Monday, April 19, 2010


Yes, the frum community needs certain types of businesses to be present, owned and run by frum people. We need a butcher. We need a kosher bakery. We could even say we need a grocery store to carry kosher items that regular markets don't/won't carry. We need some type of seforim/Judaica store. After that, frum owned businesses are wants, not needs. And some of those wants can be causing some of our financial problems.

Let's look at restaurants. Can we honestly say that we need restaurants? Perhaps we could justify the existence of restaurants if we said that kosher visitors to our city need someplace to eat when they are here. We might be able to justify the restaurants if we say that business people, particularly in Manhattan, need someplace kosher so that they can take clients out for a meal. We could even say that emergencies can arise that will prevent us from eating something at home so we need a restaurant to eat in.

But how many restaurants are needed? Long ago someone made a comment on a different posting that restaurants are part of what constitutes a thriving, vibrant community. I take exception to that statement. Walk around the Flatbush/Borough Park area of Brooklyn and you'll trip over a restaurant every third store. And they are seemingly never empty. Certainly the restaurants are thriving, but does that mean that the restaurants are contributing to the creation of a thriving community? You need to ask yourself a question: are those restaurants contributing to the community, filling a need of the community, or are they creating a need through their very existence, turning luxuries and wants into needs?

I've been asking people I know about their restaurant eating habits (and I include taking out food as well as eating in). I was fairly astounded at the answer. In a few cases the meals eaten at restaurants or from restaurants far surpassed the number of meals eaten at home. In some cases they were 50/50. Students, who get their breakfast and lunch meals (and sometimes supper) in school, may also have most or all of their supper meals and weekend meals provided by such restaurants.

This also came to light. People living in communities with mutiple restaurants eat out more than those living in communities with only one or a scant few restaurants. While those living in the communities with few restaurants may on occasion travel to use a restaurant in a community that has a multiplicity of restaurants, they do so far less often than those living in those communities with a plethora of restaurants. In other words, propinquity and a multitude of available restaurants creates/contributes to a desire to eat out.

Eating out costs money, I don't care how cheap the restaurant is. And eating out or bringing in ready made food can be a mega-budget-breaker. Yet, far too many people don't see their restaurant habits as being part of the budget. They don't see restaurants as "entertainment" or extra; they see it as a necessary part of life and it costs what it costs.

The day after Pesach I had to return to work. I had some important errands to run and I also had to take my mom back to LI from SI. There wasn't much chometz in the house, certainly not anything I could take with me to keep me going until I returned home after 11:00 pm. My day was going to be complicated for me, so yes, I planned on having a meal in a restaurant near school. I walked up the block to a pizza shop. It was jam packed with parents and their little ones and with teenagers--most schools would not be back in session until the next day. As I patiently stood on line to give in my order I couldn't help but hear what others were ordering and see what had been ordered. At two tables that had been pushed together there were two young moms and 9 young kids. Yes, with time on my hands, I tallied up what was on the tables. First, two pizza pies. I counted 5 servings of french fries. There were two full salad plates with multiple toppings. I noticed a plate with falafel balls on it. There were 14 drink bottles and cans on the table. And one of the mothers was telling the kids that they needed to finish their whole lunch if they expected to get dessert. I looked up at the price lists posted and figured out that what was on the table, not counting any dessert, ran $88.40 or about $8 per person for just the basic lunch. And what was on this table was typical of what was on almost all of the tables in the shop, some of those other meals costing even more.

Granted, I, too, was going to be eating out in this pizza shop. Perhaps this was also an unusual occurrence for the people I noticed in the shop--and more likely it wasn't. As I mentioned before, these restaurants are always crowded. Someone is eating out there regularly, a whole lot of someones. Yes, there may indeed be an occasional time where eating out may spell the difference between eating or going hungry. But there is no one who is going to be able to convince me that "occasional" equals 50% or more of meals that need to be eaten.

My experience in the pizza shop led me to ask my classes a simple question that night. Give me a number for the number of times you eat out or buy a ready made meal to take out during the week. My students include boys in yeshiva dorms, boys living in their parents' homes, boys who share an apartment with other boys, and married men. Not one student, not one, said they never eat out. The smallest number I got was 4 times a week. And, horrifying to me, the largest number I got was basically every meal eaten during the week and on Shabbos unless they were invited to someone else's home for a meal.

