Edible Legends from the Sea
Among the long list of things at which I am superbly incompetent is the preparation of any kind of food. If you're looking for someone with the ability to make anything more complicated than a tuna melt, you won't find it with me. But what I do have are a particular set of skills, acquired over many years of researching arcane rabbinic sources about animals along with the more unusual aspects of zoology. And so, notwithstanding my utter uselessness in the kitchen, it turns out that these skills make me uniquely suited to devising novel dishes for the exotic halachic feasts at the Biblical Museum of Natural History.
These events are enormously complicated, stressful and expensive to produce, but they are spectacular. Our first feast at the museum, two years ago, was a Feast of Biblical Flora & Fauna (which we are also running in Teaneck this October). The next year, we wanted to do something different, so we had a Feast of Exotic Curiosities (which we plan to run again in Los Angeles next February). That menu featured non-Biblical foods of halachic intrigue, including kingklip, sparrow, Braekel, pheasant, guinea-fowl, udders, turkey testicles, Asian water buffalo, and more!
This year, we wanted to do something different yet again. But what? I came up with the idea of "Legends from the Sea." Now, I'm not going to tell you everything on the menu, because it's a surprise. But I will tell give you some broad hints about some of the planned dishes of which I am particularly proud.
First of all, despite the name and theme of the event, the feast is not pareve - there are two fleishig items on the menu. But everything served is on the theme of "Legends from the Sea." And all fishes are pareve. So how can we be serving two "Legends From the Sea" that are fleishig? There's one riddle for you!
One of the other planned dishes is something of which I am particularly proud (and praying that we can actually pull off!) It's going to be called Salade Céphalopode, which is the fancy French way of saying "Cephalopod Salad."
Cephalopods, in case you don't know, are the class of molluscs that includes octopus and squid. Needless to say, they are all entirely non-kosher, as treife as treife can be. And yet, God willing, we will be serving something that looks like a cephalopod (complete with tentacles), that will have the texture of cephalopod, that will (hopefully) taste like a cephalopod, and - here's the clincher - that is actually made with real cephalopod!
How on earth is this possible? Well, it certainly isn't easy! Devising it involved three things - tracking down a specialized item in Japan (which I'm praying will arrive in time), discovering an obscure halachic ruling (which, while not accepted by everyone, is accepted by a major kashrus organization), and the knowledge of a certain very obscure piece of zoological information. And the result is something which will not only be kosher according to the letter of the law, but even according to the spirit of law (although I will acknowledge that not everybody will necessarily agree with that).
Both the Feast of Biblical Flora & Fauna in Teaneck and the Feast of Legends from the Sea in Israel are primarily aimed at those who are (or who become) patrons of the museum, supporting our mission of inspiring and educating people about the relationship between Torah and the natural world. Once the patron seats are filled, we will sell tickets to non-patrons. To find out more details, see www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/feast.