The first question-and-answer in New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s advice column, “Hey, Mr. Critic,” concerns a girlfriend who, “after two years of endless nagging,” got her kosher boyfriend to agree to eat treyf one night. After praising various pork and shellfish dishes at various New York City restaurants, for this particular instance Sifton suggests—what else?—Chinese food:
As my hero Arthur Schwartz, formerly the restaurant critic for The Daily News and author of “Jewish Home Cooking,” put it: “The Chinese cut their food into small pieces before it is cooked, disguising the nonkosher foods. This last aspect seems silly, but it is a serious point. My late cousin Daniel, who kept kosher, along with many other otherwise observant people I have known, happily ate roast pork fried rice and egg foo yung. ‘What I can’t see won’t hurt me,’ was Danny’s attitude.”
I wrote all about the “safe treyf” phenomenon last month in my article about Jewish Christmas.
But back to the question. “Helping you use food to persuade someone to abandon his religious principles cannot end well for me,” Sifton notes. “(Nor for him, if his mother finds out.)” I’d like to go a step further and adopt Dear Prudence mode and address the boyfriend: Um, dump her. What kind of girlfriend asks her boyfriend more than once—never mind nags him for two years—to abandon his commitment? What the hell is it to her? (I don’t mean that rhetorically: If I had Prudie’s acumen or a psychologist’s training, I’m sure I could come up with some very good answers.) “Take this boy to the Prime Grill for a kosher steak and tell him you love him,” Sifton advises. Good thinking. But I’m pretty sure she only loves herself.