Do a multitude of restaurants signal a vibrant community? Not to me they don't. Far from a positive thing, I consider a multitude of restaurants to represent a danger, a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. What they signal to me is a community whose food budgets are likely seriously out of whack and whose nutritional needs are not being met properly. They can signal that the home and home cooked food is losing its centrality for many people. They signal a running after wants, not needs. Members of such communities aren't lucky to have all those restaurants; frankly, they are suckers being pulled in so the restaurants can make money. This is one case where more is definitively less--less money in the pockets of consumers.

Note: There is a real irony in this lusting after restaurant fare. Many of those communities that have the multitude of restaurants also have homes that have been remodeled to include an up to date, modern kitchen with all the frills. You've got to wonder why, if those kitchens aren't going to get a real workout.


Anonymous said...

I think Teaneck could use a few more good restaurants and pizza stores.7000 just does not cut it. We will not be satisfied until there is a 1/1 ratio of restaurant to resident and we are quickly getting there.

NonymousG said...

The problem is amplified when there are many restaurants in an area, but none are any good.

Lion of Zion said...

bakery definately does not have to be owned by frum jews (think of the breads and baked goods we buy produced by large corporations). i wonder about a butcher shop too.

and to a certain extent, seforim stores are for suckers.

frum groceries? aside from special sales, in general they are mostly rip-off joints. no reason to shop there other than convenience. i'm amazed when i see people on line with carts filled with items that would be cheaper in shop rite or costco, somtimes by as much 50%.

as far as some communities being saturated with kosher eateries, why can't you be dan lekaf zechut? maybe there needs to be enough establishments to satisfy everyone's specific kashrut requirements. you should be celebrating such piety.

Lion of Zion said...


isn't it amazing how koshernomics defies the economic principles of competition.

(but based on my limited travel experience i've found that restaurant quality, service and value generally declines in smaller communities with just one or two eateries)

Debbie said...

bakery definately does not have to be owned by frum jews (think of the breads and baked goods we buy produced by large corporations). i wonder about a butcher shop too.

We don't buy the products from those large corporations unless they are under an acceptable hechsher from a kashrus organization. When you talk about a local bakery that is doing its own baking I think most people would be more comfortable if it were owned by frum people with a stake in making sure the kashrus and the hashgocha are acceptable to the community. Offhand I don't think I've ever heard of a kosher local bakery owned by non-Jews.

Same would apply to a kosher butcher shop. Plenty of people who buy packaged kosher meat from supermarkets with a hechsher they trust. But if a butcher store is actually responsible for the kashrus of the meat they sell and the handling again I think people would insist that the owner be frum.

Lion of Zion said...


"unless they are under an acceptable hechsher from a kashrus organization"


Lu said...

A lot of people I know who eat out a lot use the excuse that time is money. It takes a lot of time to shop for food, prepare it, serve it and then clean up. They argue that there are other more valuable things they could be doing with their time then cooking. A few have even said that a restaurant allows them to spend quality time with their family instead of constantly being busy in the kitchen. I guess to each their own.

tesyaa said...

The "time is money" argument is not that meaningful for people who are on salary and don't get paid overtime. Maybe it's meaningful for a freelancer or an hourly worker who can earn more by working more hours to suit his or her own need. If cooking that meal is going to be the tipping point at which a person can no longer hold down a salaried job, I guess "time is money" for him or her. Otherwise, it's still cheaper to cook at home. Putting a little pasta in a pot is not that time consuming, anyway. And there's a lot of quality time to be had with kids in the kitchen.

harry-er than them all said...

I've spent time in communities where they do not have restaurants at all. Where they have to think a month in advance if they even want a bar-b-q, and two tings come to mind. 1) living in such a community allows the opportunity to eat healthier. When you can control your calorie intake, the ingredients in your food, you have greater control in your health. Of course this doesn't always translate, but when you want pizza you have to make it, you think twice whether its worth it.
(it so happens that in this community I noticed that there are very few visible bulges in the men-folks stomachs)
2) Having a restaurant does allow the woman to relax and just pick up supper once in a while. After a long day of work, chasing after the kids, sometimes its nice to just pickup takeout.

