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:
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.
Frank's Red Hot sauce Mueller's noodles Land o' Lakes margarine Grey Poupon mustard Gold Medal flour Oreos Coffeemate
Near East couscous and rice
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 ... :)