Commentary: A ‘religious’ approach to food?

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An interesting website called “Green Prophet” (, which styles itself as “a sustainable voice for green news on the Middle East,” a region of 500 million people—with control of more than half of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, by the way—posted an intriguing take on the European horse meat scandal.

I apologize if you’re getting burned out from yet another spin on what has been an embarrassing violation of labeling regulations, but one with no apparent health or safety implications.

The editorial comment was written by a Karin Kloosterman, a Dutch-born Canadian resident of Jewish heritage who previously wrote on environmental issues for The Huffington Post, prior to launching the Green Prophet blog.

“I grew up eating horse meat. It was considered a treat—a Dutch delicacy,” she wrote.“Maybe once every four or five months, my dad would come home with half a pound of it wrapped in waxed paper [and] sliced thin, like prosciutto. Salty and delicate, it almost melted in my mouth.

“This paardenrookvlees [smoked horse meat] was expensive, and I’m not sure that’s the reason why we didn’t eat it more often. I wasn’t sentimental about it, and enjoyed it when it was there. We ate it on a slice of buttered white bread, the same way we’d eat chocolate shavings on bread, the old Dutch way. Or we’d just pop a piece into our mouths.”

I’ve never knew there was such a “treat” as an open-face horse meat sandwich, nor had I heard the often tough and tangy meat described as so tender it “melts in your mouth.”

Not in your hand.

Kloosterman’s is an interesting culinary recollection, and one that underscores the awkwardness with which media tend to describe the horse meat-in-ground-beef problem: It’s a widespread and clearly illegal scam—and one that’s thoroughly unappreciated—but hardly a scandal on the order of mad cow, as some news stories have all but implied.

So what’s the “appropriate” reaction?

Kloosterman offered a suggestion.

Swedish horse (meat) balls

“It is scandalous when people buy something, and then are lied to and given another product,” she wrote. “But I’m not surprised: People have become too far removed from what they eat.

“As a former horse meat eater, it’s no big deal to hear the news that there is horse meat in Swedish meatballs. But I blame consumers for the scandal: When you go to the grocery store you see plainly that the amount of packaged food far outweighs fresh produce, deli items. Most of the packaged and frozen food at the grocery store you can make yourself.

“My solution: People should become more religious about their food.”

Kloosterman went on to note that religious groups, especially the Jews, are “constantly scanning, checking and monitoring” their food sources. She noted that kosher beef comes from cattle slaughtered in “a very specific way,” and notes that Jews are “constantly checking what’s in their food on religious grounds,” especially now during the Passover season, which begins next week. A religious approach to how we source and prepare food is an appropriate model, she suggested.

“Whether you have moral, health, or ecological reasons, take a look at religion to see how food is handled and consumed,” Kloosterman wrote. “With more interest in food traditions [and preparing] food at, you can engage your kids in before it’s too late. Forget blaming the government and the stores and the suppliers for horse meat—prepare your own healthy food at home.”

That is sound advice and probably a good place to close an essay.

Oh. No. She added one more thought for all those scandalized by the horse meat debacle:

“Stop freaking out about what’s being put into your food, as if you have no say in the matter.”

Religious affiliation aside, that’s not a bad way to go.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

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Pennsylvania  |  March, 18, 2013 at 04:35 PM

Nothing new in this recognition of religious undercurrent in foodie freakouts. Here's a short list of Jewish anti-agriculture food cultists we frequently find all up in our faces: Michael Pollan (no introduction necessary) Mark Bittman (no introduction necessary) Michael Bloomberg (NYC mayor and nanny) Bettina Siegel (the infamous pink slimer) Marion Nestle (food politics) Michele Simon (appetite for profit) Hemi Weingarten (fooducate) David Gumpert (the complete patient) Jill Richardson (la vida locavore) Just a short list of intensely vocal rabidly anti-agriculture anti-industry cultists sharing common religious affiliation. Still not sure these cranks are proselytizing to an agenda? Just google up and to learn more. I, for one, sure wish they would satisfy themselves with tinkering with Kosher law and leave the rest of us the hell alone. I've never been antisemitic but lately these jerks have intruded themselves way too far into my life. I am beginning to resent being told what to eat, how much and when by zealots. This religious assault is unwelcome and very annoying.

Karin Kloosterman    
Canada  |  March, 19, 2013 at 11:16 PM

Josh, I am not a cultist (I think?) and my only agenda is to make this world a better place. I am added to this list of cranks? If so, I'd be happy to share that title with Michael Pollan. People who are religious or who come from a deep religious source, like Judaism, are educated to engender activism. Jewish law is the basis of modern law and its existence the reason why you are no longer eating the legs off your living dog, or worshipping the gods of sh*t.

Ohio  |  March, 19, 2013 at 11:20 AM

This will not stop until they have all of us living trapped like Palestinians. Forget the XL pipeline, we will be digging smuggling tunnels into Canada just to feed ourselves if the Jewish contingent forces its will upon us.

Chambersburg  |  March, 19, 2013 at 02:44 PM

I always did notice how so many food freaks preach just like religious nuts. Figures it is all just another crusade to pacify us heathens. Now watch them howl discrimination when we are the ones that have been jerked around.

Karin Kloosterman    
Canada  |  March, 19, 2013 at 11:18 PM

Case in point Jeff as to why eating pork is probably not good for your brain, or soul. Note to editor: I was born in Canada, and I converted to Judaism.

Virginia  |  March, 20, 2013 at 08:55 AM

Wow! This explains everything. Just listen to Kloosterman going all righteous on us. Force your whims on Kosher food and butt out of our lives Karen. "Engender" your "activism" to someone who gives a "sh*t" about your pushy religious affectations. Free the Palestinians while you're at it.

now we see clearly    
California  |  March, 20, 2013 at 09:38 AM

What the $@!!..."eating the legs off your living dog, or worshipping the gods of sh*t"...where did that nastiness come from? That is completely uncalled for. Shame on you Karin Kloosterman. Looks like you make Josh's list (somewhere down near the bottom)...and do a grave disservice to your fellow Jews with the vulgar epithets made public. This is what we in agriculture are up against. Not very nice people collaborating to crucify honest food producers and consumers. Good to know - forewarned is forearmed. But still, shame, shame Karin.

Mark P.    
Iowa  |  March, 20, 2013 at 02:10 PM

Same religious outfit responsible for all the migrant worker violations in one of their big kosher packing plants in Postville here in Iowa a few years back. A lot of talk about community welfare preaching at us how to live and all that instead they brutalized an entire town. Took the money and ran. Same old story never changes with those people. Now they tell us how to eat. For our own good they say. No thanks I say. Keep your predatory religion out of it.

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