When they seek a snack, Israelis often go for one of the country's favorite “comfort foods” - borekas, the Turkish delight made with flour or semolina, or with phyllo dough, wrapped around a filling of either cheese, potato, meat, chicken, mushrooms or other foods. Popular for breakfast and even as a first course at Friday night dinner in many households, borekas are as versatile as they are fattening.
But the nutritional content of borekas wasn't in question at a special meeting called by the Chief Rabbinate's Kashrut department this week. Attended by kashrut supervisors (mashgichim) and the heads of some of the largest bakeries in Israel, the overseers of Israel's kosher foods appealed to manufacturers and bakers to redouble their efforts to ensure that they follow the Rabbinate's “borekas shape protocol.”
The protocol, which has been in force for decades, ensures that those seeking a parve (non-meat) snack do not get confused when they go borekas shopping. Standard cheese borekas, for example, come in a triangle shape, while “specialty” cheese borekas (with special cheeses or with additions such as spinach or mushrooms) are generally oblong. Parve (neither meat nor milk) potato borekas, on the other hand, are usually rectangular, as are most of the borekas with other non-meat fillings. And meat borekas, especially as served at weddings (where they are a popular first course) can be either shape – but they are usually much larger than the cheese or parve borekas sold in bakeries.
The problem, Rabbinate officials told the audience, was that there were all sorts of “nouveau” borekas on the market these days that did not seem to be following the protocol – and as a result, people were getting confused, with some even consuming a cheese snack, even before they were allowed to eat dairy (under Jewish law, one who has eaten meat must wait between 3 and 6 hours before eating dairy products).
“People walking into a bakery these days are greeted by a plethora of shapes and sizes, and it's very difficult for them to know which ones represent dairy and which parve borekas,” said Rabbi Hagai bar-Giora, who is in charge of industrial production matters for the Rabbinate. It wasn't just a matter of kashrut, either, he said; people who were lactose-intolerant have been relying on the shape protocol as well, and the Rabbinate has received reports of people who got sick after eating a dairy snack b y mistake.
The Rabbinate presented several ideas on how to resolve the issue – new shapes and sizes for some of the newer borekas types, and a redoubling of efforts to ensure that the basic protocol is followed.
The bakers and manufacturers in attendance, for their part, were less enthusiastic about the proposed changes, saying that their manufacturing capacity limited their ability to adjust the shape and size of their products. Some of the proposed changes, they said, would damage the product and lower its quality. In addition, they demanded that any changes be enforced countrywide, including at small bakeries.