She’elot U’teshuvot Notorious #2 – Chocolate Covered Crickets

And now for the second in a series of teshuvot, responses to Jewish religious questions, that are being featured.

Chocolate Covered Crickets
She’elah: My friend and colleague, Lea, will be serving a delicacy — Chocolate Covered Crickets & grasshoppers. Her question to me is: should be considered meat, and therefore not eaten with dairy?

Teshuva: The prohibition against eating dairy and meat products together stems from the verse prohibiting boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. Through a series of interpretations and extensions of the verse, the practice of this mitzvah extended to cooking any meal and dairy products together, and to maintaining two separate sets of silverware, plates, utensils and such.

The laws pertaining to keeping dairy and meat separate, being based on distancing the kid from its mother’s milk, would therefore apply only to those animals whose mothers give milk to begin with. For that reason, some early Talmudic authorities ruled that fowl was not to be considered meat in this regard. The opinion that fowl was to be considered meat eventually won out, possibly because of a concern that people would begin to confuse fowl and meat in their kitchens) and out went any hope of chicken parmesan.

Now for the crickets and grasshoppers. When I first read the question, my immediate rabbinic response was “you’re kidding, right?”  The fact, however, is that Leviticus 11 discusses a limited number of species of grasshoppers that would indeed be kosher. For the most part that rule has fallen into disuse. Mostly because:  A. nobody could possibly be that hungry and, more importantly,  B. we don’t have a chain of tradition that reliably identifies these kosher species.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of you lovers of grasshoppers: It has long been said that the Yemenite Jewish community maintained a continuous tradition of which species are kosher. [Not one Yemenite Jew that I’ve met, by the way, has ever ‘fessed up to eating grasshoppers]. And in even more practical terms, Israeli media reported on a restaurant there serving kosher grasshoppers as well as other permitted, but exceedingly rare, kosher delicacies .

So, if you’re crazy enough to want to eat grasshoppers and can assure that the species are those that the Torah permits, since they do not give milk and were not added to the meat category (in the way that chicken was), they are pareve. They do not require any particular ritual killing (other than checking for the signs the Torah specifies for kosher grasshoppers).

B’teyavon (Hebrew for bon appetite)

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