Catfish Is Not Kosher for Passover

Passover is about freedom, how the Jews became free of the Egyptians. There are songs, stories, and lots of food. For me, it always comes down to the food. Our food laws go back a way, a long way. The dos and don't are written in the Holy Scriptures [in the Torah portion Shemini, which is read this week]. Meat comes from the animal who has a cloven hoof and chews the cud (no pig, no camel. No horse either). The animal has to be slaughtered just right and the meat butchered in a specific way. Fish have to have fins and scales* (No shrimp, lobster, or clams. No catfish,either). Which reminds me....

Years ago I saw a t-shirt that said “Ask your teen ager anything while he knows everything.” My daughter, a teen at the time, thought it was hilarious and had a good laugh. She had no idea how on the money that t-shirt was.

As a Navy brat I moved around a bit growing up. When my father was in Viet Nam my mother, sisters, and I stayed in New York near my grandparents. We lived in a Jewish neighborhood. Within one mile there was a kosher butcher, baker, bagel bakery (my first job), and a mah jong game once a week. The shul was just down the block. Easy living for a girl who thought there was three kinds of food, kosher, Chinese, and pizza.

My dad came back from Nam and was sent to Gulfport, Mississippi. I was 16 and in the middle of the school year so I got to stay with my grandma until school was out, then move. I remember getting there and being in total shock. I got through most of the year but when Passover came I started getting nervous. “Where do we go to get kosher anything?” I asked. New Orleans or Mobile. New Orleans was 50 miles away. “The meats frozen and expensive” I was told. “How do we keep kosher for Passover?” I asked almost in a panic. My father said “No problem, think about it and I will help you.”

Not bad. He’d help but I had to show everyone I could do it myself. Don’t ask me why. I could eat vegetables, fish, and milk products. I’m good. I went shopping and made dinner. I was so proud of myself, that is until my father smiled and said there was something wrong with the fish. “What’s wrong with it? It’s fish” I said.

“What kind of fish is it?”


“It’s not kosher. No scales, just fins,” he said with the biggest smile I ever saw.

I about choked on that fish. I still can’t eat catfish to this day.

I learned then that I didn’t know everything, and sometimes my dad did know what he was talking about. I think I ate some crow that night. I don't think crow's kosher either.

Shemini in the book of Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Torah Reading for Week of March 20-26, 2011 - Adar II 14-20 5771

*9. Among all [creatures] that are in the water, you may eat these: Any [of the creatures] in the water that has fins and scales, those you may eat, whether [it lives] in the waters, in the seas or in the rivers.
10. But any [creatures] that do not have fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, among all the creeping creatures in the water and among all living creatures that [live] in the water, are an abomination for you.
11. And they shall be an abomination for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and their dead bodies you shall hold in abomination.
12. Any [creature] that does not have fins and scales in the water is an abomination for you.

Post by Eileen Patterson of GoofingOff.etsy

Edited by Linda Blatchford or Linda Bs Jewelry


Handmade in Israel said...

What a great post! I love reading these kind of anecdotal stories.
My kids have it so easy here with the kosher food. They have no idea what it is like to keep those dietry laws away from Israel.

Barbara said...

Very cute story! Thanks for sharing.

Tracey said...

A lovely story, thanks for sharing.

I remember one year I was away until just before Passover. 'Someone' (who shall remain nameless) bought me food for Passover and in the bag was a bread and butter pudding. They said they did not know Bread and Butter Pudding had real bread in it!!

yafit_haba said...

Such an interesting story. Thank you!

april said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing it.