Kosher Travel: Kashrut - Misc. Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Kosher Travel

I travel a lot for business to small towns. I usually stay at a hotel that does not have a kitchen, so I am unable to prepare my own food. Also, these hotel rooms usually don't have a refrigerator, so I can't get kosher food from the store to keep and eat there. As for kosher restaurants – forget about it!

In fact, right now I’m in Butte, Montana. I don't think there are more than 10 Jews in the entire state, which must be close to 20 times the size of Israel. I don't know what to do and I'm starving! Maybe I'm missing something obvious since I am new to this. Do you have any advice?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In general, eating kosher on the road may be easier than you think. Since so many national products have rabbinic supervision, most local grocery stores carry a large percentage of kosher products, even though there are no Jews within hundreds of miles.

In general, the key to kosher travel is easy-to-use, non-perishable food like peanut butter, tuna fish and salami. There are also dry kosher soup mixes that come in a Styrofoam cup – just add hot water. Also, matzah is a good substitute for bread, because it doesn't spoil.

To balance your diet, you can go into any store and buy an unlimited amount of fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and berries. Just be aware that some of the leafy vegetables – like lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. – need to be thoroughly rinsed and checked for bugs, which of course are not kosher! Most stores sell bags of fresh salad, which come with a kosher symbol to tell you they've been thoroughly washed to remove any bugs.

For cooked food, a good option is to bring a small heating element and a pot, which would enable you to cook vegetable soup, rice, or eggs – all of which are readily available in Anywhere, USA. By carrying a few utensils and plastic dishes, an electric skillet and a West Bend "Hot Pot" (a 2-quart electric pot with a temperature control), one can cook almost anything in a regular hotel room. For example, a packet of pilaf cooks up just fine in the "Hot Pot" if foil is used to seal the top. Break an egg on top the last few moments of cooking and enjoy a raw carrot, and you've got a complete meal.

Alternatively, before you leave home, pack-and-freeze your own meals. Transport them frozen in your suitcase (the altitude keeps things cold in the luggage compartment of a plane), and then stick them in your hotel fridge when you arrive. Travel guides can direct you to hotels which have rooms with kitchenettes. And if you’re traveling by car during the winter, your car's trunk makes a good freezer for prepared foods, cold cuts, etc.

A company called La Briute makes kosher self-heating meals, using a special "flameless" food heater. When the enclosed salt water packet is opened and poured onto the heating element, it produces real heat and steam right inside the box, creating a hot meal in just minutes. Also, there are many companies who allow you to order scrumptious meals, which are delivered overnight to any location.

There are many kosher Jews traveling the countryside – and no one has starved to death! It absolutely can be done. It just takes planning. I recommend using the wonderful online resource www.kosherquest.org.

Good luck, and remember that even if things get difficult, one mitzvah performed under challenging conditions is worth 100 regular mitzvahs!

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