Kitchen Accidents: "Nat Bar Nat" and "Natlap"

  • Rav David Brofsky

Summary and Introduction:


Last week, we discussed the concept of "nat bar nat." According to this principle, ta'am which is emitted not by a prohibited substance itself, but rather by a utensil which had previously absorbed this ta'am, does not have the ability to participate in the creation of an issur.  The Gemara refers to this taste as "nat bar nat," i.e., a secondary taste.  Therefore, according to the Gemara, fish which came in contact with a secondary taste of meat may be eaten with milk, since the taste of meat is so weak that it cannot produce the prohibition of "basar be-chalav."


As we noted last week, the Rishonim differ regarding the definition of "nat bar nat." According to Sefardic practice, even food that was cooked or fried in a meat pot may be eaten with milk.  Many Sefaradim even permit this practice le-chat'chila, and not just be-diavad, thus eliminating any need for pareve utensils.


According to Ashkenzic interpretation, the Gemara's case referred to fish which were merely served hot on a meat dish; fish which were actually cooked or fried in a meat utensil should not, le-chat'chila, be eaten with milk.  This food is commonly known as "be-chezkat besari." However, food which is cooked in a dairy utensil may be served immediately AFTER meat. 


Be-diavad, if one already mixed the food with milk, the mixture is permitted.  Therefore, if one already poured milk into coffee which was cooked in a meat pot, the coffee is permitted. 


Furthermore, if the pot was "eino ben yomo" from its last contact with meat, the food may be eaten, le-chat'chila, with milk.  The Acharonim differ as to whether one may intentionally use an "eino ben yomo" pot for this purpose.


We also discussed the impact of secondary taste on utensils. 


We noted that the Ramban and the Sefer ha-Teruma disagree regarding a case in which meat and dairy (ben yomo) utensils are placed, at the same time, in boiling water.  While the Ramban permits the utensils, since the taste absorbed by the utensils did not come directly from the food itself, the Sefer Ha-Teruma prohibits them. 


This week, I would like to review some of the practical applications of these principles.


Oops! Inserting a Dairy Spoon into a Meat Pot:


As we noted last week, the Taz explains that based on the Rema's ruling in according with the opinion of the Sefer Ha-Teruma, a somewhat common kitchen accident may have serious consequences.  If one uses a dairy spoon to stir vegetables which are cooking in a meat pot - the pot, spoon and vegetables are prohibited!


Of course, as the Rema points out, the entire mixture would only be prohibited if both the pot and spoon were considered "ben yomo" (less than twenty-four hours since their last contact with meat or milk in a "keli rishon").  Most common kitchen accidents may be permited be-diavad based on this rationale.


What if only one of the utensils was considered to be "ben yomo"? According to the principles presented last week, the food should retain the status of the "ben yomo" vessel.  Therefore, if spaghetti was cooked in a "ben yomo" dairy pot and stirred with a fleishig spoon, the utensils are permitted, and the spaghetti should be considered "be-chezkat chalavi." In other words, it should not be eaten WITH meat.


The Rema (94:5), however, cites a stringent custom:


If one cooks vegetables in an "eino ben yomo" [meat] pot and inserts a "ben yomo" [dairy] spoon, or if the food contains shishim [against the "ben yomo" spoon], everything is permitted.  [However] the custom is to be stringent to eat the food "like" the utensil which is a ben yomo, and to prohibit the utensil which was "eino ben yomo," but this is only a stringency because according to the halakha, everything is permitted.


The Rema addresses the status of both the food and the "eino ben yomo" utensil. 


What is the reason for these stringencies? One may suggest that these chumrot were adopted in order to insure proper kitchen management.  Often, people are more careful when the stakes are high.  Alternatively, the Shakh, as we shall see, suggests that we are concerned lest one come to misinterpret the leniency of an "eino ben yomo" utensil, and conclude that even a "ben yomo" utensil does not have the ability to emit ta'am.  Apparently, if both utensils were "eino ben yomo," all agree that there is no place for this stringency. 


Regarding the "eino ben yomo" utensil, the Acharonim question whether we follow the Rema.  The Shakh, for example, suggests that the custom may not be like this Rema, but rather like the Rema cited last week which permitted dairy and meat pots which were washed together as long as one of them was "eino ben yomo"! Seemingly, there is room to be lenient, depending on the circumstances and the type of utensil.  One should consult a halakhic authority.


