October 23, 2007

Guilt and Yum.

Hypothesis... People who are masters of guilt tend to be masters of making yummy things. True? False? Is there a connection? Why? Discuss.

Here is a list of some yummy treats I have found recently. Kosher yummy things.

I am not a salesperson, I get no commission here, I am just hungry and staying out of the kitchen tonight. I just don't have room in my gut to feel guilty about anything else.

These are the top 10 specialty items that come to mind immediately.

1. Neshama Sausage

We especially like Breakfast Delight and Country Apple. I make a pareve honey wheat pancake that goes nicely with these on a Sunday morning. And of course, there is always pareve challah french toast. I think it's actually the maple syrup that brings everything together. It's like having the whole country breakfast thing going without the bacon grease.

2. Wise Chicken.

Is this the only company making organic kosher meat? Why is it so hard to find kosher organic meats? Refute. Discuss. List other brands. This chicken ain't cheap, but it's quite good.

3. Graciela Chocolate Souffles

Omygoodness are these yummy... served warm, the center is melty and the outside is brownie-esque, and the whole things is...wait for it....Pareve. Dark, rich and chocolaty.

Did I mention they take only take a minute or so in the microwave, or a few minutes in the oven (the package says 3 minutes, but I think it takes more like 8 or 10). You find them in the freezer section of many kosher food markets.

The only drawback is that I am afraid to keep these in my freezer. I try and only have them around for guests, and can't be alone in the house when I know they are there.

And you can serve the warm souffle with a dolop of cold vanilla Tofutti (see below) for an even more decadent pareve dessert. Great food to eat away emotions with.

4. Miso Master Organic Soy

This is great in marinades and can be used to make salad dressing- and of course it's used in Miso soup. Just find me kosher dashi stock- but that's another rant entirely.

My favorite thing to make is Miso Marinated Fish.
I like Sable (a.k.a. "Black Cod") because it's a meaty, oily fish, similar to Chilean Sea bass (but not over-fished and less expensive).

I use equal parts white miso, sugar and white wine, then add a dash of Sesame Oil and some grated ginger. I let the fish sit in this mixture all day.

I usually prepare the marinade the night before in a zip-lock. Then I get the fish early in the morning, and put the bag in the cooler when I go to pick up the fish. The fish monger will put the fish in the marinade and pack it in ice in my cooler and I am set until dinner that evening.

I bake the fish for about 15 minutes on 400, and then broil the top for another 5 minutes, until the marinade glazes and blackens a little on the top. The fish should flake just a bit. Then I top it it with chopped scallions. This isn't a "budget meal", but it's great for a special dinner, and it's fast and easy. My toddler will eat it.

5. I am going to limit myself to mentioning one very useful, versatile kosher cheese: Gran Duca Grana Padano. This is a less expensive and versatile relative of Parmesan Reggiano. And it's easier to find in our neck of the woods. This is a "staple" cheese for us. It's nice grated on pasta, shaved into salads, or sliced and snacked on alongside a tart green apple.

There are other kosher cheeses that are more luxurious, and more exciting, but this is a nice balance of yum, usefulness, availability and not so much guilt.

Cheese is a painful subject.

Don't get me wrong... there are many options. We can find a lot of basic varieties- Provolone, Brie, Blue, Asiago, Gruyere and Feta. We usually get the cheese needed for a recipe.

But, as a lover of aroma and ash and rind- and the mystery and allure of unknown cheeses- I live knowing there is a whole other world of cheese that for the time being isn't allowed into our house. Not even for a visit. And I miss these stinky, peculiar house guests. The stranger and more exotic the better- and that is the problem with kosher cheese. Part of cheese love is the chase. Strolling into a funky cheese shop and sampling a bunch of enticing, unusual cheeses until you find the most unexpected and sublime treat... having your wedge removed from the larger wheel, discussing the cheese with the shop keeper.... pinpointing the cheese's unique personality and who it should be paired with (we're talking wine here, and I won't even start that rant...)

Sure, you can find decent kosher cheese, but nothing you will struggle to describe, or daydream about once it's gone.

I could go on and on about cheese. I recommend you listen to someone who knows more- even makes cheese- check out the cheese posts at Kosher Blog.net.

6. Bartenura Balsamic Vinegar and Balsamic Vinegar Glaze.

How could one live without a decent balsamic vinegar?

We can only find this in specialty kosher markets, but it's worth the finding.

Obviously you can make a zippy vinaigrette with it, but a good Balsamic really gets around. It gets brushed on a roasting portabello mushroom, drizzled on fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella... a little might might find its way into a simmering tomato sauce, or into so many marinades.

We make Balsamic Rosemary Chicken with it (extend it with Heinz Red Wine Vinegar and a dash of soy). Braise chicken, halved garlic heads, and quartered onions. Add rosemary.

7. Tofutti Pints - I love the Vanilla Almond Bark

I have eaten this pareve ice cream substitute after dairy meals. I keep this around more than ordinary ice cream because I enjoy it, and it's simplifies the freezer. Tofutti is just where I want to be on the calories vs. decadence curve. Ice cream purists may scoff, but they are going to get really fat.

This particular flavor is very vanilla-y. The plain vanilla comes in handy for topping off other pareve desserts, like baked peaches (which I make a lot when peaches are in season).

An incredibly yummy and simple dessert is made by taking Grape Nuts Cereal (which is a favorite versatile ingredient, and a post in itself), and toast it in the oven with a touch of honey. Roll a very cold scoop of frozen vanilla Tofutti in the baked cereal mixture and sprinkle the ball with cinnamon. It makes something like a quick and dirty "fried ice cream".

Note- I am pretty sure Grape Nuts are dairy, but you can do this with regular ice cream if you are too cool for Tofutti.

8. Dr. Praegger's Spinach Pancakes

Find them... anywhere. These little life saving patties get spinach into my 2 year old boy, so they had to make the A-list. They are my friend.

They are fast, yummy, and my son eats them as if they were big green cookies filled with sugar crystals and not diced onions.

A nice lunch is to top them with leftover salmon. Unfortunately, there is no such a thing as leftover salmon.

9. Kashi TLC "Trail Mix" Bars

These are good to toss into my bag in case I am stuck somewhere with a certain toddler that screams "cookie" whenever he sees something round. And, because it's not round, I am not really giving him a cookie, am I?

The kind shown is very tasty and satisfying for 140 calories per bar, and I am only eating the last bite of his bar, anyway.

10. Smart Balance Spread

Does regular margarine give you nightmares? Me too.

Well, this is not your "mother's margarine".

