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... 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.


Lubyvitcher said...

Eeek! Did you buy the le crueset pots yet? I have read recently that enamel coated pots have a non-kosher oil coating from teh factory. I have searched for it on the web but couldn't find any information. I have some Le Cruesets but they are over 10 years old and the Rabbi I spoke with said it was ok. Check out, you can ask them about it. Taking on the mitzva of keeping kosher is a big deal, yasher koach!

GFjem said...

Wow! My family is babystepping toward a kosher kitchen, but I didn't realize all the fun in store!LOL Just reading your blog gave me hope that someday soon, we might be able to kasher the kitchen too. I hope you continue the blog. What a great way to help others- to share your journey! thank you. I was feeling that maybe what we were doing was all we could do. But , if someone else can make the leap, I know we can too!

cwexl said...

What could brighten my day more than to read your post?

Thank you very much bringing this to my attention- I will look into this.

Anonymous said...

hi KN,

I am really enjoying your blog. I do hope that you decide to go by the 'hechsher' and not by the ingredients. The food industry has changed a lot in just the past 10 years and some ingredients that look safe may not be.

I am puzzled by the soap issue. it is soap, by definition it should be something that even a dog would not eat. Why the big worry about it?

What have you decided about being Shomer Shabos?

cwexl said...

So far we have been only going with hechshered products.

I just got back from Whole Foods and just walked through their cheese department... it felt like touring Bordeaux while pregnant… Oh the lovely, stinky cheese… Whimper, whimper... But I did find one nice, hechshered cheese- a double cream Brie. Thank goodness for living in an urban area, and for the Internet! Thank goodness for, too. We are fortunate to have access to such products and tools.

But we allow ourselves non-hechshered products outside the home, and eat at non-kosher restaurants, too. I am increasingly impressed with the determination of people who keep kosher, both in and out of the home.

We are not “shomer shabbos”, but have started to be “zachor shabbos”. We plan to always remember and celebrate Shabbat- but not “keep” it in the strict sense. It is early to say what patterns will stick, but we have been making Friday night Shabbos dinner (for us, this means lighting candles, making Kiddush and a motzi over challah, having a big meal with dessert, and then singing a song or two afterwards.) I try and make it extra special, for example, using the nice tablecloth, having fresh flowers, and special treats. I want my children to grow up with this tradition.

We have been trying to make Saturday a family day, and make Sunday for errands. We will attend temple a couple of times a month, but not every week. We were discussing our Shabbos-style with a good friend, and he said “It’s not what you don’t do, it’s what you do do”, and that has been our style so far… But, we are always “a work in progress”.

I deeply admire people who are shomer Shabbos. They demonstrate amazing resolve and self-discipline. I imagine they experience Shabbos on a much deeper level. For their efforts, they seem to receive this pure, sacred slice of time, untouched by the world and its demands.

clkl said...

You might be interested to read a post on the blog Jewish Connection about sit-com writer David Sacks' first "Shabbat Showdown" (my term, not his).

I started keeping shabbat when I got married. Although I enjoyed Shabbat for the first few months, I didn't "get" Shabbat - the feeling of time transformed, the oaisis in my schedule, the tangible relaxation after the candles are lit, etc. - until I had to give something up for Shabbat.

It wasn't until after I refused my manager's admant directive to work on Friday night and Saturday on a very visible project whose deadline had slipped, that I was able to feel Shabbat. I had to defend the integrity of Shabbat's borders before the I could know the value of her contents.

My manager was frustrated and angry with me on Friday afternoon. I was just out of college, and newly observant. This was my first job, and I had been recently promoted from test to design. I'm a conflict-avoider in the tamest of situations. It wasn't easy.

I came in as soon as Shabbat was over, and worked late into the night. I returned early Sunday morning and continued to debug the problem. I couldn't figure it out. It was very scary. I was sure I was going to be fired.

On Monday, I learned that, had I come in that Shabbat, the problem would not have been solved any sooner. The problem I was supposed to solve wasn't in the software I owned, but in an area of code that belonged to a different department. It was broken in such a way that I would not have been able to detect it from my lab.

My boss was relieved, and enthusiastically thanked me for "working all weekend." I heard him on the phone with the other department's manager later that day, telling him that he (the other department's manager) should thank me for my hours.

That was twenty years ago. I have been reaping the benefits from that weekend, and from every other time that I have had to sacrifice some activity in order to observe Shabbat, ever since.

I've found there can always be something so pressing that compromises with Shabbat's boundaries seem the most expedient path. Just like quitting smoking, just like diet and exercise, just like resisting the snooze button, the long-term rewards are easily obscured by the tyranny of false urgency. Observing Shabbat has brilliantly shown me that, while there will always be another software bug, another overdue project, another frustrated manager, another overflowing inbox, another quotidian emergency, there will never be another NOW.

Clearing away time for Shabbat renews this perspective every week. I think I would never have understood this, without my "moment of choice".

spotter said...

re: le cruset.

Amazon has a decent deal right now (albiet shipping time is measured in months!!!)

Le Creuset Essentials Set -- Cobalt Blue
(see the amazon lik on the side for $174.99, as default is more expesnive and not from amazon and not eligible for below deal)

but, if buy it from amazon can also get these 2 things for free.

Le Creuset Stoneware Heart Ramekins, Dark Chestnut with Pastel - Assorted Set of 4


Le Creuset 7-Piece Spatula Set with Crock, Red (yes, blue/red mixing) (default purchase place is not amazon, check to the side)

pretty decent deal for a decent amount of Le Creuset stuff.

Anonymous said...

Two recommendations for you:

* the book This is My God

Also, speaking as one who was raised in a very Frum household in a very Frum community and went to very Frum schools - and then went Frei in my early 20s, I can say the benefits of keeping the Shabos in both the positive and negative far outweigh anything gained by violating the Shabos.

clkl said...

I just posted about this comment thread.

Woodrow said...

My (pretty right-wing Orthodox) rabbi says you really don't have to have two can openers as long as you keep them reasonably clean (since they don't come into contact with hot food ever, and don't even come into much contact with cold food). But if you've already gotten two, never mind.

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