Regarding the food, the Acharonim ask the following question: The Rema posits that the stringency is to treat the food "like" (KE-min ha-keli) the utensil which was "ben yomo." In other words, if the spoon was "ben yomo" dairy, the food should be viewed as "be-chezkat chalavi" and should not be eaten with meat. 


Yet, is this really a stringency? The Rema (95:2) already ruled, at least le-chat'chila, in accordance with the opinion cited by the Rivan, which is lenient only when the fish are SERVED on meat dishes! Surely this is the Rema's RULING, not a mere chumra?!


The Shakh, therefore, citing the Rema himself in his earlier work Torat Ha-Chatat, explains that the text should read "BE-min ha-keli." In other words, the stringency is to eat the food neither with dairy nor meat, but rather alone.  The Shakh questions whether this is really the custom.  Still, he explains that this chumra, as mentioned above, may be based on the remote fear that if we were to allow one to eat food cooked in an "eino ben yomo" meat pot with dairy, one might err and assume that even if that pot was "ben yomo" the halakha would be the same.


In summary, if one inserts a "ben yomo" dairy spoon into a food cooking in an "eino ben yomo" meat pot, the custom, when possible, is to kasher the "eino ben yomo" pot, and to refrain from eating the food with dairy OR meat.  If, however, both utensils were "eino ben yomo," everything is permitted.


Inserting a Dairy/Meat Spoon into a Pareve Pot:


What if one were use a dairy spoon to stir pareve vegetables cooking in a pareve pot?


As for the food, based on last week's shiur, if the spoon was considered "ben yomo," then the food should certainly be considered "be-chezkat chalavi," and should not be consumed with meat.  If the spoon was "eino ben yomo," or if the pot contained shishim against the spoon, the food remains pareve. 


What, however, of the impact of the "ben yomo" dairy spoon on the pot? Seemingly, the taste emitted by the spoon is "nat bar nat" and should have no impact on the pot.  We saw a similar phenomenon regarding the dairy and meat dishes which were washed together.  If one of them was "eino ben yomo," they are both permitted, and we do not believe that the "ben yomo" pot can affect the "eino ben yomo" pot!


The Mechaber, however, seems to disagree.  He posits (YD 94:5) that if one inserted a dairy "ben yomo" spoon and then a meat "ben yomo" spoon into a new pot of boiling water, the pot should no longer be used for meat or dairy.  Some Acharonim explain that similarly, if one were to insert a dairy "ben yomo" spoon in a new pot, that pot should not be used for meat, and may only be used for pareve foods.  In other words, when a pot absorbs secondary dairy taste, it should no longer be used for meat, and vice versa.


This ruling seems very difficult to understand.  The Shakh (94:15) and later the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (94:19) explain that according to the Mechaber, there is a halakha of "designation" ("keviat tashmish").  Inserting a dairy "ben yomo" spoon into a pot eliminates the option of designating this pot as meat.  In other words, one who inserts a "ben yomo" dairy spoon into a new pot must now designate the pot as either a dairy or pareve pot. 


In any case, the Shakh (94:15) himself, and others, disagree with the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh.  They argue that secondary taste cannot affect another utensil and the pot may still be used for pareve, dairy or meat.


What if Milk Splashes on a Pareve Pot?


In a previous shiur (see shiur #14) we discussed a scenario in which a drop of milk falls onto a meat pot.  I would like to repeat here, for the sake of clarity, that if a drop of meat or milk falls onto a PAREVE pot, one may continue to consider the pot pareve. 


If the pot was full and if only a drop fell on the pot, since the notion of "chanan" doesn't apply to permitted foods, one is only concerned with the drop of milk or meat.  Usually, one can assume that the drop is "batel" in the food cooking in the pot.  Therefore, if a drop of milk splashes onto an urn of hot water, one may continue to use the urn for pareve hot water.  Even if the drop of milk was not nullified by shishim, or if the drop fell onto an empty pot, one may still be lenient, especially if 24 hours have passed.  See Binat Adam 41:58.


One last note: I believe that this week's shiur has demonstrated that in addition to pareve knives, which we shall discuss in a future shiur, pareve stirring utensils (and maybe even a pot or two) may be very useful in an Ashkenazic kosher kitchen


Next week we will discuss the issues involved in washing dairy and meat dishes consecutively in one dishwasher.