It's organic. It's 100 % Vegan. It's Non-dairy. It's non-GMO. It's non-hydrogenated. It has no Trans Fats. It's Gluten Free. It has no MSG. And yet you don't fear it. It's edible. It what the devil *is* this stuff, you ask?

An expeller pressed natural oil blend (palm fruit, soybean, canola and olive). But don't think about that too much. Would, I, during a dairy meal, smear it all over brioche instead of little pat of real butter? Not really, No. But it's doable, and better than margarine. And most major supermarket chains seem to carry it.

11. Chirardelli Intense Dark Twighlight Delight, 72% Cocoa

Did I say top 10? Did you ever see the movie "Spinal Tap"? If not, never mind. This list goes to 11.

I saved the best for last. Mmmmm... "Twilight Delight". What a great name. I want to meet the person who named this chocolate. I want to know what they named their children. I wonder if they have special access to lots of chocolates like this. I wonder if I could befriend this person.

Sometimes I bring a small handful of whole almonds, and alternate bites between the chocolate and the almonds. Usually I just eat a square or two. A little goes a long way, and utterly cures even a PMS-level chocolate craving.

September 30, 2007

I baked my first challah!!!!

I used my sister's virtual challah lesson. They came out really good, but kind of flat looking because I wrapped them a little too tightly with the oiled saran-wrap. But the funny thing is that my guests saw the challah, and said "Where did you get that cool-looking challah?!!?", as if it were an intentional, artistic thing some bake shop does. When I told them I made the challah they were impressed. We also decided that maybe I should keep the flat look, as sort of a signature thing, as it still tasted pretty good.
I still think it will taste better and look better less flat, even though my guests were being pretty kind. I will keep trying.
That tutorial ROCKS.
Also great was my sister's pareve kugel recipe, which is easy and SO delicious. I baked it in a pie pan and cut it up into pie slices, which I served on a circular glass platter, sprinkled cinnamon on top and topped each piece with half a maraschino cherry. I also served it with applesauce I tampered with- adding a little crushed pineapple and just a bit of ginger.
There is nothing like the smell of fresh baking challah in the house- I want to start doing this more.
I also want to post more often, but I am a lazy, bad, delinquent kosher newbie. And things have been crazy busy. But my sister has really applied ferocious guilt, and she is as skilled at that as she is at cooking... Maybe there should be a "Virtual Guilt Tutorial" on her site, too????

August 21, 2007


Where would I be without my frog-juggling sister?
Thank you for encouraging your readers to come here after my absense.
There are many other things I could thank you for, but this isn't the time or the place...
By the way, your site is amazing and addictive.

August 19, 2007


I owe anyone who has read my blog, and has active imagination an apology. After not seeing a post from me for so long, I'm sure you imagined me on my kitchen floor, rocking violently back and forth, in a daze, repeating... "Who puts lard in Granola bars?"

Others, I'm sure have been calling me... what *is* Yiddish for "slacker"?

Or if you have a lot of faith, perhaps you thought the next post was going to be really, really great.

Well, it isn't, but on the up-side, I didn't have a nervous breakdown. I did, however have some "stuff" to contend with- nothing major/life threatening, just, you know- stuff. But I am back. And more kosher than ever! (Well, okay, actually, I think I am just about as kosher as I was when I started this whole thing in April. Which is to say, not very- my kitchen is kosher, and I am well, a steward to that kitchen, but more on this concept in a bit...)

Sigh. It's been a long couple of months. I want to thank those of you who checked in, posted encouraging things, and told me about kosher Manchego (you rock!).

In a way, this little break has allowed me to get into a kashrut holding-pattern. I have standby meals, set ways of dealing with infractions (potted plants on the balcony, for instance, periodically need to get pruned of cutlery.) We have been doing our thing.

We have had interesting interactions with guest; gifts of non-kosher wine, unwelcome baby food, awkward moments... so much fun, and I am just sort of shuffling gracelessly through these experiences, not blogging. What a waste of faux pas! If only faux pas were dollars.

Lament: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish- Not Kosher!!! The injustice. Maybe if I write the company, they can draw on some gills and scales. I mean, they are willing to make them in rainbow colors, after all. My kid loves those little crackers and how does one tell one's friends that they can't feed their kids these innocuous goldfish in my house... Hmmmmm?

So there. I'm back. Thanks for listening.

May 30, 2007


I think it took me a long time to post because I knew I this post had to come next…

It is time to post about K-day.

When last I left you, I was recounting how I had purged my house of non-kosher food, kitchenware and dishes. I had bought all kinds of new kitchenware. My kitchen was bare, and I was living in a state of limbo, using plastic utensils and occasionally running out to the balcony to use a colander or pot.

Don’t laugh, but I actually had two sets of plastic utensils. I happened to have a bunch of left-over blue plastic knives, forks and spoons from son’s bris. I used these as dairy. I had a huge (Costco) set of metallic plastic utensils we use for other casual entertaining- I put some of these in a plastic bag and used them for meat. Obviously this isn’t necessary when using plastic utensils- but it actually helped me (newbie) get into the thinking using different sets while I got ready to use the real ones. It seemed like the habit was already in place when broke out the new flatware.

At this point, I had already asked a local rabbi to come and help me kasher my kitchen, and to answer various questions. He had told me to call after Pesach- on the Wednesday after Pesach. I had tried calling him a few times starting on that Wednesday and for the rest of the week with no response.

I was calling my sister a lot with questions. I was starting to wonder if this would ever happen. Things were dragging. I was in a bad place, losing momentum, thinking about Manchego cheese and what life was going to be like without it in my home…

A week later, I was whining to my sister on the phone about how I wished it was just done and over, she said:

“O.K. This is IT.”

“What?” I asked.

“This is K-day”.

I said something equivalent to, “???????”

“You are going to kasher your own kitchen”, she told me. “You can do this.” She said.

I asked if I need a rabbi to bless it or something. Right? I mean, didn’t it need to be supervised, and pronounced kosher by some authority? Wasn’t there some final blessing that needed to be said?

She said that I did not, but that if I had any questions about it, I did have to contact a rabbi for answers. Then I told her that I was getting no respons so far and almost started a downward spiral of whining when she reiterated, “This is IT. K-day.”

When she told me this, I suddenly felt a strange peace. I would be busy for a couple of days, but it would be resolved. All of the wondering and wavering and running to the balcony to see if I still had a ladle would end. I would finally be eating off my new dishes and using my Le Crueset and moving forward. YES, I thought. This is it. This is K-day.

