Monday, January 31, 2011

This Shiksa's Goin' Kosher (Sorta)

It's been a few weeks since I left the old house, and I'm moving on again. I've spent some time camping chez Jeremy and his dad, Stuart, to whom I am enormously grateful for their hospitality despite their affection for the overly fatty (albeit successful) Atkins diet that has been featured in some recent posts. I am also immensely grateful to others who offered me room both in their homes and in their hearts ... truly, I can never adequately repay any of my friends (both in real life and in cyberspace) for their care.

But as of this weekend, I have yet another new kitchen and a new eating regimen: I am staying at the apartment of a beloved snowbirding friend (who prefers not too much recognition for her profound generosity, or else I would probably write a sonnet to her despite not being a poet!). And that beloved snowbirding friend is not only a vegetarian, but she keeps kosher, too.

So, I am going from meat and rich sauces to foods more in keeping with my own desires: light, nutritious, and featuring lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. And this shiksa -- [SHIK-suh] = non-Jewish woman (officially, anyway, though I consider myself to be a secular Jew) -- is going to maintain a kitchen according to the Jewish dietary laws.

Now, I know the rules of kashrut ([kahsh-ROOT] = "fitness," literally): no mixing meat with dairy products, and keeping all their respective dishes and cookware and utensils separate ... cracking open eggs one-by-one and inspecting them before combining them with anything, discarding any that have even a pinprick's-worth of blood ... no pork or shellfish. I know to look for hekhshers [HEK-shers], which are symbols indicating that an item has met rabbinic approval. But I've never actually lived it, so this is an exciting adventure!

People think that kosher food is somehow different, when in fact it is simply certified as meeting the terms listed above (an admittedly abbreviated list, but those are the really critical points so as not to overwhelm anyone). All of the items pictured above are kosher ... yup, every one of 'em from the name brands to the generics. If you were to go to your own cupboards, I'll bet you'd find all sorts of hekhshered items, such as:

Hershey's Kisses

Frank's Red Hot sauce

Mueller's noodles

Land o' Lakes margarine

Grey Poupon mustard

Gold Medal flour


Near East couscous and rice



Chex cereal

While there are dozens of symbols, usually some variant on a "K," the most widely accepted certification is the OU [just say the letters "o" "u"]; it's usually found in a bottom corner at the front of a package, but sometimes found at the end of an ingredient list. This means that the Union of Orthodox Rabbis has approved the item. The OU -- which has been certifying foods since 1924 -- is the crème de la crème.

Of course, it's much easier to keep kosher in a vegetarian kitchen -- no mingling of meat and dairy, or accidental sullying of dairy dishes/cookware with fleishig ([FLAY-shig] = meat), can take place ... whew! 'Cause it's one thing to know the rules, it's another thing to put them into practice. But I assure you that I will devote myself to the care of my friend's home, and ask a rabbi (I happen to conveniently work with two of them!) if I have any questions.

And should I feel the need to eat meat or to devour anything treyf ([TRAYf] = not kosher) like a cheeseburger or a pepperoni pizza, I can always drop in on Jeremy and his dad or eat out ... :)

The Things We Find Inside



saraH said...

your newest followre from the blog hop! what a lovely blog you have!

April said...

What a whirlwind of exciting changes and adventures your going through right now. Good luck on your new dietary quest.

Jenn said...

Isn't amazing how the universe always sends us those little angels that help get us through those hard times? I was in desperate need of a place to live a few years back and a girl I hadn't spoken to in 2 years, called me out of the blue that very day and offered me a room. Amazing the people we have in our lives!!
Good luck to you in your new kitchen! I can't wait to see what you will be posting... it wouldn't hurt us to be a little more kosher around here, that's for sure!

Dan said...

veggie kosher? That will definitely be fun, and far easier than a separate meat/dairy kitchen!

Something I learned in a previous life is that many kosher authorities/caterers etc., won't serve raspberries because they're too difficult to search for bugs.

I'm looking forward to the (probably temporary) change in direction for the blog since I imagine you'll be doing most of your cooking there.

P.S. You might have seen this last week from my tweets, but here it is again:

Michele Chastain said...

Enjoy your new adventure and I wish you much success and happiness as you traverse new roads, my friend.

Karen Harris said...

One of my best friends in the UK keeps a kosher kitchen and it just fascinated my daughter. Two dishwashers, two sets of dishes and cutlery and all of their dietary rules kept her a constant observer in her kitchen during our visit. I think I'd just stick with vegetarian if I stayed in my friend's house. So glad to hear that Jeremy and his dad are losing weight on the Atkins. Maybe I need to give it a try.

Cranberry Morning said...

That's such an interesting post. I've only known one woman who kept Kosher with separate sets of dishes used for different things. Her husband was a rabbi. She was so surprised that our children knew the account of Esther, Mordecai, and Haman.

Glad to hear that Jeremy and his dad are doing well on the Atkins diet. I think it's true that it's not fat that makes people fat, but carbs that make people fat. Nevertheless, Atkins is so strict and I think really difficult to live with!

I hope you enjoy staying in your friend's house and I'm sorry you didn't write the sonnet. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well, this will certainly be an adventure! Not only will we all get a good education - I always wondered what that U in a circle meant - but we might get help in eating more simple, nutritious meals. All this moving can't be easy and I hope you find peace at the snowbird's.
P.S. I was very happy to see Oreos on the safe list :-)

TexaGermaNadian said...

Happy Monday! Guess what... you won the new blog header and badge!! WHOO HOO! What a great way to start off the week. Email me at texagermanadian (at) gmail (dot) come so I have your address, and we will go from there. I will get started on your fun project in the next couple of days :)

Candace said...

Oooooh it's going to be so interesting up in here! I'm excited! ONE of the many things that I love about you and your blog is how you take time to educate, as well as share your wonderful food. Congratulations on winning your blog makeover! I just saw the post in my reader. Yay! Have a great week, Candace

Leanne said...

I had no idea about the U on packaging ... that's really interesting! (There you go - always teaching me things. One of the things I LOVE about you!!!) So glad you have a place to rest your head ... and now back to truly nurturing YOURSELF, my dear friend. What a wonderful environment to focus on YOU in. Can't wait to hear about this next chapter and just want you to know - I think of you often. Sending you hugs!

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