Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confession Time: The Toughest Part About Being in the U.S.

I have a confession to make: It's hard being back in the U.S. Really hard. Yes, I miss my friends and my adopted family back in Neve Daniel and Jerusalem, and I miss the convenience of observing Judaism with ease and a level of comfort I can't find anywhere else. But this isn't what I'm talking about. 

I'm talking about the temptation. 

I didn't grow up Jewish. We all know this. In fact, I didn't start strictly observing things like modesty and keeping kosher until well into my 20s. That's a lot of my life spent with the conveniences of America: McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, and other terrible, bad-for-you convenience restaurants and fast-food stops. I mean, I could probably count the number of home-cooked meals I made in college on my two hands. No feet needed here, folks. College was Subway, Wendy's, Taco John's, Taco Bell, D'Leon's ... (no wonder my pregnancy food was Mexican). 

Do you know how hard it is to drive down the street, starving, and not stop into a Mickey D's for some delicious, greasy French fries? 

Having worked at McDonalds for two years in high school, I know that they are pretty strict about their standards of what they cook and where. The fry stations are used strictly for fries. No chicken nuggets or patties or anything. Just. Fries. 

Knowing this, of course, is hard for me. Yes, there are a million problems with picking up French fries from a completely non-kosher establishment, even if there was a giant box around the fry station that other, non-kosher food never entered, but knowing, just knowing that those are dedicated fryers ... AGH! It kills me. 

The temptation, of course, is constantly pushed down by the fact that I'm a kosher-keeping Jew, of course. Being gluten free also helps push the temptation down because, well, let's be honest, there isn't much eating out I can do here or in Israel where I can eat carefree. 

But it's tough. Yes, this is a first-world problem situation, but it's just plain difficult. You have to constantly have snacks with you and plan meals out like a drill sergeant because if you get caught starving and it's dinnertime, Denver gives you few options for a quick bite to eat. 

There's the ever-amazing Brooklyn Pizza, but how much pizza can you eat in one week? There's a delicious ice cream joint High Point Creamery, but too much ice cream makes for tummy woes and despite an Italian-themed favorite, it isn't a meal. We don't go to the local deli because, well, too many stories about food poisoning and the place just doesn't respect itself enough for me to respect it.  And then there's the fact that all of these restaurants are clustered in a specific part of town absolutely nowhere near where I work. 

Oh what I wouldn't give for a nearby restaurant to go out to lunch with my coworkers. To feel like a normal member of a "working lunch" society. 

The amount of times we've been out running errands and stopped someplace to buy a package of lettuce, some tomatoes, and packaged smoked salmon to hodgepodge a bite to eat would blow your mind. We can't pop into an Aroma or local gas station where the food is just plain kosher like in Israel or even in places like Teaneck or NYC. 

Am I kvetching too much? Perhaps. I'm just feeling the pressure. The pressure of being a full-time working mother who lives someplace that is chock full of Jews but doesn't have the dining and cultural infrastructure to meet the demands.

No worries folks. No slippery slope over here (been there, done that). 

I suppose this is part of teshuvah (repentance). I'm being placed in situations and scenarios where it would be easy for me to eat out here or there just getting the "vegan" or "vegetarian" option like I did once upon a time when I was less than strict in my observance of kashrut

I just keep telling myself: The tummy grumbles and moments of hunger are worth the healthy choices at home. We'll be back in Israel soon. HaShem is working this out with me. One day at a time.