If a mermaid has scales, is it kosher?
Does a chupacabra chew its cud?
How exactly do you cook a Mongolian Death Worm?
Authors Ann and Jeff Vandermeer ponder just these kinds of absurd questions in their recent book, The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals. I had never heard of this book until a couple of weeks ago, when I read about it on Haaretz.com. Of course I had to order it immediately. And I do mean immediately. Thanks Kindle!
It was an entertaining, if brief, read– I finished the whole book in about an hour. I enjoy fantasy fiction (Harry Potter is one of my favorite book series), so I got a big kick out of the Vandermeers’ take on the kosher-appropriateness of the fantasy creatures we so often read about.
Ann Vandermeer converses with her husband Jeff– or rather, his blogging alter ego, Evil Monkey— about each mythological beast. Duff Goldman from the Food Network reality show Ace of Cakes also weighs in, advising the Vandermeers on how they should properly prepare and serve the creatures. It’s a fun book, and I actually laughed out loud a few times while I was reading it. I think it would make a terrific host/hostess gift for a holiday party or dinner gathering. It might even make a fun bar or bat mitzvah gift– add it to the obligatory card and check to make things a little more personal. Perfect for people who love fantasy fiction.
While most of the creatures in the book are labeled either K (for kosher), or a crossed out K (for not kosher), I noticed that a few of the beasts in the book were labeled K? which means inconclusive– they couldn’t decide if these creatures would be kosher or not. Since so many of my readers are kosher experts, I thought I’d mention a few of the K? creatures here on the blog to see what you guys think. I’ve also included an abbreviated version of each creature’s description and illustrations from the book.
Fun to ponder! Comment me here on my website, on this post, and let me know which creatures you think would be kosher, which would not, and why. The most entertaining answer wins a free copy of “The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals.” Contest ends on Thursday, June 16, at 6:00pm PST. Shabbat Shalom!
ARE THEY KOSHER OR ARE THEY TREIF??
Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is supposedly an ape-like creature living in forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal creature, it ranges between six and ten feet tall. It also weighs in excess of five hundred pounds, and a peculiar quality of its dark brown hair means that it always appears to be blurry even when standing still.
Of Lithuanian origin, the aitvaras resembles a rooster, either black or white, with a long fiery-looking tail. Beware the aitvaras, for it is a tricky beast. Once it joins your household, it will bring both good and bad luck. Although it looks like a rooster when inside your house, it becomes a dragon outside your house.
The skin of the strange animal known as the tachash was used as the outer covering of the tent of the Tabernacle and to wrap sacred objects used within the Tabernacle for transport. Despite this, no one has a good idea of the creature’s appearance. According to the Babylonian Talmud, the tachash was a multi-colored, one-horned desert animal that ceased to exist after being used to build the Tabernacle. However, the (cough, cough) always accurate King James version of the Bible translates tachash as “badger.” Other interpretations have described the tachash variously as a “dugong” (citing the similarity between “tachash” and the Arabic word for dugong, “tukahs,” although this word also resembles “tuckas”) or some kind of dolphin, goat, or giraffe. However, no one can even confirm that the tachash is a mammal.