I'm glad I made my kitchen kosher, but there are a few things I wish I knew first.
- Be prepared to grocery shop for everything yourself. When you write on your shopping list “Macaroni and Cheese” your mother, father, friend, or spouse may go directly to the Kraft Food brand and buy twenty, not understanding that most cheeses on the market are not kosher. This can happen with any number of different foods.
- Be prepared to prep and cook every meal yourself. So you have all the right ingredients and they are all kosher, so what? Who else but you knows which pan is for dairy, which pan is for meat, and that it is not acceptable to thicken up sauce for a chicken dish with heavy cream. Only you know your kitchen intimately - and truly when you kasher your kitchen you develop a relationship with the room that is nothing short of intimate – and most people will not know the proper method and maybe not even understand the proper method for cooking everything.
- Be prepared to clean everything yourself. See #2.
- Buy glass dishes. Mistakes happen. These mistakes are easily remedied if the vessel is glass. However, if you or a guest puts cheese on a ceramic meat dish, you must destroy it.
- Soy is not your friend. Many people believe that dairy substitutes should be pretty easy, since practically everything dairy can be made from soy, right? Well, sort of. First of all, most soy products, including soy milk, only has a dairy kosher certification because they are often made in facilities where they come in contact with dairy products. Second, and most importantly, soy is filled with hormones, most notably estrogen. Over-exposure to estrogen is a known cause of breast cancer and many other problematic diseases. Soy is actually used in many of the foods we consume on a day-to-day basis anyway, so when we eat a pure soy product (like soy milk or tofu), our bodies are essentially over-dosing on estrogen. The most effective dairy substitute I’ve found is coconut milk. Not only is it natural, it has the same protein and benefits of an avocado. Coconut milk also tastes sweet (more like real milk, as opposed to soy milk) and I have found that when I use it as a substitute in baked goods, they come out even more moist than usual.
- Salt is not your friend. A key step in the kashering process for meat is salting. All kosher meat has not only been slaughtered properly and drained of blood, it has also been salted to extract any remaining blood. DO NOT ADD SALT TO KOSHER MEAT. It has already been salted. I repeat, DO NOT ADD SALT TO KOSHER MEAT!
Here are some things to consider before kashering your kitchen:
- Finances. Because of special processes, special facilities, and everyone who has to monitor the process, kosher foods aren’t cheap. I have heard in some regions of the country 1 lb. of kosher chicken can cost as much as $8.00 (this is not the case in regions with higher Jewish populations – in my neighborhood 1 lb. of kosher chicken is $3.99). For those who feel convicted about a kosher kitchen, but are concerned about the cost, a good option may be a dairy-only kitchen.
- Timing. The best time to kasher your kitchen, in my opinion, is right before Passover. Why? Because you have to completely re-kasher your kitchen for Passover anyway, may as well skip this step for a whole year if you can help it. In my case, I first koshered my kitchen on December 31st. It wasn’t 3 months before I had to go through the entire procedure all over again. Save yourself the trouble!
- Commitment. Let’s be real here. A kosher kitchen is a serious commitment. It’s not something to be entered into lightly. You have to buy new pots, pans, dishes, flatware, and food! Before you kasher your kitchen, I would suggest a practice run with your existing dishes and food. Start by buying only kosher certified meat and food items. Separate the dairy items from the meat items in your refrigerator, designate certain dishes as meat and certain dishes as dairy. Test it out! You don’t know if it is something you can actually do until you try.
- Talk it out with your friends. Let your friends and family know the changes you are making and the new rules for your kitchen. Mostly these rules will be “don’t go into my kitchen” or “don’t move things in my kitchen”. It may seem rude, but you’ll find that most people want to respect your decisions and help you to maintain everything up to the standard to which you are committed.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Moving too fast in any one direction will inevitably lead to burn-out. The Orthodox standard of kashrut may not be the standard you are called to keep. For example, some keep a kosher at home, but not away. Some people will eat at non-kosher restaurants, but will only order fish or vegetarian items. The point is this: the food you put in your body is possibly one of the most personal decisions you make each day. Kashrut is more than “keeping Torah,” it’s a spiritual discipline as serious and at times as difficult as fasting. Consult the L-rd first in these matters, study, be sure He is leading you in this direction, take each step as He leads you and you will not be disappointed.
There are so many Theological, philosophical and scientific discussions people can have about the subject of Kosher, but at its core, Kashrut is one of the most practical instructions G-d gives us in the Torah. Don’t enter into such a discipline lightly, but remember to not make the discipline a burden either. Food is to be enjoyed, and in our practice of Kashrut we are to serve the L-rd with joy – so make it taste good!