The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals

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??


SASQUATCH
(aka Bigfoot)

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.

 

AITVARAS

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.

 

TACHASH

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.

 

 

Comments (25)Post a Comment

  1. My two adult children have left for Israel for 2 weeks. I would love to win this book, have it in the kitchen when they get home, have a meal prepared and tell them to guess what it is! lol

  2. I don’t know if they’d be kosher but I do know that the prospect of eating any of these creatures would turn me veggie!

  3. The Aitvaras is tricky. As a dragon, it is not kosher, since it has scales, but not fins. However, as a rooster, is would be kosher. The hard part is that you’d have o kill it inside the house.

    Now the Mermaid also has scales and not fins, making her treif, which is probably a good thing, because I would have a hard time asking my guests, “Would you prefer a breast or a thigh?”

  4. Hmmmmm….. the Sasquatch would not be Kosher, because it’s a land mammal that does not have cloven hooves (you know, those BIIIG FEET it’s kind of known for?), even if it chews it’s cud, which is most unlikely, just because it reminds me of my big, hairy Uncle Will. The Aitvaras would most likely not be Kosher, either, since it transforms into a dragon, which is a flying animal of prey that we could lump into the whole bird of prey category, though it would have scales at the time it’s a dragon, and not feathers. It still wouldn’t be Kosher if it was a water-dwelling dragon, because it simply has no fins, only wings, to accompany it’s scales. The Tachash, based on the PICTURE above, most likely would be Kosher, owing to the cloven hooves and the great possibility that it chews it’s cud, if it is, indeed, related to sheep or goats, as it’s appearance would lead you to believe. If it’s anything else than what the picture represents, I’m hedging my bets with non Kosher, because the limitless possibilities of what it could possibly be. Besides, I’d feel kind of creepy eating the animal that became extinct after being used to build the Tabernacle. This whole subject makes me want to pull out my copy of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and get busy classifying the whole lot!

  5. LOL! Elaine, I so hope you win. You made me lol so hard I forgot the pain I’m plagued with. Tori, please make her the winner. The others are good but Elaine, Elaine, Elaine! Elaine made me cackle, and although I didn’t lay an egg, laughter is still good for what ails a body.

    Thanks.

  6. Chewbacca from Star Wars is definitely NOT Kosher. I know that will upset a lot of people. Here is the reason why. A great part of his voice comes from bear recordings. Bears, which have neither cloven hooves nor the ability to chew their cud are therefore not Kosher. Sorry Chewie.

  7. I am just guessing, really new to the whole idea of Kosher so I am guessing the AITVARAS would be. I think that because one is too closely related to humans and the other one has a split hoof. This book would be cool for me because while I am Catholic I am in the process of getting Jewish Foster children and they would just love this!

  8. I definitely say not kosher to the aitvaras (rooster/dragon) as it says it “resembles a rooster” but the skin under those feathers could still be scales. Sasquatch definitely no because it resembles an ape or man and neither of those would be kosher. The tachash, however, sounds like a sort of an antelope/deer/goat/camel sort of creature. But I can hardly imagine a tabernacle let alone sacred objects would be wrapped in anything that would not be kosher. (Can you imagine an eel skin or pig skin being used as leather for ANYTHING sacred? Since the tachash was multicolored, it must have been a beautiful leather. Of course it’s hard to think a sacred object would be wrapped in anything resembling the word tuckas.

  9. Sasquatch
    Of the “beasts of the earth . . . you may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud”. So where does a Sasquatch fit in?

    Ape-like, large, hairy, bipedal (but not my husband) implies that Sasquatch is a mammal. Proof: 1) apes are mammals; 2) only mammals grow hair instead of fur. Definitely mammal! But is it a “can-eat” or a “can’t-eat” mammal?

    The feet:
    Do Sasquatch have cloven hooves? No, no, no – a thousand times no! A Sasquatch is also known as a Bigfoot, not a Bighoof! DUH!!! Not a cloven hoof in the herd.

    The table manners:
    Humans have been known to chew gum like a cow; to chew forever before swallowing; and to wolf down a meal without chewing at all — but humans don’t chew cud. Apes are like people, and Sasquatch are like apes — ergo, no cud was chewed during the filming of this episode!

    Conclusion – if you find a Sasquatch, do not attempt to eat it. It is NOT kosher. (And judging from the blog drawing might even be cannibalistic!)