The same way people will go to a pesach hotel for the convenience (which woman wouldn't mind not cooking for pesach?). However, having a restaurant, like a pesach hotel should be weighed cost vs. conveinence, spoiled vs. living securely.

I don't like telling people how to live, and people should and can live as they want. How they ought to live is different though

alpidarkomama said...

I've always lived in communities with one or fewer :) restaurants. But even when we visit family in L.A. we only eat out maybe once during a two-week visit. I just can't bring myself to pay 10x as much for a meal out that usually doesn't taste nearly as good as what we eat at home. As far as getting takeout when you've had a rough day, I always have 5-10 meals frozen back in the freezer for just such days. Every time I make a lasagna, for example, it's no more trouble to just make two and freeze one. We eat this kind of "takeout" at least 2x/week! :) The crockpot makes a really easy dinner too. I would much rather use my money in different ways than blowing it in restaurants.

Kaylie said...

I basically agree that there seems to be more eating out in restaurants then could be healthy for the body or the budget. But if we are being honest we'll admit this is not just a frum problem but a problem in general American society. Your students eat out a lot but then so do students in other schools and colleges. Fast food places and pizza shops that aren't kosher are also full all the time.

Doctors talk all the time about an obesity problem of Americans, not just frum Americans. A good part of that problem comes from seeing eating out as better then eating in. Restaurant portions are way out of line with what a portion is supposed to be. They use all kinds of ingredients that are not good for you in the amounts they put in.

But when people see the convenience of a restaurant they forget all about the health and the money problems.

Anonymous said...

We usually save restaurant eating for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. It's a treat not an every day thing. There are lots of restaurants in our area but we choose not to use them all the time.

I ran into a problem with my boys though after they had been in Israel for a year. Over there they got used to eating out a lot because the yeshiva food was bad and not enough of it was served either, or that's what they tell me. When they got home they wanted to continue the same pattern. More fun to eat with their friends in the pizza shop or a different restaurant then to have to eat whatever I was making for meals. I told them no problem, they could eat out if they wanted to but they were going to have to pay for it themselves. It wasn't coming out of my food budget. Took a little backing and forthing but they finally figured out that if they were going to have to work to pay for their own restaurant meals it just wasn't worth it to them.

JS said...

"We need a butcher. We need a kosher bakery. We could even say we need a grocery store to carry kosher items that regular markets don't/won't carry. We need some type of seforim/Judaica store."

Even these I wouldn't necessary say we need. The large supermarkets generally have pre-packaged kosher meats. They even carry many kosher items that used to be the sole province of the kosher specialty store (the market by me has chalav yisroel products, heimeshe brand items, etc). Similarly, they carry challahs and some other items made by large bakeries and shipped in. Finally, I've been ordering seforim and Judaica online for a while now. You'd be surprised what Amazon carries, for example, often much cheaper than even the Brooklyn seforim stores or the SOY seforim sale prices.

Lion of Zion said...


"The "time is money" argument is not that meaningful for people who are on salary and don't get paid overtime"

that's what i was thinking. (i personally am hourly. the eating out is not really relevant to us, but when it comes to shopping in general, i'd rather just work an extra hour than run across town to save a few bucks on a single purchase).


"people should and can live as they want"

but sometimes out financial lifestyle choice have implications for our neighbors


"They use all kinds of ingredients that are not good for you in the amounts they put in."

if this bothers you that much, you should visit the kitchen of your local yeshivah elementary school.

on the other hand, i think it's ridiculous that a lot of the MO schools have closed their kitchens and instead outsource lunches to local eateries. (i.e., as per anon's comment regardnig how kids learn to eat out in israel, for many kids it is taught to them literally in kindergarten)

JS said...

"Over there they got used to eating out a lot because the yeshiva food was bad and not enough of it was served either, or that's what they tell me."

Reminds me of the old joke in response to "nu, how was the new restaurant?"

"The food was terrible and the portions were so small!"

JS said...

In all seriousness, I think the problems in the frum community in this respect mirror the secular community (I'm sure if this were told to segments of the frum populace they'd reject outright that anything frum could come from the goyim, but that's besides the point).

At the very least in the non-frum world there are now attempts at making restaurant eating healthier by having more healthful choices, posting calories and fat content, reducing sodium, etc. I doubt a single frum establishment even knows how many calories are in any of their items.

