And that’s probably a good thing…but the differences ARE there.

Primarily, Kosher means “clean” or “pure,” not only in the scrubbing bubbles kind of way but also in the manner that butchering and food preparation are handled.

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Traditional Jewish law calls for the separation of meat products from dairy products. The Bible states “Thou shalt not eat a kid in its mother’s milk.” Back when populations inhabited villages, this was a likely occurrence. In the modern world, less so, but as long as it’s “possible” the prohibition remains. Why? It’s about respect. Respect for the animal (and how it’s treated) and respect for the self…and what you put into your own body.  In the same vein, pork and shell fish were prohibited because they were known to cause illness.

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Therefore, separate dishes, utensils and pots and pans are kept and used for each of these food groups. In addition, there is a “neutral” food group that is considered neither “meat” nor “dairy” called Parve. Parve items may be eaten with either food group and could consist of vegetables, eggs, fish, fruits, nuts and bakery items made with a dairy substitute.

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So how does all of this apply to the kitchen? Well…deep breath…sigh…It means you need to have or create separate areas or zones for storing and preparing these items without them co-mingling.

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In very large, modern kitchens (600-1000 square feet) this often means 3 ovens, 3 dish washers, 3 microwaves and 3 sinks, one for each food designation. The more average kitchen would have 2 of each but you can manage with only one, albeit with some restriction. Many Kosher kitchens are vegetarian avoiding the need for any of this; but just as many are singularly “meat” or “dairy” with the occupant eating one or the other food group outside the home. Parve of course works with either.

In observant, but more relaxed households, single appliances may be used by running the cleaning cycle between uses for the various foods and cleaning the counters and preparation surfaces thoroughly with bleach or other cleaners.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the refrigerator. Where do you put 3 of those?! It is believed that food groups only co-mingle their properties through the transference of heat, therefore, once the item is cold (45 degrees or lower), storage with the opposite group becomes moot. Some households maintain 2 shelves for dairy and 2 for meat, sharing the space but respecting the act of separation. Of course you can have 2 or even 3 refrigerators if you have the space, but in this instance, it isn’t necessary.

Ovens, because they radiate and transfer heat do not fall into this category and therefore need to be separate.

Finally, the goal of any good design…in this case kitchen design…would be to arrange all the elements in a pleasing way that allows space and function to coexist with the latest and the greatest. After all you don’t want 3 sinks lined up like soldiers or the oven and dish washer doors to block the traffic flow!

Summing up, no, your neighbor’s kitchen really shouldn’t look much different than your own. The only way to tell, in some cases, would be to open up the pantry doors.

© 2012-2013 Design Discourse / Ask Kent and Co. All Rights Reserved

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