First Noah’s Ark, then El Yenta Man wonders out of loud if giraffes are kosher.
Obviously, his curiosity was motivated by something other than adhering to halachic code since 1) giraffe meat is hardly ever on sale at the Publix meat counter and 2) he was peeling and eating a bowl of wild Georgia shrimp when he asked. But he had a point: The world’s tallest mammal is a ruminant and has split hooves, so technically, it’s kosher. However, the prohibitive cost of giraffe slaughter and the animal’s feisty attitude are the rabbinical reasons we don’t serve it up on Pesach.
This is one those instances where I just diverge completely from the Judaism of yore. I don’t care if Elijah himself walked in my front door with a giraffe brisket and said “God says it’s cool! Eat up!” I could never, ever consider these intelligent, gentle, silent, marvelously unique creatures as food. I totally and completely revere them.
You might call it an interspecies crush. Once I was at the Oakland Zoo, where only a small moat and fence separate visitors from many of the animals, and we were watching a male and female giraffe entwine necks and flirt as they’re wont to do in spring. After a few minutes, the female went off to check the food bin and the male turned his attention to me. Seriously he noticed me standing there, turned around and looked deeply into my eyes. Then, without breaking his gaze, he walked slowly up to the edge of the water, brought that remarkable neck down to my level and stood face to face with me, looking at me like maybe he knew from somewhere and would I like to go back to his place for a drink?
We stood that way for about five minutes, me afraid to breathe and break the spell, until his girlfriend came over and nudged him in the rump. I could practically hear her saying “Whassa matter witchyou? I leave you for two seconds and you’re already roaming? Go ahead, see if you can climb that fence. Puh-leez, you think that short-necked hairless bitch’s got what I got? Uh-uh, you can sleep in the men’s pen tonight, buddy!” He followed her back to the feed trough, but I swear it, he gave me one last long glance. He might’ve winked, but I was too astounded to be sure.
But, oh, the G-Love doesn’t stop there: Last year the whole family visited Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Arizona, where you can ride in an open-air truck and observe them in a Serengeti-like environment. The guide handed out cookies and said we could hold them in our mouths if we felt brave. And you know I am, so I held the biscuit between my teeth (it tasted like the teething bricks I used to give the kids) and waited.
Soon enough, a male sauntered over to my side of the jeep, leaned down and deftly nibbled it away from my lips. OMG, I completely swooned it was like my favorite celebrity had kissed me on the red carpet, except not even McDreamy could hold a candle to the tall, handsome thing this guy had goin’ on. It was such an extraordinary experience to smell his breath (funky, but much less offensive than a dog’s) and feel the flutter of his eyelashes (at least 2 inches long) on my cheek. I rate that kiss as one of the peak moments of my life.
So you see, the Talmud might say otherwise, but giraffe will never be considered kosher in my book. If stranded in the desert with El Yenta Man and a giraffe with nothing to eat, I confess I’d probably make hamburgers out of my husband first. Mostly ’cause the giraffe talks less.