Double-Duty Soups, Onerous Onions, and Nat bar Nat, or Preparing Milchig and Fleishig for Shavuos

There is a widespread custom to eat at least some milchig meals on Shavuos. A housewife asked me this question: since this year Shavuos follows on the heels of Shabbos, and she has no large pareve pots, is there a way for her to prepare side dishes or desserts that she may then serve with both her meat and her dairy meals? In response, I bring you:

Double-Duty Soups, Onerous Onions, and Nat bar Nat, or Preparing Milchig and Fleishig for Shavuos

Question #1:

Rachel asks her Rav:

“Someone told me that I may cook a pareve soup in my fleishig pot and then serve it with both milchig and fleishig meals. Can this possibly be true?”

Question #2: Reuven wants to know:

“May I eat the leftover kugel alongside my milchig lunch?”

Question #3:

Mrs. Goldberg calls with the following question:

“My neighbor, Mrs. Dwek, told me that she cooks her rice and other vegetables in her dairy pots and then serves them with either meat or dairy meals. I was taught that this is strictly forbidden. May I trust the kashrus in her house? She seems more knowledgeable and careful about halacha than I am.”

To answer these questions properly, we need to study the following halachic areas:

I.          What is the status of pareve food cooked in milchig or fleishig pots?

II.         The rules of pungent foods.

III.       Why we wait after eating fleishig before eating milchig.

We will also acquire a glossary of several halachic terms, such as nat bar nat, davar charif, and eino ben yomo. I will explain each of these terms as we come to them.

I.          What is the status of pareve food cooked in milchig or fleishig pots?

When the Torah prohibited eating meat cooked in milk, it also prohibited eating food that contains the flavors of both meat and dairy. For example, if one cooked meat and then dairy in the same pot on the same day, meat flavor goes into the dairy food – thus creating a prohibited mixture of meat and milk (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 93:1).

Chazal extended the Torah’s proscription against eating meat and milk cooked together to include eating meat and milk simultaneously, even when they are not cooked together (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 88:1). The issue that we will discuss is:

To what extent did Chazal prohibit the mixture of milk and meat? Did they prohibit eating pareve food cooked in fleishig pots together with dairy? To answer this question, we need to be introduced to the concept called nat bar nat.

NAT BAR NAT

The Gemara (Chullin 111b) states that, under certain circumstances, fish prepared in fleishig equipment may be eaten with dairy food. The poskim call this phenomenon nat bar nat, literally, a taste that is son of a taste. This means that since the meat taste has undergone two steps, first into the equipment (the first taste) and then back into the fish (the “son” of the taste), the residual “meat” taste is too insignificant to be considered meat. This rule also applies to the use of dairy equipment; that is, pareve food prepared in dairy equipment may be eaten with meat.

WHEN DOES THIS APPLY?

Most Rishonim contend that food cooked in a meat pot may be eaten with dairy, provided the meat equipment was clean from significant meat residue. Following their approach, a pareve soup cooked in a clean fleishig pot may be eaten together with dairy foods even if the pot was used to cook meat immediately before the pareve soup. Similarly, if one cooked dairy, emptied out the pot, and then immediately cooked vegetables in the same pot using exclusively pareve ingredients, these vegetables may be eaten with meat. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 95:1) follows this position, and this is the accepted ruling among Sefardim. However, many authorities rule that this is permitted only after the fact, but that one may not cook vegetables in a fleishig pot intending to eat or serve it with milchig food and vice versa.

Other authorities contend that nat bar nat applies only to pareve food placed in a kli sheni, that is, in a bowl in which hot meat had been placed after being removed from the fire. According to this approach, nat bar nat applies only if one cooked pareve food in a pareve pot and then emptied the very hot contents into a fleishig pot that was not heated or into fleishig serving vessels. However, fish or vegetables cooked in a pot in which meat was cooked the same day may not be eaten with dairy, nor can fish or vegetables cooked in a pot in which dairy was cooked the same day be eaten with meat (Rivan, quoted by Tosafos, Chullin 111b).

The Rama (ad loc.) follows this approach, ruling that one should not eat pareve food cooked in a meat pot together with dairy, or pareve food cooked in a dairy pot together with meat. However, the Rama accepts that one may eat such fish or vegetables which were cooked in a dairy pot on fleishig dishes and with fleishig utensils, and that one may eat them before and after eating meat. He prohibits eating these vegetables only together with meat. This is the approach followed by Ashkenazim.

