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Calling all Kosher Home Cooks!

I'm having a dinner party later this month and my best friend is bringing his new girlfriend, who keeps Kosher. I looked on the Kosher board for insight, but since this is specifically about me cooking in my home, I'm wondering what I need to do to "kasher" my kitchen, or even if it can be done (I'm Catholic, and somehow I don't think sprinkling Holy Water on the counters will do it). I understand the basics of Kosher ingredients, and what ingredients can't go together (ie meat and dairy). What I don't know is what I'm supposed to do in my own kitchen. If anyone can give me a quick rundown on this issue, or provide informative links, I'd appreciate it. Shalom.

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  1. Your gesture is very kind and sure to be appreciated.

    There are many different standards of Kashrus, so the first thing to determine is how strict your guest is.

    If she eats out in non-kosher restaurants and simply orders carefully, then your kitchen should be just fine.

    If she will only eat from strictly kosher utensils, then it will be more of a challenge to prepare your kitchen. Though it can be done. See what you can find out and post it here, please.

    1. By definition, if she's willing to eat at your home, she's not the strictest level of Kosher, and no doubt would be totally flabbergasted at your idea of "kashering" your kitchen for her. (Old joke: "He's so kosher he won't even eat in his own kitchen!") It's not a realistic goal for you (see http://www.chabad.org/library/article... to appreciate the process), and it's certainly not something you could do every time she eats at your home. Many, many "mid-level" Kosher people will eat food in a non-Kosher home so long as it isn't a prohibited food (pork, shellfish) and isn't meat (beef, lamb, chicken, etc.) that would have to be bought as Kosher. So as a main course you can make fish (not swordfish) or a something like a vegetarian-style lasagna, a full range of non-meat appetizers, side dishes and dessert. If you are determined to make a "meat" meal, frozen Kosher poultry is pretty easy to find. Come up with a menu and ask your friend to check it out with her. I'm sure she'll be grateful and flattered that you troubled yourself to that extent. Most people I know who keep Kosher don't want others to go to extravagant efforts for them, and are happy to work their way around a menu as best as they can.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. I certainly don't want to go to extreme measures or make her feel uncomfortable at my efforts, but this is my best friend's girlfriend, and I would like to do as much to accomodate her as possible. (My friend has accomodated without a fuss when I've brought my vegan sisters over). I think I can stick to mid-level kosher, as she does eat out at non-kosher restaurants.

        One question about kosher ingredients. I have noticed different kosher symbols on food products. I'm familiar with Circle-K, but I've also seen a Star-K and a UO. What are the differences there? Any help appreciated! Thanks.

        1. The symbols represent different organizations that provide kosher supervision of the plants. A person who is mid-level would probably accept most supervisions, but there are circles of the very observant that tend to trust some more than others. Generally speaking, OU, Star K, OK, and Kof K (which is a Hebrew letter with a K)are widely accepted.

          1. If she eats in non-kosher restaurants absent extraordinary circumstances, she doesn't "keep kosher" in any real sense of the word. so my advice is to ask your friend what if any specific, non-obvious rules she's decided to follow. There is no such thing as "kosher light" with any formal set of rules or anything, so you're kind of feeling around in the dark otherwise.

            I've known a few people like this, and generally they only avoid absolutely forbidden foods like pork and shellfish, and make some token obeisance to separating meat and dairy (ie, they won't eat them at the same time, but don't worry much about waiting 4 or more hours in between.) If you use ingredients with any kind of certification and avoid actually mixing meat and dairy in the meal, I think you can rest assured it'll be as kosher as anything she'll have eaten that week outside of a kosher restaurant.;)

            On the other hand, if by some wild chance she really does keep kosher at home, but not out, and you want to go above and beyond for your friend's sake, there are things you could do to come awfully close. Disposable tableware (the expensive stuff can be surprisingly nice), cook allowed fish, which is parve, ideally in a new pan or dish (a disposable aluminum pan covered with aluminum foil would work), etc, use glass dishes in a microwave instead of cooking things on the stove, where possible, etc. It still wouldn't be quite orthodox kosher, but would be a pretty reasonable facsimile thereof.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MikeG

