Keeping Kosher on My Travels

It seems that I have been the wandering kosher Jew forever.

My mother took us every summer to her sister’s apartment in the Bronx and so kosher food was not a problem once we were there, but for the train ride, my mother literally packed enough for a small battalion. I was mortified when she spread the food out on a couple of seats. Rest assured she was a good cook, however. She would spend days preparing food for the 18-hour trip so we were never hungry along the way.

Finally it was my turn as an adult to take care of the kosher food situation when I made my first solo voyage to Europe when I was twenty years old. I packed things like peanut butter, which can last a very long time and is also filling and nutritious. I traveled before 9/11, so I could bring along a can opener and lots of cans of tuna, as well as cans of other food.

My first stop overseas was a stay with my mother’s British cousins in London. They fed me well and gave me food for my continuing trip across the English Channel and into Europe. I always found that I could find something to eat, like fruits and vegetables. I was meatless for the majority of my European tour as I have always only eaten kosher meat.

When I was in Curaçao in the Dutch West Indies, an island off of the coast of Venezuela, I arranged to stay near the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, thinking that I would eat with some of the Jewish residents near the synagogue for the Sabbath. After the services I found that not only did no one Jewish live near the synagogue, but most did not keep kosher at all. So I returned to my hotel room and for my Sabbath meals had chocolate bars and peanut butter, my travel food staples.

When I traveled with my son David, we took backpacks of food to Europe: frozen challahs for the Sabbaths, canned tuna, packets of oatmeal, granola bars, dried fruits, and some canned vegetables.

Again, this was before 9/11. In every major city in Europe we obtained a list of kosher products from the local Jewish communities. The Lubavitch-Chabad communities are all over Europe and we were hosted by two young Chabad families in Orly, France, and in Gothenburg, Sweden. Both families not only fed us, but gave us food to continue the trip with.

In St. Petersburg, at the Choral Synagogue, there was a kosher store on the grounds where we bought rolls and other items to continue traveling. In Moscow, we spent the Sabbath with the chief rabbi and his family and they also gave us kosher food for the rest of the stay in Moscow.

In the United States, many items sold in stores have symbols on them to indicate that they were packaged under kosher supervision, like U and OU, so that in Juneau, Alaska, for instance, we shopped for may groceries that had the symbols. In Europe, we relied on the lists of kosher products.

David and I also took a couple of cruises, and we were able to order kosher food that came in special containers. Almost every cruise line offers the option of kosher meals. On every airplane trip overseas we were able to order kosher meals as well.

I traveled many times on Amtrak and also was able to get kosher meals by ordering them 72 hours in advance. Once, however, someone had neglected to place the kosher order and so we were lucky that my sister-in-law had insisted in giving us food for the trip.

It is not hard to be kosher when you travel. I found that the same food that is good for camping, like items in packets such as dried fruits, cereals, crackers, and tea bags, is good for travel. Even yogurts, which can stay at least 24 hours without refrigeration, are good. Other good travel foods include fruit bars, trail mixes, powdered milk which can be reconstituted, dried soups where you add boiling water, and hard cheeses. All of these can offer a variety of food that travels well to nourish travelers far from home.