And she was on call for me for the next 48 hours.

May 22, 2007

I'm Still Here...

1st- Thank You to The Jewish Advocate of Boston, MA for printing an article on my little blog! I appreciate the attention . I especially want to thank the author, Rachel L. Axelbank, for doing such a great job.

2nd- My apologies for my little lapse in posting. I hope this hasn’t completely turned off readers.

I have had a busy week here- some minor things have gone awry- not dish, nor pot, nor even kosher related. Life got in the way for a moment, but I have managed to keep the kitchen running- I just wasn’t able to blog about it. I promise more posts are forthcoming.

For instance… The big day (or two days) that I really got everything done in the kitchen are going to be described in painful detail- we call this “K-day”- my sister coined the term.

I have more topics to discuss: take-out, how I came “out” to my friends and parents (many of whom don’t keep kosher), and how to deal with many interesting little situations- non-kosher friends wanting to bring in non-kosher food to my house, for instance. I am going to show how I organized my tiny kitchen with pictures. I am going to ponder how I am able to lead my “double-life”- keeping a kosher home, and not keeping kosher outside the home. (Please discuss this when the post comes.) I have much to cover. More in-depth posts will continue after Shavuot.

Please keep reading! There is so much more to come (after the holidays)

I hope your Shavuot is wonderful.

May 14, 2007

China Patterns

I was hoping someone would ask me to post my china patterns- and someone did! I will also be posting pictures of my cabinets and how I labeled them. (I took these pictures of my dishes for the labels- I will be posting how I labeled everything very soon).

We went with Villeroy and Boch china: "Limone Twist" for our dairy, and "Alea Caro" for meat. They dishes are a bit similar, but the "yellow band" means dairy in our house and "just the dots" means meat.

Meat Plate

Dairy Plate:

May 13, 2007

The Silver Lining

Perhaps I have written too much on all the challenges I had faced in this process. Now would be a good time to talk about the "silver lining". For me, this was the excuse to go shopping for Kitchenware (well, actually for us it turned out to be the "stainless steel lining"- but maybe people with bigger budgets will enjoy a true "silver lining"). I will be writing about the benefits of keeping kosher as I discover them- I have already discovered a few- but this is particular post is about one benefit of the kashering process...

I love kitchen stuff. So I did my best to focus on the new stuff I was getting, and not the stuff I was giving away, or the more difficult things I had to do- such as replacing the perfectly fine high chair trays, or having the Boos butcher block cutting board sanded down (which was almost as expensive as the board itself!) These things are best done and forgotten, using skills of memory blocking developed in childhood.

Warning- this post is only going to interest people with a real love (obsession) with kitchenware. It lists everything I have bought in the process of kashering my kitchen. It also lists everything I could keep from my old kitchen. I have not listed everything I had to give away- I just summarize this quickly, because as I said, I am blocking that memory.

1. Two Sets of Daily Dishes

My daily dishes had been stoneware and had to go, so I needed daily meat and dairy dishes. I opted for service for 8 in two different patterns. I plan to extend what I have to service for 12 eventually, but this gave us a working set for now.

I went with china, and a pattern I really loved- very bright, vivid and cheery. This colored my experience, too. I am so glad I didn't skimp on the dishes and made them a pleasure to get. I felt like I was not just cleaning and kashering, but also freshening my kitchen with color, making this match and make sense.

As for my formal china, the Rabbi at the temple we had been attending said that we could keep it and just not use it for a year (which we have already done, since I have not used any of our china since well before my son was born).

2.Milk/Meat Flatware
It turns out I was able to keep anything that was solid, stainless steel (with no coatings). All I had to do was something like boiling them- called "hag'ala", which involves immersing them into boiling water for about 30 seconds, and following it up with a quick rinse.

I could use hag'ala for my stainless flatware- there was no wood, plastic or ceramic handles or anything- it was 100% stainless. I used my old set for meat, as I had matched it to my formal china which I plan on using that for meat when the time comes. I think most holidays will be meat meals, except Shavuot, and I am happy to use my daily dishes for this (they are very bright and cheery).

I bought an additional service for 8 in a very different pattern. The dairy is very plain, simple and elegant. The meat has stripes. The important thing is that one can distinguish them. Also, the new flatware didn't come with steak knives, which are unnecessary for my dairy set. I made sure to pick up a few new milk serving utensils as well.

3. Cooking Utensils

I could keep some of my utensils, but had many plastic spatulas and wooden spoons that had to go. I replaced specific cooking utensils in blue and red depending on what I thought I needed. I could gotten complete sets in black and red (offered by KitchenAid, I believe), but I didn't want anything extra that I didn't need due to my space constraints.

4. Pots and Pans

When I made my list, I was s till unsure of what I was able to keep. At that time, I had a call in to our local conservative rabbi, and was still waiting on a response. I wasn't sure if I could keep the 5 piece Calphon set or my roasting pan.

So, I decided to wait on buying replacements for these things. This was wise. I found out later from Chabad that I could kasher the 2 pots (used mostly to boil food), but not the 3 pans (which toughed the food directly). In fact, the Chabad rabbi kashered the pots for me.

He torched my All-Clad pan (no coating, a very durable steel). He warned me that they could get browned or damaged before torching them. My wonderful, loyal All-Clad pan didn't even blink at the blowtorch, and even the Chabad rabbi commented on what a great pan it was.

So, I ended up being able to keep 1 pan and 3 pots I already had. I also was able to keep several aluminum baking sheets after he torched them, and one aluminum bundt pan. I did have to give away all my non-stick baking pans, muffin tins, bundt pans, etc.

I had almost no other pots and pans or baking dishes left, so I had to think- how would I replace this stuff- what would I need? I decided to think of a couple of weeks worth of meals, and what pots and pans and utensils I would need for the 2 week period. I could add things in later as needed, and this would make for a smaller credit card bill for the month. I decided to save baking pans and such for my next billing cycle.

I made my All-Clad meat, because it browns things so beautifully, and makes for a great pan sauce. I needed to replace all my Pyrex cooking dishes with lids. I decided to get red Le Cruset cooking dishes - a large oval, and a smaller round one.

I needed to replace my lasagna dishes. One had been Pyrex, and one had been Corningware. I upgraded these to a round blue quiche dish, and a blue Le Crueset lasagna dish. I also needed a dairy frying pan for french toast, pancakes, crepes, cheese omelets- I got a large, blue Le Crueset cast-iron pan for this.

