Word of the Day / Basar Lavan: No, That Isn't Chicken Breast You Just Asked For

In Israel, the other white meat is the only white meat, and when in a kosher home, be sure not to unintentionally request it.

Pork, the only white meat. AP

There used to be an advertising campaign for pork in the United States that designated the pig product as “the other white meat.” This worked because everyone knew that the original white meat was the “white” part of the chicken or turkey – breasts and wings – rather than the darker meat of the legs and thighs.

But as everyone also knows, what everyone knows can differ from one country to another.

In Israel, there is no "other white meat" – there is just basar lavan. That literally means “white meat” but is used only as a euphemism for pig products.

This can be a problem when native English speakers visit Israeli families who would not countenance pig in their homes – the animal is verboten for religious Jews and Muslims alike – and horrify their hosts when they are asked which part of the chicken they prefer and unintentionally announce that actually, what they’d really like is some pork.

In case you were wondering how you should reveal your preference for white (chicken) meat in Israel without falling into the “basar lavan” trap, you just name the body part, whether it’s wings (“kna-FA-yim”) or breast (“kha-ZE”). Just don’t confuse the word for chicken breasts with the somewhat similar “kha-ZIR,” since that means “pig” and takes you right back where you started. Then again, maybe it’s best if you just point.