Keeping it Kosher, Local Style

By Lorraine Gershun (Oahu, Hawaii)

My oldest daughter occasionally stays after Sunday school for a youth group event or Purim play practice or other extracurricular activity. On the days that I am not driving for the carpool and cannot pick up lunch and bring it to her at noon like the good Jewish mother that I am, she  takes a sack lunch.

This requires a bit of forethought and planning.

Growing up in Hawaii means growing up eating the local food and in that respect she is totally  a “Local Girl.”

Lunch on the go translates to: Spam musubi or manapua.

California roll, fried noodles, Cup Noodles or maybe a Hot Pocket are also acceptable choices.

A peanut butter, or even bologna, sandwich is not the status quo.

This presents no problems on a regular school day or for the occasional field trip. I insist she add in some healthy items like fruits and vegetables and we strike a decent balance.

But when she goes to temple, none of these are acceptable.

We are Reform Jews and choose not to keep kosher at home. But we do respect the general kosher style that is observed at our temple: No pork, shellfish, or combination of meat and dairy foods.

When she realized that Spam musubi and manapua are filled with pork, California roll has imitation crab (which seems disrespectful in my book), Cup Noodles contains dried shrimp, and Hot Pockets are usually a mixture of milk and meat (at least the ones she likes,) she was shocked.

I chuckled. “This is a good lesson for you,” I told her.

The bagel and cream cheese I offered or the humus and pita she often likes at home were not deemed  reasonable substitutes. (Did I forget to mention that she is 13 and at that age nothing is a reasonable substitute for your first choice that you cannot have?)

We had to come up with alternatives.

Luckily, she is not completely unreasonable and I have some decent problem solving skills.

Not only Spam and fake crab meat go well with rice. You can make a tuna fish salad hand roll or a plain cucumber maki. She likes both of those. Hot rice with a package of roasted seaweed also makes the cut.

Instead of char siu in the manapua, you can buy them with chicken or vegetables. I know, it’s not the same, but it is a compromise.

Bottom line, I can’t resist telling her, “You should be happy to have food in your mouth.”

Of course, she agrees. And, in a pinch, a peanut butter sandwich will do just fine.

Lorraine Gershun is a nice Jewish mother who lives on the leeward side of Oahu. She taught secondary English and Journalism for over 20 years and has recently taken some time off to take care of her two lovely, semi-adolescent children and pursue opportunities in writing. After several years of free lance writing for local news publications, she launched her own blog this summer called “Being Jewish in Hawaii” (, where this piece first appeared.

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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity

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