Furthermore, usually the healthier options are more expensive at the frum eateries. For some reason at a local restaurant in midtown a burger is $5.00 whereas a tuna sandwich is $8.00. Fries are $3.00 whereas a baked potato is $3.25.

Aside from that, no matter how many restaurants or supermarkets there are it seems that most establishments have the idea that they have a captive audience and don't have to make improvements to quality, customer service, or lower prices.

What I find most amazing is when families eat out and most of what they order is, for example, chicken nuggets, french fries, and soda or snapple. Granted it's completely unhealthy. But, you can buy a big bag of chicken nuggets, french fries, and a bottle of soda/snapple for about 1/5 of the price most likely. A big bag of french fries that would service a family is maybe $4.00 instead they go to a restaurant and buy 5 portions of french fries for $3.00 each.

tesyaa said...

JS, you don't even need to buy the $4.00 heimishe brand of french fries. ShopRite french fries have an OU and the big bag is about $2.50, at least on sale and it goes on sale all the time.

Lion of Zion said...


"What I find most amazing is when families eat out and most of what they order is . . ."

uh huh.
costco has kosher chicken nuggets

Rae said...

JS, when you say that I doubt a single frum establishment even knows how many calories are in any of their items you'd need to tack on 'and I doubt that they care.' Look at the ingredients lists on any of the packaged kosher products produced under a heimish label and tell me why hydrogenated coconut oil and other goodies of that type are still among the ingredients. I can only imagine what the restaurants are using.

Sure, a lot of products are available in supermarket chain stores and on the Internet. But if a bakery or a butcher or a seforim store opens up in a community that wouldn't put that store in the wants category. They would still be selling things that fulfill a need. They might be in competition with the supermarkets but that could result in decent prices to bring customers in.

Also, even if kosher products are available in a supermarket or online, I don't think that many people would apply the label vibrant community to one that had no bakery or butcher or physical place to buy seforim and items that are Jewish such as kipot or tzitzit. Personally I agree with the prof that using restaurants to decide about how vibrant a community is is a bad idea.

Shmuel said...

It's really rare for us to eat out in a restaurant. Part of it is the money and part is that a lot of what is available doesn't taste all that good.

We had oot company that stayed with us for a week. As a thank you they insisted on taking us out to one of those high class fleishig restaurants in Brooklyn. The food was only ok not fantastic but the bill was unreal. They spent more for that one meal to take us all out then we spent on a whole week's worth of food and then some, and no one went hungry in the house and everything tasted good.

JS said...


Yes, I don't think they care in the slightest. I should add that even in the "upscale" kosher restaurants it is amazing how little is prepared from scratch. They buy pre-made items and just warm them up (usually throwing it in a frier) and then mark it up about 300 or so percent. Fries, chicken nuggets, egg rolls, burger patties, salad dressings, desserts, knishes, cole slaws, vegetables sides, mashed potatoes, etc etc etc - it's all pre-packaged, pre-made garbage that they warm up and mark up. This bothers me to no end.

"They might be in competition with the supermarkets but that could result in decent prices to bring customers in."

Maybe it's just me, but I have never seen this happen. If anything, the non-chain frum stores have higher prices on almost all items. What kills me also is how often the frum bakery, for example, has the same cake out on display for seemingly forever but still charges marked up rates for it.

As for the label "vibrant community" I couldn't care less. I'd rather have one, good, low-priced restaurant than 10 cruddy, expensive ones.

Raizy said...

My brother served as a mashgiach for a caterer and few restaurants in our community. He never ate out in any restaurant, not the ones he supervised and not the others either. It wasn't because of any kashrut issue. It was because he saw what went into the food. Healthy and kosher restaurants don't belong in the same sentence.

Yitz said...

I attended yeshiva in Brooklyn and one of my rebbeim was totally against the idea of kosher restaurants. He used to call them stumbling blocks to take us off the correct derech. He warned us that they entice us to leave bais medrash when we should be learning and that they take away money that should be going towards important expenses. He also warned us that they take away the home as central to our lives. He also basically forbade any of us to go to a pizza shop where single males and females might find ways to meet or see each other.

I don't hold as stringently as this rebbi did but he wasn't wrong that the money spent on eating out so much could have better uses and that the home should be more important than a restaurant is.

I'd be more concerned about who the Rav of a shul is in a community then how many restaurants it has.

