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Portman’s Spicy Interfaith Flick

Israeli born actress, Natalie Portman recently made headlines for designing a new line of vegan shoes. (When I want to find stylish, leather-free shoes to match my vegetarian values, I head to Payless – but if Portman wants to make the $200 version, more power to her.)

Before the buzz about her humane footwear had a chance to subside, Portman was back in the news with another vegetarian venture. She’s set to star in Mira Nair’s new movie, “Kosher Vegetarian,” – which, like Nair’s last movie “The Namesake,” explores an interfaith romance. This time, the couple will consist of a Gujarati guy (actor, Ifran Khan) and Jewish girl (Portman).

When I posted a notice about the forthcoming flick on The Jew & The Carrot blog, a few more right-leaning readers got bunched up about the very thought of an interfaith relationship portrayed – and therefore somehow validated – on the screen. (Since I am the product of an interfaith marriage, their consternation really gets under my skin…but that’s another post.) To me, what’s more interesting than the same old conversation about how much intermarriage is ruining Judaism is the title of Nair’s film.

Supposedly, Kosher Vegetarian is only a tentative title, and my guess is that they’ll come up with something slightly sexier by the time the previews come out. But I find it fascinating that, at least for now, Nair hangs the movie’s emotional premise on food. As The New York Times’ recent article “I Love You, but You Love Meat” attested, the food we eat (and, more importantly don’t eat) can become a critical aspect of our relationships. If one partner is adamant about a particular dietary restriction, while the other is not – eating meals together (which is arguably the heart of most relationships) can get sticky. In the end, some couples break up solely because their culinary bottom lines do not meet. Whether or not Nair intends to place significant emphasis on food in her movie remains to be seen. But her title stands as a powerful reminder about how much our food choices impact our daily lives and relationships.

Luckily for “Kosher Vegetarian’s” star-crossed couple, Indian food is particularly amenable to the kosher laws. Now they just have to get past the in-laws.

–Leah Koenig

© 2011 Lilith Magazine