  10. Aitvaras
    Birds of prey and scavenger birds are not kosher. A rooster is definitely not a bird of prey nor is it a scavenger, no matter what color it is. So if you catch an Aitvaras inside your house and it doesn’t start praying for salvation, or trying to eat the dead mouse that your cat has been playing with for days, you can put a pot on the stove, set the table and prepare for a feast. The indoor Aitvaras is Kosher!

    On the other hand, a dragon is a fire-eating reptile and reptiles are not kosher. So if you come across an outdoor Aitvaras, forget about it! On further thought, you might want to run for your life. That fire-breathing creature may decide to have you for dinner — and take my word, an Aitvaras doesn’t care whether you are or aren’t kosher!!

  11. Tachash
    Tachash sounds like toches (you know, the thing you sit on). Everyone knows that the hind quarters of an animal, even an otherwise kosher animal, are not kosher. So don’t be an ass – you can’t eat tachash! Not Kosher!!

  12. Are we questioning if the animals are kosher to eat, or if they would be kosher in what they eat? I would think that Sasquach (Bigfoot) would be Kosher in what it eats because while he may eat meat, he would not likely have any access to any kind of dairy, he lives in the forrest where there aren’t too many pigs, and away from the sea, so he would not have access to shrimp or lobster…

  13. Thanks very much for the review! We appreciate the mention, too, because the major reviews, in the Jerusalem Post etc., came out 2 months before publication, due to a PR glitch. The book’s done fine, but we feel there’s still a vast untapped readership for it out there. Besides, you can give it as a gift to different people year after year. Thanks again! JeffV

  14. OK, then riddle me this. The Starship USS Enterprise creates food through the “Replicator”. The Replicator synthesizes whatever kind of food you want. If you replicate pig bacon, is it kosher? After all, the replicated food has never touched a pig. If you replicate brisket, is it kosher? After all, it wasn’t slaughtered in the proper way?

  15. The tachash sounds like it could be a unicorn with that one horn and a hide suitable for tanning, as such it would not be kosher, as horses do not chew their cud or have split feet. A sasquatch could definitely not be kosher as it is impossible to catch and therefore not an option for food.

    Basically, I just can’t imagine eating leftovers of any of these with my chocolate coins.

  16. SASQUATCH – large, ape-like creature that is bi-pedal and hairy. Definitely not kosher. If it were, many Jewish husbands would have to be on high alert because they would also have entree potential.

    AITVARAS – as a foul, it would only be kosher if it is on the list of kosher birds specified in the Torah. We do not know what the true identity of most of the listed kosher birds are in the Torah, so we rely on what Jews have traditionally eaten over the centuries. However, given that these come from Lithuania, I cannot see a Jewish Lithuanian male running around after a dragon outside the home. We are just not built for that. And imagine the Empire Kosher Aitvaras factory. The fire insurance alone makes it a terrible business idea. So, even if it were kosher, you wouldn’t be able to buy it.

    TACHASH – I vote kosher. Going on practice in the Bible, you wouldn’t dictate that the skins of a treif animal be used for a holy purpose in the Tabernacle. Just doesn’t make sense. I can’t say what it must have looked like, but you can find multi-colored horny animals in the West Village and do a comparison for yourself.

  17. Elaine. Definitely Elaine. I’d give her two copies, although the crack about Jewish husbands having entree potential was amusing as well, but Elaine, for sure.

  18. I am not Jewish so I am a little out of my league, but I still LOVE the concept. Also, I just have to say:

    “I also weighs in excess of five hundred pounds . . . ”

    You do? Are you sure you want to admit that? ;-)

    1. CONTEST CLOSED. So many wonderful, creative answers here! But I have to say, by popular demand, that Elaine is officially the winner! I think it was the “breast or thigh” line that pushed you over the top. Priceless. ;)

      I’m also going to send copies to Connie and Ginny because they both had really well thought out answers that made me LOL. And Julia, you get a copy too, for the simple fact that you’re fostering– that’s a major mitzvah.

      Jenn– thanks for the heads up! I do not weigh in excess of 500 pounds, but if I eat all the freshly baked sour cream twists that are in my kitchen, I might just end up that way. ;)

  19. Yeah, I was thinking you hid it well, if that were the case. If you’re worried about it, though, you could pass some of those sour cream twists my way. They sound great! (Attach the words “sour cream” to anything, and I’m all ears.)

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