Anonymous said...

I come from both sides of the coin because my parents own a restaurant, so nearly half my life was spent in an environment which (sadly or not) provided them with parnassah. That being said, I wouldn't be so quick to paint all kosher restaurants with a broad brush. I can only talk from personal experience, but when my parents bought the place, they started taking out the diet drinks and sodas and replacing them with juices and seltzers, substituting whole wheat flour for white, deleting mayo, adding in organic foods, etc. Obviously, there is still plenty there that could be considered unhealthy (although probably not by most restaurant standards) but my parents are big on telling people off for ordering certain things. :) Since they were there full-time, we did a lot of our eating there, but we were not allowed to have anything heated in the microwave, and we also had to make our own foods from raw produce. No pizza and french fries for us! I always laughed when my classmates enviously imagined all the goodies I must get for free. I'm off on a tangent right now, but I just wanted to say that I'm sure my parents are not the only ones like that out there.

Being married for over 2 years now, my husband and I have eaten out (includes take-out) a total of 4 times, and that seemed like a lot to me, until I discovered that our other married friends eat out more in one month than we have in over two years. I honestly do not know how they survive financially, but then again, I cannot figure out how we spend less than $100 on Shabbos food each week when we have over 40 guests weekly. That is still having a traditional, 4-course meal. Other people we know spend over twice that for just 5 people. Again the confusion. I do know that many are living beyond their means and end up not having money for necessities, and I do try to educate people in this regard. It'a a long, uphill battle. Until people actually feel the pinch, it's difficult to change their ways, although to me it seems pretty simple to just think about all the money saved up by NOT eating out. There does need to be some kind of reform, but it's not specific to the Jewish community, unfortunately. People nationwide are forgetting how to go without.

P.S. Is it hashgacha pratis that my word verification is "oyvey"??

JS said...


Not sure if it's more appropriate for Orthonomics or here, but I'd love to hear how you feed 40 people for Shabbos on about $100.

Lion of Zion said...


"they take away money that should be going towards important expenses"

like tuition?


"they started taking out the diet drinks and sodas and replacing them with juices and seltzers"

good for them. i can't stand that there is nothing to order other than sodas (and now snapple)

"we were not allowed to have anything heated in the microwave"

this kills me. when in the pizza stoers they rewarm sitting food in a microwave. i can do that myself at home with frozen food

JS said...


You forgot how on motzei shabbos the food they're warming up in the microwave was likely made on Thursday.

Lion of Zion said...


whenever i buy something that has likely been sitting out a long time (like the slice from a special pie) i always ask when it's from. similar in bakeries. i've also learned to ask it as an open ended questionsed ("when is it from"), because if you just ask "is it fresh" they will almost always say yes. sometimes they get all upset. yeah, because they would never serve food that's been sitting out all day(s). other times you get an honest worker who (somtimes subtly) tells you to avoid something. of course they can always lie, but i have nothing to lose by asking.
i've also learned to ask in restaurants how they make their soups. i don't make chicken soup from stock at home, why would i (over)pay for it in a restaraunt?
same goes for the little takeout food we might occasionally buy for shabbat. you know how many times my wife came home with bad chopped liver or cole slaw from a respectable establishment on ave m?

Lion of ZIon said...


and the same goes in a proper restaurant. i always ask if the dish i want is good. 99% of the time they repsond affirmatively. the waiter who actually tells me not to order something gets a padded tip.

tesyaa said...

i've also learned to ask it as an open ended questionsed ("when is it from"), because if you just ask "is it fresh" they will almost always say yes.

When my husband's sister was a teenager & had a summer job in a kosher bakery in Monsey, she was told to say that the fancy cakes were "from today" if asked, even if they weren't. Of course they weren't - bakeries don't go and make fancy cakes and throw them away at the end of the day if they're not sold...

JS said...


My mother-in-law used to frequent a certain bakery. She was a regular customer. One time she was in there she told the clerk she wanted a particular item. The clerk looked around to make sure no one was listening and whispered to her, "You don't want those, they're definitely stale." She didn't buy them, but she never returned to that store again. She figured it was wrong to patronize a place that would offer for sale stale items to those who weren't regulars.

Margie said...

