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Travelers in a Kosher Pickle

Libi Astaire and Mishpacha Staff

For the kosher traveler, finding an eatery or appropriate accommodations anywhere in the world seems as easy as clicking a mouse. Does that mean that the suitcases full of tuna and salami are a relic of the past? One thing is for sure. A traveler can never be too careful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It was a taxi ride I’ll never forget. Back in the 1990s I was on my way to Ben-Gurion Airport, about to embark upon my first business trip as a Torah-observant Jew: a three-day stay in London. Because most of my business meetings were in London’s Bloomsbury area, I had booked a hotel near the British Museum. I had also obtained a list of kosher restaurants in central London (I didn’t want to waste time traveling back and forth to Golders Green) and came up with about a dozen interesting prospects.

While in the shared Nesher taxi on the way to the airport, I decided to ask the other passengers, who were all frum and on the same flight, for their opinions of the restaurants on my list. After all, with so many choices, why should I waste my time and money on one that was only average? And so I began (names of establishments have been changed):

Hi, I don’t know London very well and I’d appreciate recommendations for where to eat. Has anyone eaten at a Bloomsbury restaurant called Ye Olde Kosher Bagel Shoppe?


How about Moishe’s Curry Pavilion in Soho?


The Jerusalem Sandwich Bar near Oxford Circus?


Undeterred — despite the fact that I was sure that if this had been a taxi filled with Americans en route to New York, I not only would have gotten information about the restaurants, but also heard everyone’s life story, and figured out how I was related to at least one or two of the passengers — I continued down my list. Finally, a response to the last entry on my list, a restaurant located on Baker Street.

“I think a cousin of mine ate there once,” a member of the group mumbled.

Had I been wiser, I would have realized there was something fishy about my list and stocked up on cookies and potato chips while still at Ben Gurion Airport. Instead, I was sure that my list was “kosher”; it was the group that was, well, being typically British — reserved, stiff upper lip, and all that. The magnitude of my error only hit home when, still bleary-eyed from my red-eye flight, I waited in line at the bagel shop, which was a fast food place and not the charming breakfast spot I had imagined. Scanning the garish pictures of the specialties of the house, I suddenly spied a suspicious-looking, bright red object sitting inside a bagel and egg sandwich.

Is that h-h-ham? I gasped.

Apparently, the bagel shop had undergone many reincarnations during its lifetime. Only one of those lives was, briefly, a kosher one. And so it was with the other restaurants on my obviously outdated list. Just one of them still existed as a kosher establishment — the restaurant on Baker Street — where I ended up eating twice a day.

Is there a moral to this story? 

Even in a world where kosher food and hotels catering to the Torah-observant crowd can be found in abundance, the byword still remains: Be very, very prepared.


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