We were able to keep all of our glass, and use ha'gala on them. We have several glass serving dishes, small and large serving bowls. We needed plates and additional glasses (we pitched our tall plastic drinking cups, and I opted for simple glass tumblers from K-mart.

Serving Dishes
I also got a couple of inexpensive serving platters from Bed Bath and Beyond (I still have a Nambe I need to kasher- or find out if I can, it's upstairs). I got some nice dairy serving pieces in my daily dairy pattern.

Plastic Food Storage
Of course we got all new Tupperware. I sprung for real Tupperware and Rubbermaid food containers. I got the kind that could collapse, and

We replaced the coffee machine. Yeah, I know we probably didn't have to, but it was time for an upgrade as ours was "user hostile", as my husband put it.

The Big Shop
When it came time to go shopping, we took one day at the outlet mall near us, and then a few trips to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. I kept everything wrapped up in the shopping bags, with their receipts, upstairs near my craft table. I can't imagine this part going this swiftly if we hadn't planned out what we needed to get with a list. Using the 2-weeks of meals as a guide really helped because I could get everything I needed in a couple of days and know I was set for a little while. It made it more manageable, both in terms of actually carrying the stuff home, and in terms of the credit card bill.

We still have many things left to get- baking pans of all kinds, a few more pots and pans, a few more gadgets- but we are making do (and have been) for about 6 weeks. It's amazing how many things can be used creatively, too. I just baked my Mother's Day brownies in the new quiche pan and they look terrific...

May 9, 2007

The Case of the Curious Cocktail Sauce

One day, while my husband and I were out shopping at a Kosher grocery store, we came across something perplexing:

Kosher cocktail sauce.

We looked at the jar, with it's little picture of a shrimp on a fork and a dollop of the red sauce on it just so. Then we looked at each other, blankly, in wordless, immediate mystification.

Wasn't cocktail sauce for shrimp, oysters, clams- shellfish? What was this picture of shrimp on a fork doing on a bottle on the shelf of a kosher store? Was this some form of hazing?

We continued shopping, occasionally sending a wary glance back over our shoulders towards the shelf with sauce. We had to know. We couldn't even wait to get home from the store. My husband called my sister from his cell while I drove.

"What' *is* the deal with the kosher cocktail sauce?" he asked.
She answered quickly and triumphantly, like a contestant buzzing in on a game show: "Fried Eggs!"

"She says it's for fried eggs", he relayed to me as I drove along. I exhaled, relieved for a moment, for some reason. I started nodding, and then shaking my head. No, no.....no! I don't really understand that one yet, but I guess it's nice to know there *is* an answer.

May 6, 2007


Having cleaned out my kitchen, it was time to replace all that kitchen gear, or in my case- upgrade the kitchen gear. I also had to establish a plan, and a color code. I love color coding things. Making kosher kitchen is great if you love to color cold and label, and helps justify OCD tendencies that one would usually have to hide away.

1. Color Code

I decided to go with red for meat, and blue for dairy due to the preponderance of supplies in these colors, and that I think this is an ISO standard somewhere. I also like these colors which helps. I sometimes use white for dairy and black for meat in cases where red and blue are not available. Green is pareve.

2. Buying Sets or Buying things As Needed

I looked around at my cabinets and put my thinking cap on. I don't have much space. I decided to keep the kitchen lean and mean- only bringing back the essentials, and then bringing in special tools and serving platters and such on an as needed basis. My plan was to start with the very basics, and figure it out as I go. I made having *just* what I wanted and used most the design goal here, and not minimizing cost. I had my limits, but I certainly didn't do this as inexpensively as one could have.

I am not big on getting "sets" of things. I would rather have 3 incredible Wusthof knives than an entire wooden block filled with average knives for the same amount of money. I would rather get just one amazing All-Clad pan and a single sturdy pot than get an entire 10 piece set of pots and pans that are of much lower quality. Given the size of my kitchen, it just makes sense. And I really appreciate selecting and getting just what I like.

But some people prefer the quantity, and are cooking for hordes of people. I can understand wanting a good value, too. IKEA offers "Kitchen in a Box" and there are many sets available at places like BJ's and Costco. They have entire KitchenAid utensil sets in black and red. Rachel Ray has orange and blue pot & pan sets. There are entire sets by other manufacturers in Red and White. I contemplated these, but given my budget and space, I decided to get the bare essentials, but to make them as high quality as I could afford. The question of whether or not to buy sets also connects to another concept. I have noticed a couple of different kosher kitchen modes of operation. When preparing to outfit my kosher kitchen, I examined the kitchens of people I know who keep kosher.

3. "Pareve by Default", or "Either/Or" Approach

I have noticed that people have different systems. I was greatly influenced by my sister. She has a policy of "Pareve by default". A utensil or appliance or what-have-you can then permanently become meat or dairy when needed- sort of called into active duty. Once the utensil touches the meat or dairy, it must stay that way, unless it is re-kashered (and some things can't be). Things will become meat or dairy, get labeled as such and stored in the meat or dairy cabinet. Some things will only touch pareve things and other pareve equipment (cutting boards, for instance). These things can stay pareve.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, has almost no pareve utensils. Everything is either meat or dairy. Fish is always prepared as dairy. When she starts cooking, she breaks out all of one or the other, and the food is whatever equipment she prepared it with. She is a recipe cook. She has 2 huge kitchen drawers, and duplicates of just about everything. But this is simpler for her, because she snaps into either meat or milk mode when she makes a dish (or about 10 of them for a holiday).

She also doesn't get into a lot of fancy cooking gear, or overpriced, foreign ingredients like I do. She is a basic, traditional family cook- and an amazing one. I think her method makes sense for the way she cooks. I call this the "Either/or" approach. These are just two different kosher kitchen strategies, each with its own followers. "Pareve by default" and "Either/or" approaches work well for different kinds of cooks. They are also not mutally exclusive approaches. Following "Pareve by default", you may end up with everything divided into Meat & Dairy in a few weeks time, anyway!

Both methods have benefits for the kosher newbie. With "Pareve by default", you can learn what you need and establish it as you go. Your system can grow organically You just have to be incredibly fastidious about labeling and storing the utensil once it becomes this or that. "Either/Or" has benefits to the newbie as well, in that you can simply buy two of everything, store them separately and be done with it. It will make getting used to your new habits a little easier in the beginning (maybe).

I also think these two approaches are suited to different ways of cooking. Sometimes I like to do a lot of prep work. I dice up a big bunch of onions and freeze them for later use. I like to improvise when I am cooking. I want to grab a bunch of diced onions from the freezer and decide to make a spinach and feta pie, or maybe use them in a chicken dish I am making instead. I might want to use the left-over diced sundried tomatoes somewhere unexpected. I don't want to use dairy or meat equipment to give the onions an affiliation with either dairy or meat- I want to keep them neutral for future use.

