Monique Susskind Goldberg
Keeping Kosher in a non-Kosher Home
I am very frustrated about this b/c I like to cook - big time. Basically, I grew up 1/2 Jewish, became observant, and had an Orthodox conversion. I tried living in an Orthodox neighborhood, but all i could afford was a basement and I got very depressed living on my own, and so far from the city. I'm a painter (aka: poor), and I share an apt. with vegetarian artist friends who I love, and they respect that I keep Shabbos, but they are not Jewish.
Here's the problem. How do I cook? I went to chabad.org and they told me I would have to buy a separate oven, a portable stove top... I have a small kitchen and it seems crazy. I keep my dishes separate, I even have a rack in the sink and use a different sponge.
I had read that I could cook in a non-kosher oven so long as I double wrap what I'm cooking, and a stove top is fine b/c the fire from the gas range automatically kashers the range. I've also read I could put a metal sheet over the range top to cook on, and that would be fine. The people at Chabad told me it would not be fine.
I have to admit, I never noticed that friends had different range tops for meat and dairy. While cooking for Shabbos, they'll use all the ranges - but of course, have different pots and plates for meat and dairy. What's the real truth about how to keep kosher in a non-kosher kitchen? I don't want to make life difficult for my roommates by demanding they don't use the kitchen, but I want to abide by halacha, and would like to be able to have my Orthodox friends over for Shabbos without serving them treif food. Sometimes all the "fences" make life unbearable - how is what I read in my kosher kitchen book (published by artscroll) wrong?
Do not remain frustrated. You can easily solve your situation and cook all you want.
1) If your friends are true vegetarians and do not eat fish or any animal from the sea, there are no big problems. Buy your own pots and before you use the stove top for the first time, ignite the pilot lights fully for a while to be sure you destroy any remains that could have accumulated there from before you and your friends moved in. You can than cook your food using kosher products, even if your friends have their pots on the stove.
2) If your friends do eat fish, it may be difficult for you to control that they only eat permitted fish. So I advise you to act as in 1) but to cook your food when there are no other pots on the stove. If you want to cook for the group, do so in your pots with kosher products.
3) The oven is more complicated because vapor from a non kosher product can permeate the oven. The more stringent method is to wait for 24 hours after the oven has been used for a non kosher product and then heat the oven on high heat for a while (at least 1/2 hour) before cooking your food. If this seems complicated it may be a good idea to buy a small toaster-oven for your own use.
I hope you can now begin cooking!