McDonald's Opens First Kosher Restaurant Outside Israel
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 98 09:45:23 -0800
Subject: McDonald's Opens First Kosher Restaurant Outside Israel
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McDonald's opens first kosher restaurant outside Israel
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Thousands of years before it was first dropped on
a grill, the cheeseburger was banned by the Bible.
But on the cusp of the third millennium, and in a far-away land, the
children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can now enjoy a kosher burger -- "hold
the cheese" -- while listening to tango music in Buenos Aires.
McDonald's, which is to burgers what Ford is to cars and Elvis to rock 'n'
roll, recently opened its first kosher joint outside Israel in the Argentine
"I am having a McDonald's! And at a shopping mall! I just can't believe it!"
19-year-old Uriel said, "kippa" (skullcap) on his head to show his strong
devotion to God and a McDonald's bag in his hand to show his weakness for
junk food. "I never thought this would happen in Argentina."
But it did. And now Uriel and many other many members of Argentina's
300,000-strong Jewish community who want to observe religious dietary laws
are no longer confined to traditional, more expensive kosher restaurants
when they eat out.
Golden chance to attract young jews
Leaders of one of the world's largest Jewish communities see it as a golden
chance to attract the young to the traditions of their elders.
"Many young people whose families don't keep with our customs were perhaps
prejudiced against eating kosher," Rabbi Daniel Oppenheimer said after a
routine check of the McDonald's kitchen to ensure kosher rules were being
complied with. "Now they can see it is a lot like what they already know."
Three aides take turns in the kitchen helping the rabbi enforce full
compliance with kosher rules.
The changes mean a lot for Jewish religion and tradition but go mostly
unnoticed to patrons.
The three main kosher rules are: pork is banned, beef and diary products
must not go together and animals must be killed in a special way to ensure
that most of their blood is drained and they suffer as little as possible.
This means no cheddar cheese or bacon on your burger, but little else that
could be detected by the consumer's palate.
"They taste the same"
"They taste the same," said a woman who took her three young children for
a round of kosher burgers and French fries and who said she was not a Jew.
"It IS the same thing," the children confirmed.
The company is also happy. Since its kosher place opened for business in
November, more than 2,000 people a day have come for burgers, manager Pablo
Campos said. "That's more than what we were expecting," he said.
About half the employees are Jewish, to ensure a good dose of Jewish
culture. And in keeping with Jewish religious law the outlet closes for
Sabbath, from dusk Friday to dusk Saturday.
The location is strategic -- the kosher McDonald's is in a brand new,
futuristic shopping mall in the heart of the old Abasto area favored by the
local Jewish community. Abasto is also a historic tango stronghold where
Carlos Gardel, Argentina's legendary tango singer, grew up.
The mammoth mall opened last month in the building of the ancient Buenos
Aires central wholesale market, bought and refurbished recently by Jewish
Hungarian-American magnate George Soros.
Revenue aside, Campos said the most rewarding thing was seeing the smiles
on the faces of small Jewish children buying "happy meals" and chomping away
at their first burgers ever.
But this is not a perfect world -- ice cream, a diary product, is out of
the question for dessert.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
© 1998 Peter Langston