I was not raised kosher, in fact I wasn’t even raised Jewish. I grew up eating everything. I chose to become a Jew out of love, and I have never stopped loving this people that I chose. But sometimes they drive me crazy.
I love food, and I love to cook. I could not, cannot, and will not limit myself to those food groups permissible in Leviticus. As a friend of mine says, “Halacha is not my thing.”
My kitchen is clean and organized, like my mother’s. I have attachments to many implements and cooking utensils, e.g. my grandmother’s spatula, my father’s cherry cutting board, the patina on a vintage 8-inch cast iron frying pan. I could go on.
So, now my kitchen on Fire Island is being kashered for a weekend. The trouble is, everyone’s rules are different. The latest rules are pretty strict. What got me the most was my grill. It seems that the group can’t use my grill. The “essence” of the treif meat cannot be gotten rid of without painstaking brillo-pad scouring and then heating to 1000 degrees F, which everyone agrees would be dangerous.
Why should I care? Barbecued food isn’t even healthy, especially the blackened part. They’re not eating any meat. But grilled vegetables can be so delectable, with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. My grill is a charcoal kettle grill. So you really cook on fire. It is an amazing experience. Lately I’ve been cooking paella on a real paella pan from Spain. It fits perfectly onto our grill. You can make paella without shellfish, even without meat. I’m sure it would be incredibly delicious.
Oh well. The Hazon group will not know this taste. They will not know the feeling of their hands cooking outside over a live, hot fire. Why should I care? Somehow it just gets to me. What about the people who don’t keep such strict kashrut? Why does it seem like the most frum rules always trump?
One more thing. Women are usually doing all this work. They are even the most strict enforcers. But isn’t it the male orthodox rabbis who interpret the rules? My dishwasher on Fire Island is plastic-lined. I have a feeling that means every dish for the entire weekend must be hand washed.
On a more spiritual note, I could imagine taking the dishes, pans and silverware to the ocean afterwards, carting them in the wagon for immersion in the ultimate mikvah, the ocean. And getting pretty-well doused in the process. That would be a rather amazing thing to do. And solidifying for the group. A bonding experience.
We decided to go to a family reunion the weekend of the cleanse, so we won’t be at the house. In analyzing this, I probably felt safer being away. It has always seemed to me that the rules of kashrut serve mostly to divide and separate people. This time, I’m the one who ends up excluded, by my own choice. Perhaps I can learn, with time, to let go of this frustration I seem to harbor regarding all the laws and issues surrounding kashrut. That would be a good thing.