Sorry but the fresh or not fresh issue on bkery or restaurant items isn't just a frum problem. Where I work they bring in rolls and pastries regularly from a local, not kosher bakery. And no matter how many times they ask if the items are fresh or from today it's pretty obvious that lots of them aren't. No two wrongs don't make a right but this is not strictly a Jewish problem but a merchant problem.

You think it's any better when you pay a caterer for a simcha meal nd some of the items served were first prepared for a different simcha and then rewarmed for your simcha? Happens all the time.

JS said...


I have no doubt that it does. The reason I complain about it in frum business is the following:

1) Often there's no where else to buy from. In many communities it's have the leftover/stale pizza/pastry or nothing. Similarly, it's either buy the pre-made warmed up food or nothing. In the non-kosher world you can at least buy from somewhere else generally.

2) For the incredible markup that the restaurants or caterers charge they could at least provide fresh food. Is it asking too much that if they want to serve french fries they actually buy potatoes and a slicing machine instead of serving frozen pre-made french fries at $3+ a serving?

3) The "kosher" label should come with some business integrity also and not involve cheating customers by charging full freight for stale or leftover goods.

sima said...

A thought for you to ponder: I moved to a small OOT community about eight years ago. There were no eateries until recently, when a small deli and a pizza/falfel shop opened. I eat there seldom, as it's expensive for a family the size of mine. The interesting thing is this: when I go back to NY to visit family, we're often entertained in restaurants. It never fails that the same night I am visited by intense indigestion. It seems that I have become intolerant of that kind of food after so many years of eating only my own or my friends' homemade food!

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Your points are well made; and well taken.

But let's get a sociological perspective for a moment and go back to your original question: is the presence of a kosher restaurant a good sign for a community?

You need to try life out of town for a while. Like, the nearest kosher restaurant of any sort is 300 miles away. Like no minyan, even on Shabbat. Like 3 or 4 people in the beit midrash for an hour of learning. Like, a lot of people at your seder table is 10 or 20. No Jewish schools. (THAT will save money on tuition!). Get the picture?

So, the signs of growth and development begin with more regular attendance for davening and learning. Then, there is more demand for kosher food in the local, regular markets. A demand for children's education appears. When a community finally reaches the point where there is a demand for a baker or a restaurant, enough demand to actually support such a business, it means the number and stability of the observant population has grown significantly.

Right now, we don't have a minyan. We don't have a school. Were it not for Trader Joe's, the only kosher wine would be Manny's cough syrup or Mad Dog. They also supply at least Empire poultry and a few cuts of beef, now. We bring in any variety of wine and meat from 300 miles away.

In that perspective, a restaurant or two is a sign of health. It is a sign of growth and econoreligious demand. That is where that sort of perspective originally came from. It is still correct for many communities.

The plethora you complain about is more a sign of material excess.

Orthonomics said...

I'd like to hear how Anon feeds 40 (adult?) guests for $100 or less each Shabbat. I'm happy to host a guest post, orthonomics at gmail dot come.

As for resturants, not having dinner made, I was tempted to just go out tonight, but some cans of this and that and 10 minutes later I had a meal in the oven. I prefer to save our eating out for trips and my preference is normally something I don't make (yet).

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

SephardiLady, come live in our town and you'll always be able to save your eating out for trips! ;-)

profk_offspring said...

I laughed at this post because, as you know, I went to my 20th high school reunion yesterday (girls yeshiva in Brooklyn). When I mentioned I was living in Teaneck, the first comment I got (almost uniformly) from everyone else was "that's where all the restaurants are." And I think I can count the number of times I've eaten out here in 2 years on my fingers.

Anonymous said...

JS- I'd be happy to share the details. I will write to orthonomics as soon as I am able.

Loz- my parents' issue with the microwave is the unhealthy aspects of it, not to mention lazy inducing. We never had one growing up and I have not gotten for my home as well. It really is not necessary.

While freshness in a restaurant is key and I can understand people wanting to pay for fresh stuff only. However, motzei shabbat and yom tov customers have to be more understanding. You can't have your cake and eat it. You can't show up right after shabbat has ended and expect fresh food. Remember: the employees only get to enter a short time before you so I'd suggest not attending on motzei shabbos or granting more allowances than usual

Anonymous said...