              Okay, I just found out her favorite restaurant in SF is Shangri La on Irving and its Kosher (and Chinese!). Its where they've gone on 2 dates. Other than that, she doesn't eat out much, and she does keep Kosher at home. He said she has eaten at his house, but has "helped" with the cooking. He said she brought over a pot and some utensils, and they ate off of some fancy plastic table ware and flatware she brought from home. She has also eaten at another of our friend's houses, and they are definately not kosher, but they did a cook out of grilled beef and veggies. Now I'm really confused. I seriously don't want to make a big deal of this, but do want to be accomodating. There will be 10 at the party, and I think the disposable tableware is a great idea. Thanks.

            2. And dont't forget to get kosher wine, too.:)

              1 Reply
              1. re: MikeG

                Many people who eat "kosher style," as it seems this person may (if she's willing to eat in non-kosher restaurants) will drink regular wine.

              2. If she's going to be the only kosher-keeper there out of 10, I'm sure she'll be pleased if you go as far as avoiding any "pure treyf" or mixing of meat and dairy in enough of the food for her to make a meal without having to "settle" (like vegetarians stuck eating the obvious side vegs and potatoes on Thanksgiving.) But if you want to go all out, it sounds like plan B would not be uncalled for, if not necessary, since you say she will eat at nonK restaurants.

                If you're willing to work your menu around it, rather than the other way around, you should be able to pull off something almost perfectly kosher as long as you you can avoid using your own pots & pans. (And for 10 people, I'd be using the oven as much as possible anyway, to make things that don't need a huge amount of last minute attention.)

                Oh, and if you are going to go that far, don't forget the cutting boards, etc. issues - you could cut up things on waxed paper or paper plates or something like that. Or get a cheap, new cutting board/substitute (and probably even kitchen knife) at a $.99 cent store sort of place.

                At this level, it's really not "complicated", just annoying b/c you won't be used to automatically doing things "properly." Just visualize what you'll have to do before you start, make a list or two, and have lots of disposable paper and aluminum products around.:)

                (And as for debts of friendship, cooking vegan is WAY easier than cooking true kosher without the right kitchen! lol)

                1 Reply
                1. re: MikeG

                  Either just cook vegetarian, or get a kosher chicken at Trader Joe's...cook it in one of those disposable aluminum foil things, and get some plastic forks ,knives etc.

                2. Cooking vegetarian in pots and pan that have been used for both meat and dairy, or inherent treyf, would still be unacceptable in any meaningful sense of proper kosherness.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MikeG

                    Which is why I suggested disposable aluminum foil ones....

                  2. I agree with other posters that kashering your kitchen is not a realistic goal, nor should it be expected of you. I once had to accomodate an old boyfriend who kept kosher a gathering with my farthest from kosher family--we boughy kosher hamburger and some fixins, and I lined a miximg bowl with plastic and foil so I wouldn't treyf up the meat, then I lined a rack of the grill with some heavy duty aluminum... all appreciated, but still not really kosher.

                    Talk to your friend and figure out her needs and expectations before you go totally overboard or out of your way.

                    And don't forget (like I did, once) that butter is dairy and you can't use it to dress your veggies if your serving meat. Luckily I remembered before it hit the table.

                    1. ok. here's some advice from someone who has a fair bit of experience with this, and has learned the hard way. ask her (or get your friend to ask her) what she is comfortable with. otherwise what will most likely happen is you will go to a lot of effort and she won't eat anything because something is not right in terms of ingredients or preparation. based on what you've said, it sounds like she is quite kosher. when we have people who are strictly kosher over (and based on your descripton of bringing her own pot to her boyfriend's house i would definitely put her in that category) we generally order in from a kosher place and eat off disposable plates and cutlery. since you are cooking for 10 that might not be practical, so before you do anything ask her what she needs to feel comfortable.