Since I moved in with my current roommate, we’ve wanted to have a kosher kitchen. This past Sunday, with a plethora (two hours) of free time, we finally got around to kashering it.
Q. What the frak is Kosher?
A. Kosher is just a Hebrew word that means, basically, “in full accordance with the rules,” where “the rules” means “laws established in the Hebrew Bible.” The laws set forth in the Hebrew Bible are all in the first five books, known as the Pentateuch or the Book of Moses to scholars and Christians, and known as the Torah to Jews.
Q. I thought kosher only applied to food.
A. It usually does, in common parlance, but there are lots of things that can be kosher, ranging from food to clothing to sex.
Q. Kosher sex?
A. Yes. For example, sex on Friday night with your spouse is not only kosher, but Biblically commanded.
Q. But what makes a kitchen kosher?
A. Several things. First, all food in the kitchen has to be kosher.
Q. What does that mean?
A. Kosher food is limited to fruits, vegetables, fish with scales, specific kinds of fowl (such as chicken, turkey, and duck), and meat from cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing mammals that has been killed in a specific way under rabbinic supervision. You also cannot mix milk and meat. (For kosher purposes, though, fish does not count as meat.) Shellfish, insects, pork, and camel, among others, are not kosher.
Q. Those rules seem arbitrary.
A. They actually have definite health benefits in a society lacking modern sanitation, but nowadays, following the rules are a matter of faith, tradition, or both.
Q. So is all that’s required for a kosher kitchen having kosher food?
A. No. You also have to follow a bunch of other rules, such as, you have to have separate milk and meat dishes and implements.
Q. That’s nuts.
A. I can see that.
Q. So what’s kashering mean?
A. Kashering a kitchen is the act of making it kosher. This basically involves throwing boiling water over the countertops and throwing any non-kosher silverware or pots into boiling water in a kosher pot such that, at least for a moment, they touch neither the sides of the pot nor anything in the pot.
Q. That sounds wonderfully dangerous.
A. I have burn aloe recommendations if you need them.
Q. I am an Orthodox Jew. You are grossly oversimplifying.
A. Congratulations. You are not the target audience for this post. שקט. :-)
Q. Why is this important to you? You never seem that religious.
A. The full response to that is long and complicated, and is something that I want to talk about fully in another article. For now, though, I’d point out that there can be an incredibly spiritual experience in elevating something as mundane as a kitchen to a miniature sanctuary, in turning eating food into a religious experience. It’s not for everyone, but it’s something that even an atheist—something which, despite the vibe I may give off, I am not—could appreciate, if not share.