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Keeping kosher tricky when you're traveling
With summer vacation come travel plans. That's when kosher eating can become a concern. It's a cinch to eat kosher in countries such as England and Canada. But in destinations such as China, Cuba and Lithuania, you have to be a bit more creative. One option is traveling with groups that customize your diet.
Kosher Expeditions, based in Georgia, offers "luxury tours" throughout Europe, as well as cruises and adventure trips to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The company's chefs prepare kosher food on site whether you're in the Amazon, France or Alaska, says manager David Lawrence. The trips range from one week at a dude ranch in Wyoming to three weeks in China. Call the travel group at 800-923-2645 or visit www.kosherexpeditions.com.
American Jewish Congress tours to South America, Israel and Eastern Europe, offer fish or vegetarian meals to accommodate kosher travelers, says Harriet Katz, the company spokeswoman. Call the travel group at 800-221-4694.
"We tell (restaurants) we're on a Moslem menu," she says. "They understand Moslems don't eat pork and they eat meat that is killed the way we slaughter it."
I've traveled with them to Western Europe; the meals always included a vegetarian or fish dish.
There are even companies specializing in trips during Passover, when food rules become more complicated.
Lasko Family Kosher Tours in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 954-894- 6000, offers four hotels with kosher food during Passover in Florida, and one hotel in upstate New York. Programs include concerts at the hotels and field trips to local attractions.
Most airlines offer prepackaged kosher meals upon request, and so do many cruise lines.
Courtney McKenzie, spokeswoman for Holland America Line, says her company gets about five requests for kosher food each cruise. The meals are generally served only for dinner, but special requests can be made for lunch. Kosher breakfast cereals are also available. Dinner items include gefilte fish for an appetizer; borscht, chicken or vegetable soup; and entrees include pot roast, roast turkey, roast chicken breast, veal roast or Salisbury steak. All are served with gravy, potatoes, carrots and green or wax beans.
"People have special needs we want to accommodate," she says.
Orient Lines also offers eight kosher cruises throughout Europe until October. They range in length from 10 to 19 days.
There are also guidebooks to many cities here and abroad that offer Jewish-related tips for touring and information about where to eat. For example, "Jewish Travel Guide 2000: International Edition" (Valentine Mitchell, 2000; $16.95), edited by Michael Zaidner, gives cuisine pointers for places such as Warsaw and Casablanca, and also offers tips for synagogues, community organizations and grocery stores worldwide.
If you are traveling domestically, there's "The Jewish Travel Guide" (Hunter, 2001, $16.95), by Betsy Sheldon. It covers major cities in the United States.
For either domestic or foreign travel, there's "The Jewish Traveler" (Aronson, 1995, $40), edited by Alan M. Tigay. It helps you find places to eat in places as wide-ranging as Oslo, Oxford, Houston and Hong Kong.
Of course, traveling means dining out. And with the advent of the Internet, finding kosher restaurants worldwide has become easier.
Visit www.shamash.org/kosher and type in "Chile," for example. It will give you a list of kosher restaurants there. And if you aren't traveling that far, you can chose a U.S. city and see what's available locally.
Just in case you don't find a kosher restaurant, you may want to stock some emergency supplies in your suitcase.
"Typically people take along staples: tuna fish, peanut butter, crackers, cookies," says Mimi Baron Jankovits, spokesperson for Aish Hatorah, a learning center in Hollywood, Fla. "A friend of mine that travels to Hong Kong and Korea for business takes 10 microwave dinners."
The Internet can also help you plan ahead.
Kosher Caravan (www.koshercaravan.com) is run by Marilyn Aitken from her Long Island home. She sells nonperishable kosher foods fit for travel, such as soups and puddings that just water. The soups include potato, vegetable, onion, noodle and mushroom/barley. Pasta requires water and a microwave. There's canned fried eggplant. And for dessert, candy and cakes in flavors including lemon, orange, chocolate, marble, honey and fruitcake. Aitken says she can ship directly to a hotel room or campground.