I like the flexibility of being able to prepare snacks or side dishes ahead of time. I like making extra of things, like vegetarian side dishes or pareve desserts and be able to store them in pareve Tupperware or plastic bags, and then eat them later, whenever I want, with whatever I want.

Also for things like potato peelers and garlic presses, that can be limited touching pareve foods, even while they are preparing meat or milk meals. It is my understanding that these things can stay pareve, provided they don't touch milk or meat, or milk or meat equipment. I now have an entire pareve drawer with these kinds of tools, and flexible pareve cutting mats that I use with them, away from the milk and meat ingredients. This limits unnecessary duplication of utensils.

So I clearly have adopted a "Pareve by default" approach, and (so far) it has been working it me.
However, I showed a friend of mine my kitchen when I was done, and she said it took "too much thinking". But I think whichever method one uses will become natural to them, and will either suit them (or not) based on the way they cook.

I guess most people who grew up kosher probably registered for or bought what they saw in use growing up and didn't have to think about it this much. This was the case for my mother-in-law who grew up in a kosher home so it was second nature to her. But for people like me (who grew up in a house of boiling lobster pots), I think it helps a lot to come up with your overall strategy based on how you cook.

4. The Shopping List

I started with the things I knew I needed. I based this on what I needed to make my typical meals, minus what I had to toss. It helped to think up a 2 week menu plan and write it out, including all the ingredient preparation that would be required. Then list all the gear that would be in preparation and serving of the meals during those two weeks.

Everything I bought (in incredible detail) is the next post. I am separating it out for people care, to avoid comments that say "zzzzzzzzzzzz". It has details of what had to be replaced and why- but remember, your mileage may vary- you must consult your own local rabbi or kosher expert in residence if you are doing this... some things can be saved under certain circumstances in some communities, and some things I kept would have to go in others.

May 4, 2007

KitchenAid Aid

I just want to share something that made me smile from head to toe.

An acquaintance of my sister- someone who I have never met- was reading my blog and came accross the section in which I describe myself stroking my KitchenAid mixer, worrying about whether or not I would be able to keep it.

This incredibly sweet and generous woman offered to give me her KitchenAid mixer!

This was a very touching gesture. It also exemplifies to me how Jews can support each other.

Shabbat Shalom.

Postscript: I asked and it turns out I can kasher my old mixer and keep it.

May 3, 2007

Goodbye Toaster Oven

Giving all that stuff up was a little difficult, but also strangely cleansing. I had to pare my kitchen down to a much meaner machine. Having to accommodate not one can-opener, but two- and who knows, possibly three had me reconsidering many of my kitchen appliances. Those baby corn holders- they occupy expensive real estate in the tiny kosher kitchen. Retooling my kitchen gave me the opportunity to pare down to the essentials- and get some new things I have wanted for awhile, too. I decided to reward myself with some Le Crueset cookware when the time came- high quality ceramic coated casseroles and such. Knowing I was going to get these made parting with the older stuff much easier.

I gave it a lot of my cookware to my cleaning lady and to a close non-Jewish friend. I gave the big box of food to my friend. Shortly after taking the box of food, she called me wanting directions on how to use my squid sauce. She also wanted to know what Hoisin sauce was and what to do with it... SIGH. "It's like a strong, plum-based barbecue sauce" I told her, my mouth watering. Then I wrote down "Get Kosher Hoisin sauce ASAP" on a notepad. I have since acquired my Kosher Hoisin sauce, and made peace with there being no more squid sauce in our lives. I can imagine enhancing Worcestershire with more anchovies might work just as well anyway.

The cleaning lady and non-Jewish friend would come over and I would give stuff to them. They would eye me suspiciously, or perhaps it was concern. They would ask questions about keeping kosher. I am not qualified to answer. It made me nervous. I would start to answer something cautiously, offering a million disclaimers. Or it would be something straightforward, and I would answer emphatically, and feeling for a moment I did know something! And then a simple follow-up question would unravel me and send me flying to get more information.

I found my knowledge of the ins and outs of cud-chewing, fins, scales and cloven hooves to be lacking. When asked about anything deeper, I would stammer "There are probably many different opinions on this... um...so...Can I interest you in any of my non-stick muffin tins?"... It was a bit awkward. They watched me giving all this stuff up and not really understanding the rules of this new endeavor I seemed to have signed myself up for completely. I can imagine how it looks to them. "Where should this roasting pan go?" My cleaning lady might ask. "Hmmm... I'm not sure if I can to keep it... The office." She would kind of double blink and bring it upstairs.
But this was a good precursor to when I really outted myself and all the questions that would follow. But that is a post for another day.

I still am donating and giving things away, but these things are in our storage area and ready to go. A friend of a friend needed the toaster oven, and this made me really happy. Giving the stuff up wasn't as hard with the knowledge that the person getting it really wanted or needed it. It took the sting out. It helps me to think that the toaster oven is still making toast. Hey, I could even call to check on it or visit it if I really missed it. I imagine calling up my cleaning lady to see if I could come and visit my muffin tins. I can see this completing her understanding that I am perhaps, loco. Embracing her having that opinion and not fighting it - somehow that helps me, too.

May 2, 2007

Welcome Kosherblog readers


Thank you
Jonathan Abbett at kosherblog.net for mentioning my new project on your site. I must say, your site has been incredibly useful, and has provided me with much hope and excitement about not having to give up ALL the foods we love... My husband would send me links to your site whenever I felt the good foods slipping away. Is it a coincidence that you linked to me the day my hechschered Miso paste arrived?

To my new readers - Welcome!
I hope you continue to come back here.

(I am new to this and saw that a few my posts didn't allow comments- that has been fixed.)


So far a lot of these posts *seemed* to plop out of my head out of order.

Did I mention I am new to this blog stuff too?

I just noticed while re-reading my posts thus far that I really haven’t acknowledged the huge contributions made my sister. Certain ideas are *not* just plopping out of my head *alone* but plopping out of many hours of phone calls made to my sister, CLKL.

She actually was the person that pushed me to answer the "design spec" question- she prodded me to come up with this, because I was floundering on many household policies.

She has coined many terms- some yet not to have even been posted yet ("K-day") and key phrases ("pig juice") and ideas, so many ideas I can't even list them all. But I will hope to credit her more going forward. Without her I would not be writing this blog, either (her idea).

