Frumgirl 4: Bring Your Own Muffin

It was a weird situation. My class of freshmen students as well as a few sophomores arrived at the departmental end-of-semester party, but were all too shy to approach the food. I thought that was just a tad ridiculous. “Let’s go up and start the ball rolling,” I said to the classmate next to me. She looked uncertain. My goodness – I thought people were only shy in bais yaakovs, where they’re afraid of standing out. Apparently tis not so. “If we don’t start, nobody will,” I said. So we went up.
The weird part was that there wasn’t a single thing I could eat. On the drinks table – only wine – yayin nesech issues. Wraps and rolls and deli sandwiches and cookies – off limits. “You can’t eat any of this, can you?” asked my friend, who recently caught on to the fact that I was Jewish and, having spent some time in Chaifa, sort of knew what that meant. I hovered over the fruit. Yes or no? Yes or no? Yes or no? I decided no. I wasn’t sure what the exact halacha was, but I wasn’t going to be meikel when I didn’t need to be. “Nope, can’t eat anything,” I said sheepishly, and we returned to our table with my plate empty.
Meanwhile a long line of students had formed behind us. Hurray for leaders.
Luckily, this wasn’t my first departmental party, so I came prepared. The first one had been a pizza bash at the opening of the new lounge. There was one other religious student in my department, so I doubted there were any kosher arrangements made, but I approached her anyway to find out and maybe benefit from her greater experience in such matters; she was a junior.
“No, there’s nothing we can eat, but they feel bad if you can’t eat at parties so take a drink or something,” she said, walking with me to the drinks table. I picked up a can of Hawaiian punch and she took a bottle of water. We strolled back to where my classmates were, and I saw their eyes slide down to both our hemlines, compare them, and then slide back up. Some looked even more confused, but some looked enlightened. I’d never mentioned being religious, so this was the first hint they had that I was anything but an odd dresser.
It’s no fun being at a party and not eating. And not only is it awkward for the host, but it’s awkward for you as well. And yet you can’t just skip parties because they’re a great way to get to know your classmates and network. But back on the other hand, I can’t really demand kosher ordered in just for me. So this time, I brought my own lunch. Unsure of what would be served, I brought a muffin. There seemed a reasonable chance it would fit some of whatever was being served. My frum fellow woman didn’t even bother showing up to this event.
Next time, maybe I’ll ask if we can use our “per head” outlay to bring in our own food, but it’ll have to be something that can be eaten cold, no bentching required please… the field narrows quickly.
Well, kashrus is just performing its duty. I’m not complaining. Just being Jewish and looking for a workaround.

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Published in: on June 5, 2008 at 11:43 AM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Schools in the New York area are aware that their Jewish students may need special catering and it really is no big deal for them, as the kosher pre-packaged food is readily available. You only need to let the organizers know. And what you will discover is that non-frum Jews and non-Jews are going to look for those kosher goodies as well, as those with dairy allergies have learned to look for “pareve” with a kosher symbol. The muslim students will also look for the kosher symbols.

    Don’t assume it’s too much trouble–just ask.

  2. The issue of eating comes up for me at school and at work. At school events, I just don’t eat, or I eat only food that I bring. Nothing is usually too formal, so it doesn’t draw attention when I break out my own paper bag. At work, people go out all the time and invite me. Again, I just bring along my paper bag. I find that my food is usually more appealing to everyone than what others are eating, and I think that’s the secret to feeling comfortable: Just make sure you bring something delicious. No one could blame you if you’re eating delicious soup and home made bread instead of buffet style chinese food.


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