I won’t lie…feeding our family of 4 a healthy, kosher diet in Alaska is a never ending challenge. While keeping kosher in the lower 48 was sometimes difficult, living in Alaska brings in an entirely new set of challenges. I decided to share how we handle some of those since there might be other people trying to keep kosher far outside of decent-sized Jewish communities or who are also wrestling with health challenges that make keeping kosher a bit tougher. I also was inspired because I finally found a word that describes what we eat.
It sounds funny, like we stalk wild peas out in the tundra, running them down with a spear and a mighty yell. Basically, it describes a diet that is mostly plants, low in carbohydrates, higher in fats, and uses meat more like a condiment than the main event. This works for us because Mr. Safek is an insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetic who seems to do best on a low-carb diet. We tried paleo years ago and virtually all of this numbers improved. The problem is that a regular paleo diet quickly becomes expensive in Alaska where kosher meat has to be shipped up and is costly and supplies of it are limited and fresh fruits and vegetables are also expensive and hard to come by. Another challenge is that we have 2 kids to feed that aren’t big meat eaters and I have to eat a little differently due to lactose intolerance and some issues with my liver and reflux. We’re a complicated bunch to feed even without kosher concerns in the mix!
Often, I will make something that is a pareve (not meat or dairy) main dish. Then, the kids and I will add some kind of vegetable protein to it, like beans, tofu, or the like while Mr. Safek will add some carefully rationed kosher meat to his. This allows us to meat everyone’s dietary needs without gobbling up a ton of kosher meat. Fishing for salmon, trout, and other fish allows us to have a source for local kosher meat as well. We also go through a lot of eggs, which are more widely available and less expensive than other animal proteins.
I cook a lot from vegan cookbooks because we can always add meat to those recipes if they’re pareve by nature or leave the meat out as needed. I often wonder if I should branch out my kosher kitchen into also having pareve utensils and cookware, but for now, I just use my meat utensils and cookware and am careful not to serve this pareve food with dairy, since it’s really actually meaty from the pots and such.
And…when all else fails and I absolutely am dying for something kosher that we can’t find up here, I either make my own or ship things in. I will admit, I recently spent $20 on kosher marshmallows, but summertime without roasted marshmallows was just dragging my spirits down more than the twenty some dollars was worth, so I caved and Amazon Prime comes to my rescue with several bags that I’ll need to find uses for.
I recently also happened upon a unique Alaskan kosher challenge!
We’re planning a tent camping trip in August to Denali National Park. It’s one of our favorite places to camp and an amazing place to visit if you get the chance, but kosher food options are super scarce there and we won’t have refrigeration for the days we’ll be up there. I looked into kosher MRE’s for the trip, the meals that the military uses to feed kosher keeping troops, but the cost of shipping wound up being more than the meals themselves. So, I had to do some research to figure out what kosher backpackers use. After some digging, I found a brand of vegan dehydrated camping meals that are certified OU kosher AND were available on Amazon Prime with free shipping, so we have those on their way and I plan on adding in fresh fruits and vegetables that can handle sitting in the truck without any cooling.
And, as if that wasn’t enough…we still have to worry about bears and keeping our food contained in a way that doesn’t attract them and other wildlife to our camp.
Keeping kosher in the last frontier is always a challenge, but I find that there is always a way around those challenges and being able to enjoy Alaska without caving to the temptation to make things easier by breaking kosher feels so good. I also think it makes me a better, more inventive cook and often forces us to eat healthier than we otherwise might, if convenience foods were more available.
I’ll put the links to kosher MRE’s and the kosher dehydrated camp meals in the conversion resources section of this site in case it is helpful to anyone else planning a trip far from kosher restaurants and grocery stores. Being observant doesn’t have to force you to miss out on adventures and enjoying Hashem’s creation! I think it’s also good for those living in bigger cities to see that if we can keep kosher here, it really can be done anywhere!