So this really should have been my first post, but unfortunately, my brain doesn't work that way...I am sort of dyslexic in a big picture way... just like how I checked for hechshered soap *after* I kashered the kitchen... The soap thing worked out, and I hope this acknowledgement doesn't come too late, either.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Part of the reason she wasn't mentioned so much was because I am not doing things entirely as she does them, as she is orthodox, and runs a strictly modern orthodox kosher home. So I don't want anything I decide or say here to seen as representing (tarnishing) her in any way. But a lot of the game plan for kashering came from her. She got me going when I was stalled, and helped lead me to the first finish line- kashering the kitchen. She was on call for 48 hours. She even sent us flowers that arrived at 3pm that afternoon - just before our first kosher Shabbos in our home.

Did I mention she sent me "Meat/Dairy/Pareve" labels? Or that she *made* me a Passover organization binder? I could go on and on, but let's just say we would probably still be sorting through Tupperware and scratching our heads if weren't for her (I am not exaggerating).

CLKL-Thank you SOOOOOO much for the hours of support and the incredible helpful, tactful, respectful and kind way in which you delivered all your advice. Thank you for having such a great mind and sharing your thinking with me.

April 23, 2007

Yes, No or Maybe- footnote

Picture me waking up in the middle of the night a couple of days after I kashered my kitchen. I am in a panic, running into the kitchen... checking for hechshered dish soap.

I think my online research was being processed in my sleep or something, but it only occured to me to check this *after* I kashered my kitchen (the process I haven't yet covered in my blog...we're still on "Yes, No and Maybe"...but it's coming)

Thankfully, both Cascade and Palmolive were hechschered. I mention this here, because I think it should have been part of my "Yes, No and Maybe" process, and not my "Omygoodness... Omygoodness... Did I... Did I?" process.

Can you imagine kashering your entire kitchen only to discover you were soaking your dishes in soap made from pig intestines?

Important Note Regarding "Yes, No or Maybe - Part 2"

This part took awhile. Eventually, one has to go through everything- even the gadgets in storage. Some things force you to think about how much you really use them. "I just can't wait to kasher this fondue pot I haven't used in 3 years! It will be so much fun to make a Miller Cheese Fondue! Weeeeeeeeeeee!"

Also, a little fog of chaos rolled in sometime during this process. I hadn't gotten all the definitive answers to what could stay or go, and I hadn''t given away my perfectly functional things that were on the balcony. I couldn't use any replacements, because I couldn't use them in my still non-kosher kitchen. (I had already started buying replacements for a few things I knew I would need. I stored them, unopened, on the floor in my office upstairs.)

So imagine me with a boiling pot of speghetti. I go to reach for a plastic collander. My good , slightly used, "must-go" one is one on my balcony. In the case of the collander, something I use frequently, I also have a perfectly good and new one, unopened, upstairs- with a receipt in the bag (you know, just in case I came to my senses). So I run out to the balcony to grab the collander from the Rubbermaid container, use it, wash it, and bring it right back to the balcony. I couldn't use the new one upstairs it in my still unkosher kitchen, but I also still needed to drain the pasta. Imagine my husband watching all of this. (You don't know him, but if you did, it would really help paint a picture).

Or picture me using some beloved item- some little, shiny, indulgent William Sonoma tool that squatted with it's questionable status on the upstairs craft table. Let's make it some kind of special apple corer and slicer. Imagine me running upstairs to use it, wash it and return it. Now imagine me wondering: "Is this time with the apple slicer our last?" Then I would wonder how things could have been different- had I only not put the little guy in the dishwasher...
(Don't worry- this story has a happy ending- it was stainless! All we needed was something similar to a good boiling.)

If you are kashering your home and reach this state, and your spouse was onboard up to this point, he or she will probably jump ship now. Actually, my husband was supportive, and limited himself to silent smirking for the wackier moments.

Also, at this point, I was up late at night visiting various stored appliances I use and love, but not sure if I could keep. WARNING: If you find yourself talking to or stroking a KitchenAid mixer, please take a break! You are going mad, moving dishes around and not sleeping. There may be a watershed moment- for me, I fell down my spiral staircase at 1 AM and broke my toe and bruised the entire right half of my body. I probably would have done this anyway, but I was letting the process stress me out.

Around this time, I called my sister whining: "They are not making this fun for me!" It became an inside joke and a humorous mantra for me.

Yes, No or Maybe - Part 2

Once we had a grip on the food (Yes, No or Maybe - Part 1), it was time for Part 2 of "Yes, No or Maybe". It was time to go through every dish, pot, pan, piece of Tupperware, utensil, every odd peeler, slicer and dicer, the Ginsu knives, the "Bassomatic"- everything.

If you have a Huge Ton of Stuff, I suggest focusing your efforts on the kitchen, getting everything in the kitchen out, and hitting appliances that are stored elsewhere later.

I got out a huge Rubbermaid container. I put all my tupperware and plastic cooking utensils in there. Actually, I ended up putting ALL plastic utensils, but this was a mistake- only the ones that were involved in heat or put through a dishwasher (or directly touched treyfe) had to go for sure. But I decided to play it safe and replace whatever seemed remotely questionable.

I left the metal cooking utensils for cooking in the kitchen and some Ziploc bags for storage, paper plates and plastic utensils, disposable cooking trays. The big Rubbermaid went out on the balcony.

Then I started moving everything to the dining room table.

I made three sections.

On the right were things I knew I could kasher (glass and stainless steel cookery that didn't have a non-stick or any kind of special finish).

I put thing I knew had to go, but that were nicer than plastic Tupperware- things I needed to give away- on the far left (ceramics, earthenware, wooden spoons that have stirred hot stuff, etc). My sister kindly pointed out that my favorite mugs or bowls could still be kept and used to hold non-food items. I put things that I wasn't sure of, or that there might be some kind of loophole for in the middle of the table.

But before I finished this process, I ran out of space on my dining room table. I started relocating the three groups to different places. It helped to have the places apart from each other. I moved anything that had to go into another huge Rubbermaid on the balcony. Some of the plastic utensils and Tupperware spent some time as toys for my toddler. These functioned as new toys that entertained him while I focused on this project. Since our kitchen is typically off limits to him (we have a gate) it was particularly exciting for him to get access to all this cool "off-limits" stuff! He even gave me an "are you sure?" look on a few items.

I moved things that I wasn't sure about on a craft table I cleaned off upstairs. There were a couple of things that I wanted to know about sooner rather than later, and they sat at the top of the pile. I left all the things I knew I could kasher on the dining room table, with the glass in the back where my son can't reach.

