religious and professional facets of this complex and misunderstood standard as she explains why so many people prefer kosher cuisine despite its higher costs. (Oct. 12) (c)
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From Booklist

Why is kosher food so popular in the U.S.? Eighty-five percent of the 11.2 million Americans who buy it are not Jewish. Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, vegetarians, and people with food allergies are among those who are willing to pay more for food that is certified kosher. Fishkoff traveled all over the U.S. and to Shanghai to learn about the consumption and production of kosher food, interviewing food manufacturers, rabbis who oversee the production and service of food, ritual slaughterers, wine makers, and restaurant owners. She also examines the eco-kosher movement and the recent scandal at a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa, which made Conservative and Orthodox Jews demand higher ethical and environmental values for kosher food production. This informative and entertaining look at the state of Jewish dietary practice in the U.S. will be enjoyed by those interested in food, religion, and/or business. --Barbara Bibel

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1 edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242652
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By alixwall on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm not only a friend of Sue Fishkoff's (the author) but I am one of those interviewed in the book about why I don't keep kosher. Even though keeping kosher is not for me, I found this book to be a great window onto a world I knew little about. Sue takes you to such places as factories in China, where much of the food products headed for the American market must pass kosher inspection; to a hotel dining room in New Jersey where kosher certifiers work with scalding water to prepare it for a wedding; to an apple juice factory in Washington, where certifiers work the night shift; to a farm where young Jews who care not only about keeping kosher but whether the animals are treated humanely, are slaughtering their own goats.
Sue does a great job of highlighting the many reasons why so many Jews do keep kosher, as well as highlights the corruption that exists in any business. The book is incredibly-well researched, entertaining, and highly informative. Even if you don't think you're really interested in the world of kashrut, you will find something of value in this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joan F. Kasner on December 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly agree with the rave reviews given to Sue Fishkoff's new book by the media, including the Forward, Ha'aretz and The New Republic. The many anecdotal reports present" You are There," scenarios, which
richly add to the wealth of information provided by this award-winning Jewish journalist. Fishkoff writes in her usual fluid style, with a touch of gentle humor, when appropriate. And when facts are disturbing, as
they are re: the greed and fraud found in the certification industry and the Postville slaughterhouse incident, Fishkoff lays out the facts in the straight-forward, unbiased manner, for which she is highly regarded as an investigative reporter.
Between the covers of Kosher Nation readers will find anything they ever wanted to know about kosher, as well as facts about which they didn't even think existed. Everyone at all interested in kosher will find this
book supremely informative, useful and fascinating.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By AJL Reviews on February 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The supervision and symbols that designate food as "conforming to acceptable standards" for those who keep kosher for religious reasons have become a marketing tool and a symbol of "higher authority" and better products for those who do not. Fishkoff traces the history and development of kosher supervision in the United States. Inherent in this chronicle are the politics, the internecine arguments about maintaining standards, and the motive for profit of both food producers and certifying agencies. The narrative then explores some of the finer points of kosher food: producing wine, checking produce for bugs, the Jewish deli, and preparing a kitchen for a kosher event. A chapter about production of kosher food in China gives the readers perspective on the enormity and prevalence of kosher production for a relatively small percentage of the population. The final chapters explore the 2008 scandal at the Agriprocessors kosher meat facilities, which involved illegal immigrants and bank fraud, and the demands of kosher consumers for foods that are not only kosher, but produced in an ethical and considerate manner. This includes Jewish agricultural cooperatives and small scale slaughter for specific events.
Fishkoff has done meticulous research, and she presents the information matter-of-factly, even when discussing the nefarious behavior of kosher supervisors and manufacturers. Interesting characters, like Rabbi Mordechai Grunberg, who inspects plants in China, and Rabbi Yaacov Luban, who checks the garbage to find kashrut infractions, demonstrate the devotion of those who feel they are on a holy mission. Both informative and entertaining.
Kathe Pinchuck
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on March 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In addition to explaining Jewish dietary law (or I should say, dietary laws, since there are differences between and even within denominations), this book gets into a lot of issues that even many people who keep kosher don't often think about, such as the history of institutional kosher certification, the decline and fall of delis, the rise of expensive kosher wine, the growth of partial dietary law observance among Reform Jews, and the growth of overseas kosher certification.

I thought the most interesting chapter was the one on kosher certification in China; 2000 Chinese factories are under kosher supervision. Although major kosher agencies certify few finished products from China, they certify many individual ingredients. Why? Many American companies make some kosher products and use Chinese suppliers for ingredients. For the finished product to be kosher, the ingredients must be kosher, and so the Chinese-made ingredients must be kosher as well.

Even the best nonspecialist reporter gets one or two things wrong- and I'm sure people more knowledgeable than I am may have found errors. But I found only one thing that was kind of borderline; she blames the decline of kosher delis on the rise of "glatt kosher meat" (a slightly stricter standard for meat) - but she points out that kosher certifiers often require a full-time on-premises inspector, which I suspect costs a lot more than glatt meat. Also, her discussion would have benefitted from a comparative perspective: why are kosher Israeli restaurants so much more common than kosher delis?
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