I think that being a little behind the curve on what is or isn't healthy is not limited to Kosher eateries. Very often when I look at kosher recipes, the ingredients include things like onion soup mix, ketchup, soy sauce, salt and/or pickle relish even though the meat already has a high sodium content. Shabbat and yom tov meals are loaded with refined (high glycemic) carbs (think kugels and potato cholents) even though the Challah alone more than fills the refined carbs quota for a day.

SubWife said...

I think there's one thing missing here: we now have unprecedented amount of married women with children who work 40+ hours/week and live in apartment buildings that don't really allow for lots of freezer space. I can't really blame these women for eating/ordering out. Yes, with some preparations one can do without ordering out. But if those scarce hours at home could be spent on playing with the kids and/or spending time with the husband, I can't see why it's so wrong to eat out if one can afford it since one definitely can make healthy choices when ordering out.

Mr. Cohen said...


Babylonian Talmud, tractate Chullin, page 84B:

A man should always spend less than he can afford on food and drink, as much as he can afford on clothing, and more than he can afford to support his wife and children.


Minor Tractates of the Talmud, Avot DeRabbi Natan, Chapter 28, Section 5:

Rabbi Judah the Prince taught:

Every person who accepts upon himself the pleasures of this world, in the afterlife they withhold pleasures from him. Every person who does not accept upon himself the pleasures of this world is granted the pleasures of the afterlife.


Midrash Tehillim for Psalm 4, Paragraph 13 of 13:

Here is a parable of a righteous man and a wicked man who visited an inn. The wicked man ate large quantities of fish, meats and birds. The righteous man ate vegetables.
To receive quick quotes from Jewish Torah books, go to:

Litvak said...

Prof., thanks for a fine, thought-provoking post.

I think that there is a social aspect in eating out, that has to be addressed here. Eating out is more than ingesting food. Also, there is a status/image aspect involved, esp. in the fancier places.

As others have stated, we are influenced by the surrounding culture. NY is a big restaurant town. People want to try new tastes. Culinary exploration. Vi es kristelt zich.....

What do you think of the kosher sushi phenomenon, by the way? My mother comments along the lines of 'mein tatte hot nisht gegesen sushi, mein bobbeh hot nisht gehat sushi, ich darf nit kein sushi'.

ProfK said...

One of the keys is when you say "I can't see why it's so wrong to eat out if one can afford it." When eating out/ordering in becomes the norm rather than an exception then "affording it" is not always the case. Take that lunch cost I described and make it dinner instead. If you are talking fleishigs instead of milchigs then add at least $2 per meal per person. At $10 per person per meal times four midweek dinner meals, a family of 6 is spending $240 a week just for 4 dinners. That would be about $12K of after tax income a year spent in restaurants. If more than four meals a week are eaten out the price goes way up--add in some milchigs eating out and some bringing in ready made for Shabbos because that working wife gets home only a little bit before Shabbos and wants to spend time with her family instead of cooking Thursday night and a "treat" meal on Sunday because it's her only day off and you are spending an easy $24K a year on restaurant meals, and that's not counting having food in the house for all that "extra" eating that might get done at home.

Yes, that eating out is a convenience, but it's a convenience that can easily equal one to two yeshiva tuitions that need to be paid.

I happen to like sushi and will eat it when a caterer has it at a simcha, but I don't like it enough to pay what amounts to $1+ per piece if you buy it. Funny you should mention sushi--a friend's nephew is now opening up 7 kosher sushi restaurants around the city. I guess what our bobbes ate doesn't decide what a whole lot of people are eating today.

alpidarkomama said...

Love sushi! And I make it once a month for shabbos lunch. I 100+ pieces for $7-8. (I make all vegetarian, except for one bunch of rolls with the fake crab.) You couldn't ever in a million years get me into a sushi bar where the bill per person would be at least 20x as much. My grandmother probably never ate a mango either, but... :)

SubWife said...

Prof K, it's hard to believe that anyone spends that kind of money on eating out. One can have a very good dinner for the family of 6 for $50 or less, fleishings and all. I am sure what you witnessed was an exception, not something these families would order every night. And I am not advocating ordering out all the time. But if once and even twice a week a family (esp. with a working mother) who can afford it eats out, I don't see the horror of the situation.

If they can't afford it, however, then it's the whole different story of people living beyond their means.

For the record, we order out maybe 3-4 times/year. so I am not really defending my lifestyle.