At this point, things started to get a little frenzied. Laundry was starting to pile up. My baby learned how to walk at some point. Ok, I am exaggerating, but he would periodically come over and nibble on me to get my attention. It was time to take a break. But at least this very important process had started. Once you have everything major out of your kitchen, and every thing you ABSOLUTELY need ready to be kashered, and a list of the things you MUST replace, you will be ready to proceed. But don't be making lots of optional social engagements before then.

April 20, 2007

Yes, No or Maybe - Part 1

Once we answered "why", and had our household policies set and making sense (well, at least to us), it was time to start "Yes, No or Maybe."

I started with the cabinets. All the food was scrutinized, and divided into three groups- Yes, No and Maybe. In terms of food, "Yes" for us="Yay, it has an OU, or a circle K! I recognize this trademarked hechsher, Yay! I can keep *this*!"... then I might clutch the package of food exuberantly, like it was a lost puppy I just found, and happily put it back into the shelf. "No" foods involved reading every printed word on the box, then frantically turning the box upside down, examining all six sides, reading the ingredients and sighing. For a few special foods, it may have involved squinting at the registered trademark symbol, wishing the "circle -R" was a "circle-K". Maybe at 2AM one night I wondered if someone might put a hechsher inside the box... but to my credit I never actually dismantled a box. Really. Nor did the "circle-R" become a "circle-K". All the "No" foods went into a large box labeled "Treyfe" (Actually, I spelled it "Traif"... hey, I'm a newbie. Cut me some slack).

Finally there is the "Maybe" category. For me, there were unpacked goods- raw nuts, craisins and rice... or some expensive gourmet items that I set aside to ask a rabbi about ("I will ask the rabbi about these Bonito flakes... but first I will have to explain to him what Bonito flakes are...")

I started with one cabinet of food and worked my way across the kitchen. My kitchen is tiny, so this wasn't as major a feat as I make it sound. All the non-kosher items were put in the box to give to a non-Jewish friend of mine. Boy was she happy (and confused) to get all this food. She also wanted to know what Bonito flakes were. SIGH. I am quite into exotic foods, so this part was a tiny bit painful. Fortunately, my husband is amazing at finding the unfindable on the Internet, and he kept e-mailing me links to things like kosher miso paste and Reggiano Parmesan.

Then, I put all the kosher products back in the cabinets and found I had s_o _______ m_u_c_h ______ s_p_a_c_e..... I then put the questionable items aside in one little shelf in a plastic Ziploc with a post-it with a "?" on it. I jotted down the items to ask the rabbi.

I did the same thing with our "pantry" (we have our extra food stored upstairs , as there is no classic pantry in our itty bitty kitchen).

Then the fridge. I had one drawer quarantined with "?" items, and set aside space for the "to give away" treyfe. I also put a plastic bag around the treyfe and wrote "treyfe" on it- (well, actually "traif")

And then the spice rack.

And then the freezer. This was the first time I really considered consuming much of the food instead of giving it away. I don't think this is a terrible idea, but some process in me had started that made it feel somehow... counterproductive.

And then I did "Yes, No and Maybe" to the liquor cabinet.

And then... the wine. Deep breaths. This was hard. And this was the second time I really considered consuming the non-kosher goods right there, on the spot. Sequentially in this case. But I just ended up separating the wine out so that I could bring the non-kosher wine to non-Jewish friends. We still have a few bottles left to give away, but they are out of our wine rack and we do not drink these in our home- they are viewed as gifts and we will not bring any more non-kosher wine into the home.

Fortunately, I started the treyfe hunt along with the chometz hunt from Passover (the previous week) so it went by quickly. Plus, have I mentioned that our kitchen is tiny? Once I was done I had a Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda and went to bed pleased. Phase One- complete.

If you are doing this, celebrate completing this step. And don't hit your husband with the non-hechshered Pillsbury crescent rolls when he brings them in the day after you give away the big box of treyfe.

So How Kosher Are You?

Apparently there are so many ways to keep kosher. Someone might argue that whether something is kosher or not is pretty exact- and "certifiable". But these certifying authorities differ, and some are accepted by certain communities while others are not. Maybe there as many ways to keep kosher as there are Jews. I don't know. I was bewildered by all the options.

Should we keep "ingredient kosher", and make sure things that enter our house only have kosher ingredients (checking the ingredients of each product)? Or should we require a hechscher, a certifying authority, to make sure that not only the food's ingredients are kosher, but that it's preparation and the equipment used to create the food are also kosher? Should we make sure our milk is from a dairy with Rabbinic supervision and certification? Should we only use bread from a kosher bakery, one that observes special rules about separating challah? Should we only buy our kosher prepared food from places that observe Shabbat? What about fish? Should we get it from a kosher fish-market? And what's the deal with swordfish?

All of the answers to these questions vary depending on who you ask. And these are just questions about food- I havn't even mentioned the myriad of questions I had regarding the kashering process. I was overwhelmed. Could I keep kosher and maybe keep the Sauterne? What about the bonito flake? What part of being kosher was I giving up if I did?

Many people keep kosher because that is how they grew up. For them, it may be easy to do what they saw their parents doing- what they have always done. For some, the reason is because "G-d said so". They most likely can consult a rabbi and get an immediate answer, one with no shades of grey. For people like me, people who had developed a distinct preference between clams casino versus oysters rockefeller by sixth grade- becoming kosher is a major lifestyle change- and one that may at first feel about as natural as riding a bike in a scuba suit. When I think about what was done in my house, I think of using nutcrackers and picks to get at the good part of the crab claw, or watching my Dad experiment with beer and vinegar in the water for steaming littlenecks.

I struggle with getting the answers that are correct and appropriate for us, and our lifestyle. It also doesn't help that we are still "shul shopping" in our area, and haven't really committed to a specific congregation to understand what the norms of that community are. I asked the Rabbi at a conservative temple we sometimes go to- but I didn’t get an immediate response. I don’t want to make huge generalizations that are going to get me in trouble, but this particular conservative rabbi didn’t seem to regard the questions I had about kashrut to be pressing (he didn’t return my calls). So I called in the “big guns”- that’s right- the Chabad. They had immediate and absolute answers to my questions in a heartbeat- and were ready to be at my door with blowtorches as soon as I said the words “new at this”.

However, we are a work in progress regarding our own level of observance. We still dine out at non-kosher restaurants outside the home. We are not strictly shomer shabbos. So I also have to wonder... how does all this affect the level of kashrut in our home? We are pretty sure we are going to join a conservative, not orthodox, synagogue. But even that communality alone isn’t my “design spec”. We have family and friends, and we want to be able to accommodate a nice range of guests.

