Ever wanted to take a bite out of a slow-roasted sasquatch? Or sink your teeth into the juicy basted thigh of a chupacabra? Why didn’t you? Was it because these creatures don’t actually exist? Or did you worry that these pretend proteins might fail the laws of kashrut handed down in the sacred Torah? Well, thanks to The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, a new book by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer due out in February, you’ll never have to question the glattness of a dragon steak or the sanctity of a mermaid filet. This handy volume informs you which imaginary animals are Rabbi-sanctioned to accompany the Manischewitz at dinner.
The Aigi Kampos is somewhat kosher. You could eat the fish-tailed part but not the horse-part.
Expanding on the authors’s blog, the culinary bestiary maps out kosher ratings for 34 magnificent creatures: biblical heavyweights, the beasts of Borges and even aliens from the movies. From the Abumi-Guchi (a Japanese monster formed from the stirrup of a fallen soldier) to the Ziz (a griffin-like biblical beast and the eventual meal of the righteous), the edibility of each is put up for debate; Ann Vandermeer, who’s taught Bar and Bat Mitzvah classes for years, battles it out with Evil Monkey, her husband’s alter ego (who appears to be goy-ish and have a voracious appetite).
Just like mules with heads, the headless mule is certainly not kosher.
“But rabbit is so close to rabbi,” Evil Monkey argues, regarding the judgment of non-Koshnicity assigned to the antlered, bunnyesque jackalope.
“That’s considered a swine. It doesn’t chew its cud,” declares Ann of the baku, the Japanese dream-eater. This makes Evil Monkey wonder if, though banned from tasting the nightmare-munching beast, Jews are allowed eat dreams.
“As long as they’re not dreams of pork,” Ann replies.
In this way, the conversations serve as refreshers on the strict dietary laws for those Jews who have forgotten (or never knew) why we’re forbidden lobster and bacon. Ultimately, when the kashrut is transposed on storied beings, there’s not a lot of chowing down. As Evil Monkey observes, “Basically anything way cool and way evil is not kosher.”
The manticore cannot be eaten by orthodox children.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cook up these magical critters. In a riotous epilogue, Ann converses with Duff Goldman, celebrity chef best known for his Food Network show, “Ace of Cakes.” Goldman glazes over the pesky religious rulings and gets down to what counts – how to cook these things. He even determines the beverages best served with wookiee stew (Chianti) and mongolian death worm tempura rolls (Yeungling, clearly). He makes it all sound delicious. All Goldman has to say is, “Cherubs are the veal of the angelic world,” before you find yourself thinking, “Mmmmm. Baby angel.”
Since vegetables and lamb are kosher, The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary can be enjoyed at even the most religious dinner table.
Whereas Ann and Evil Monkey deliver decrees, Duff provides practical tips to incorporate exciting new traditions at the dining room table. Even if Aunt Mimi is scared off by your cthulu ink pasta or your slow-cooked behemoth, who’s going to turn down braised wookiee shank? I hear it tastes just like chicken.