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.

41 comments:

spotter said...

this really should be applied to part 2, but can't comment there.

I once bought a refurbished kitchenaid mixer and asked Rabbi Hershal Schachter (one of the 2 head rabbinic authorities for the OU) if I could. He said there was no problem, the utensils that came with it were probably new, but if I wanted to kasher them, I could with boiling water (pouring it over them). I then sort of off-hand remarked that if I was doing that, I should just consider any plastic utensils as treif and throw them away His response was "why would you think that, you can kasher them the same way".

Basically, many orthodox authorities seem to hold that one can kasher plastic, as long as it wont melt in the boiling water (think your plastic pastic fork that is always used in boiling water to mix the pasta around vs. disposable cutlery that would probably deform quickly).

Lola Banana said...

So interesting to read your story. I started keeping kosher in 1999 having grown up non-kosher (we had pork chops and shrimp at home all the time). It isn't easy at first, but it does get easier, and it's very rewarding. I love that I have to think about my Jewishness every time I use my kitchen and that I can have all my observant friends over for meals. From a purely culinary perspective, it's make me a more creative cook - I have a much better command of vegetarian cooking now, and have learned all sorts of fun ways to get around problems in my old favorite recipes. And, of course, newly kashering your kitchen is a wonderful excuse to drop some dough on new fun kitchen stuff!!

Good luck with your odyssey. I am always pleased to see someone - even someone I don't know - taking the plunge. I hope this is an enjoyable experience for you, and I look forward to reading more.

cwexl said...

Spotter- I have fixed part 2 so it should allow comments now- sorry about that.

Also- your post is very useful to me. I have a few plastic utensils from William Sonoma that are special and resistant to high heat(>400 F). I did boil them, but have set them aside until I was sure this was OK. Thank you.


Lola banana-
Thank you so much for your encouraging post. I too have been finding the design constraints posed by kashrut a challenge and creative trigger- in fact I hope to post some cooking experiences and recipe modifications soon. I just had a long talk with my Dad and tried to explain that I have in many ways expanded how I enjoy foods- but he hasn't quite been able to do much but shake his head. (OK, it was over the phone, but I *knew* he was shaking his head)

spotter said...

well, it might depend on how those utensils were used as well. Most plastic utensils are never exposed to a direct heat source. It's possible that these utensils are different. Always good to ask a question, but my gut is that one can kasher them.

cwexl said...

One is a spatula that has touched hot meat, and the other is a slotted spoon.

spotter said...

email me at spotter@gmail.com, and I'll give you the email of a friend at the OU who can hopeully answer the Q.

My assumption is it be ok, but I really don't know (not a rabbi, just a simple orthodox jew who cares about what he does so has asked a lot of questions over time to understand what he does).

LC said...

Just had to comment that I'm not a newbie - and I'd still spell it "traif" (or "treif", but no Y in any case). . . . I just had a conversation with my 9 year old about why there are 3 ways to spell "pareve" (we've seen either E left out.

Congratulations on a new step in your life, and enjoy the process!

cwexl said...

LC- Thank you!
I guess all transliterated spellings should be acceptable if they sound like the spoken word. This is especially useful to remember around Channukah/Hanukah...
:-)

spotter said...

personally, I think no kosher kitchen can be finished without a product from this company

clkl said...

@spotter: That link was a hoot! I think it particularly appropriate that ALL of the pictures in the slide show were...Treif! LOL!

cwexl said...

spotter, that is pretty hilarious.

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