My mind flooded with all of this while I stared down at the beloved non-hechshered aged Parmesan Reggiano in my hand and thought about the wedding we were going to that Saturday afternoon... was I giving up the cheese to persue elusive guests that wouldn't dine in my home because I would go to such a wedding? Where should I draw the line to get the results I want, and at what point am I just giving up things that I don’t need to give up? What are the results I want? What to do? Whom to ask?

It was time to come up with what engineers call a "design spec". A "design spec" is prioritized list of your design goals, the fundamental reasons why we wanted to do this. We had to know what the driving reasons versus the nice benefits. This was important when coming up with household policies and standards. We needed to know what we would be able to give up, and to what end.

While we aren’t just making our kitchen kosher just for guests, the more generalized reasons, such as the personal and cultural, can be derived to some extent from any level of kashrut. For instance, you can expose your children to concepts of keeping kosher and give them a sense of Jewish identity by just saying “we don’t eat pork”. It is hard to come up with a "litmus test" for such a goal. Only my husband and I can determine if our level of kashrut is fulfilling how we want our children exposed to Jewish dietary law, if we are comfortable with how much cultural background we are providing in our home.

These reasons are important, but do not provide direct "design control" or help answer the kinds of questions I described above- such as whether to be “ingredient” or “hechscher-only” kosher. For us, the question of who we want to accommodate helped us narrow down specific policies on the nitty gritty questions.

My sister is an amazing resource for me in all of this (and many other things as well). She is orthodox and has kept a kosher home pretty much since she got married and moved out of the house we grew up in (20 years now?) She is active in her community. Over the past few weeks, I have her on speed-dial. But she can't answer many of these things. She can tell me what the orothodox standards are, what the conservative might be, and that I should ask my rabbi (which I don't really have yet)... so through her I could find out the "gold standard" and that there may be some wiggle room in other communities.

We realize that there would be some people that would never come and eat in our home because of our level of observance- or for other reasons. This is fine. We just needed to be clear about what we were doing and why.

I wanted to have our kitchen as kosher as possible even if we weren't as observant in all other areas of our life. I regard our overall observance as a work in progress. It can change. But I also think those decisions are not irreversible, and should not compromise the level of kashrut in our home. And some of these lifestyle choices are not simply solved in a quick conversation- as did our decision to kasher our kitchen. Bigger changes could come with time, but the process for such changes will be different, as will the motivation behind them.

As for the kashrut of our kitchen, I figure we can always become more lenient, but I have discovered you have to give up a lot of Tupperware and ceramics and possibly even china (gasp!) to work your way "up" to a stricter level. We wanted to start off with a pretty high standard of kitchen kashrut.

These design goals led us to following "conservadox" (nearly orthodox) rules regarding kashrut in the home. I will go into the details and policies in subsequent posts. And I will welcome commentary and correction to my understanding. But for now, I am sharing the tool of "design spec" for kashering your home- especially useful for us kosher newbies. I cannot stress enough how helpful it is has been to sit down and uderstand why we are doing this- and how these reasons directly translate into the policies we adopt.

Drinking from the firehose

It all started about 4 weeks ago. We decided we wanted to have a kosher kitchen. I may be using the term "we" loosely, but maybe not. Originally, it was my idea, but it wasn't a hard sell. My husband's parents and sister keep a kosher home, and it didn't seem like such a big deal to him.

While my sister keeps kosher, I didn't grow up in a kosher home myself. From what I have seen it looked pretty complicated. My experience had been limited to trying to help someone clean up and having them dive across the kitchen in slow-mo, shouting "Nooooooooo!" as I almost put a glass dish in their sink. I grew up in a family whose Friday night meal was most likely Peking Duck- out at Hunan Palace. While we were Jewish, my father's true religion, and passion, was for shellfish- blue crab, specifically. He eventually bought a summer home just to be able to enjoy catching and eating them. He was not thrilled when my sister became kosher, and until recently, when I thought of keeping kosher the first thing that I thought of was his sad little expression sipping the coffee with the non-dairy creamer at my sister's house after dinner. So it was a quite a leap when I opened this up for discussion with my husband. Yet he seemed unsurprised, and even open to the idea.

But the discussion and thinking that led my husband and myself to keep kosher isn't what inspires me to start this blog. The discussion and thinking part were short and matter-of-fact. We were leaving a friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah- a leisurely drive home. We had a casual, rational chat about the possible benefits of a kosher kitchen for us. From the that point I only remember manic fragments- a black hatted man with a blow torch, an incredible shopping and cleaning spree, phone-stalking my orthodox sister with endless questions, midnight ponderings, color schemes and credit card bills, soul searching regarding the relative importance of take-out, eel sushi and out of town guests... many raised eyebrows on familiar faces and several discarded kitchen items and Tupperware strewn haphazardly about...

And voila- At about 3 PM last Friday, a day short of 3 weeks later- I was admiring my shiny, tiny kosher kitchen. I was happy. I was proud. And I had never done this before.

It is only 1 week later, and I am still getting used to some new habits. I am learning. There are always a few dishes or serving utensils on my fridge, awaiting a verdict, a remedy. But being older than the average newbie, I know that being a newbie at something is a special status. It is something to record and remember. People often pass through their newbie status- being a first-time parent, a freshmen in college, a new classroom teacher- and then, a year later or so, they are no longer quite so green. A year later, you can't imagine how someone can actually *think* about how to change a diaper. A year later it's inconceivable how you used to get lost finding the student center. A year later not only does your voice no longer break when you are teaching for 8 hours straight, you don't remember how *not* to prepare for a class you are about to teach. In fact, I think remembering as much detail as possible about being that beginner phase makes one better teachers once we do master something. But right now I am not looking to teach anyone anything. Right now I am too busy drinking from the fire hose, wondering how to kasher the firehouse, and looking for the hechscher on the firehose.

I just want to record my own learning process and kosher-facation. Maybe I will be able to look back and sympathize. Or see just how far I have come. Or sigh, and say- "what a crazy month *that* was", while I devour my bacon double cheeseburger (I sincerely hope that's not the case). But wouldn't it would be amazing if I find someone else, someone who didn't grow up quite so Yiddishkeit, and isn't orthodox, but nonetheless just happens to be standing in his or her kitchen, holding a spatula in one hand, looking at it, then back at the counter, then back at the spatula again... confused... wondering...