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The Biggest Challenge of Keeping Kosher

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My husband and I have maintained a kosher home for over a decade, so you’d think we’d be used to the idea by now. But lately, we’re finding it more challenging than ever to keep kosher, and it’s not because of the expense involved or our secret desire to feast on bacon (the former is something we accepted long ago, and the latter doesn’t happen to apply to us). The reason we’re struggling to keep kosher these days is the fact that everyone in my house eats something different for dinner, and that food often needs to be prepared in the same kitchen at the same time.

Here’s the breakdown. First there’s my 4.5-year-old, who’s not technically a vegetarian but might as well be. Most nights, my son adamantly refuses to eat meat or fish. His staple proteins are cheese, beans, tofu, and veggie burgers, the latter of which are usually dairy when you buy them prepackaged (which I admittedly do).

Then there are my twin 1.5-year-old daughters, who used to eat pretty much everything but have lately gotten into this pickiness phase that I’m really hoping is indeed just a phase. While one of my daughters will gobble tofu like there’s no tomorrow, the other refuses to touch it. Chicken by itself is iffy with both girls, but I can usually get them to eat meatballs (which I can make out of chicken, or at least partially, and they won’t be any the wiser).

Next up is my husband, quite possibly the world’s biggest carnivore. My husband’s ideal dinner is steak with a side of chicken. Or something like that.

Finally, there’s me. Like my son, I’m not officially a vegetarian but eat meat only on specific occasions—think Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, and the occasional barbecue if the mood happens to strike me (which it usually doesn’t).

Since we all have such different food preferences, most nights I find myself juggling meat and dairy meal prep in an attempt to make sure everyone in my family gets something resembling dinner. And given that I’m generally pretty frazzled to begin with by the time evening rolls around, I’m particularly prone to screwing up. In fact, I’ve come remarkably close to de-kosherfying (is that a word?) my kitchen on more occasions than I can count.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, in the midst of the dinnertime rush, I grabbed a meat sponge without thinking and used it to scrub melted cheese off of a glass bowl. Thankfully, because glass is “neutral” from a kosher perspective (it can be used for both meat and dairy, or at least that’s how we hold), all I had to do was toss out the sponge and start over. Another time, I came dangerously close to heating up meatballs in a dairy pot.

But it’s not just my screw-ups that pose a problem. Just the other day, I was in the middle of washing some meat dishes when I had to stop and run over to prevent one of my daughters from dumping the entire contents of her bowl on the floor. At just that moment, my son finished his dairy dinner and, as he’s been taught to do, promptly gathered up his plate, cup, and utensils and headed over to deposit them in the sink. What ensued was one of those action movie-style moments where I raced over and practically leapt in front of him face first to prevent him from tossing his dairy dinnerware directly into a meat pot with boiling water. (I think I may have even uttered a classic “noooooooooooooo” as it was all unfolding.) Thankfully I got there right in time, so once again, crisis averted. But close calls like that are becoming increasingly common in my household. And given that dinnertime is pretty much a clusterf&*k in my house to begin with, the whole kosher element certainly doesn’t make things any easier.

That said, my husband and I aren’t giving up. No one ever said keeping kosher was easy, but we’re committed to sticking it out. Let’s just hope we can keep those screw-ups to a minimum along the way.


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