MORE THAN 24

Even according to the Rama, pareve food cooked in a pot that was last used for meat more than 24 hours previously may be eaten with dairy. The reason for this is that, once 24 hours have passed, the meat flavor absorbed by the pot no longer imparts a pleasant taste – and, therefore, the flavor transmitted to the pareve food is no longer considered “meat.”

A vessel that has not been used for hot food for more than 24 hours is called eino ben yomo, which I will translate as not used today.

The authorities dispute whether one may lechatchilah cook pareve food in an eino ben yomo fleishig pot in order to eat it with milchig.

Let us now discuss Rachel’s question raised above: “Someone told me that I may cook a pareve soup in my fleishig pot and then serve it with both milchig and fleishig meals. Can this possibly be true?”

According to what we have said so far, if Rachel already cooked her soup, she could serve it at a milchig meal, but not at the same time that she has milchig food on the table. If she is sfardi, then most authorities rule that she could even have milchig food on the table. However, it is important to note that many authorities rule that one may not plan one’s menu this way, and that the heter of nat bar nat is only after the fact.

There is also another very important caveat that we will now explain – all this assumes that Rachel’s soup does not include any pungent ingredients that may already have become fleishig.

A PUNGENT EXCEPTION

Does the lenience of nat bar nat apply whenever one uses fleishig equipment to prepare pareve food? No, there are some exceptions. One major exception is that the rule of nat bar nat does not apply to what halacha calls a davar charif, a pungent food, such as radishes, onions, garlic and lemons. Pungent foods intensify flavor and therefore transmit flavor in ways that bland items do not. (For halachic purposes, we refer to any non-pungent food as “bland.”)

There are several ramifications to this law of pungent foods, as we will soon see.

A SHARP BACKGROUND

The Gemara (Chullin 111b) prohibits eating dairy together with a radish sliced by a knife that had previously been used to cut meat, but permits eating bland food sliced by the same knife. Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 96:1) rules that the radish is fleishig, because the meat flavor absorbed into the knife transferred into the radish and is still considered a strong meat flavor. We do not consider the knife to be a nat bar nat, notwithstanding the fact that the flavor of the meat was first absorbed into the knife and only then transferred from the knife into the radish. The reason is that pungent foods, such as radishes, intensify flavor, causing the meat flavor in the radish to remain strong enough to still be considered meat.

However, although one should not eat these pungent items together with dairy ingredients, they do not become so “meaty” as to require six hours after eating them. One should be careful not to eat them together with dairy, but one may eat dairy immediately after eating the onions or other pungent foods.

MORE THAN 24

Notwithstanding the fact that pareve food cooked in an eino ben yomo fleishig pot may be eaten with dairy, the Rama concludes that the lenience of eino ben yomo does not apply to pungent foods. Thus, someone who fried onions in an eino ben yomo fleishig pan must treat the onions as fleishig.

Therefore:

You sliced an onion or a lemon with a fleishig knife. Since these items are pungent, they have absorbed enough meat flavor to be considered fleishig and cannot be mixed with dairy.

COMMON KITCHEN MIX-UPS

From my experience, the most common type of kitchen mix-up involves the misuse of onions sliced with a fleishig or milchig knife. It is for this reason that I highly recommend a family kitchen policy of slicing all onions, lemons, radishes and garlic exclusively with pareve knives.

At this point, I want to return to Rachel’s question: All that we permitted Rachel to do assumes that she did not use pungent ingredients, such as onions or garlic, in her soup.

Should she want to add onions to her soup, she should be careful to slice them with a pareve knife. Should she want to sauté them first, and she has no pareve pot or pan large enough for the soup, she has the following option: she could first sauté her onions in a pareve pot. Once the onions are cooked, they lose their pungency; if they are now added to the bland ingredients in the fleishig pot, they will no longer absorb fleishig taste from the pot, and her soup will remain pareve. (Onions are interesting, because when raw, they qualify as davar charif, although they lose their pungency quickly when they are cooked.)

At this point, we can also answer the other two questions asked above:

“May I eat the leftover kugel alongside my milchig lunch?”

The answer is that if the pot in which the kugel was made was fleishig and ben yomo, then one should not eat the kugel at the same moment that one is eating actual dairy products, although one may eat it using dairy equipment.

“My neighbor, Mrs. Dwek, told me that she cooks her rice and other vegetables in her dairy pots and then serves them with either meat or dairy meals. May I trust the kashrus in her house?”

The answer is that what Mrs. Dwek is following a psak that, according to some authorities, is perfectly acceptable for Sfardim. An Askenazi should not do this lichatchilah. Either way, you may certainly trust her kashrus.

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