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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
More like appliance porn...

I bought new toys today - an electric hot water pot and a new rice cooker.

The hot water pot is a necessity, and you'll find one in the kitchen of most (although not all) Orthodox homes. This is how we can get hot tea and coffee on the Sabbath, and it's also useful if the cholent is too thick or you need hot water for a really greasy pot or to warm up a baby's bottle. It's not permitted to boil water on the Sabbath, but you can keep already hot water hot. Until the invention of the electric coffee urn, one kept a large pot of water on a covered stove top or some other form of covered fire. Even today, there are people who use this means. There are huge pots with completely flat covers and spigots on the bottom for this purpose - you can warm dry foods like bread or kugels on the flat top, so they're very useful. They also hold more water.

But. They require an open flame all Shabbat (covered by a sheet of metal) and are only useful on the Sabbath or holidays, since you really don't want them during the week. jonbaker doesn't like the idea of a burner going all Shabbat - what if it went out while we were asleep, filling the house with gas? I concur.

So. We use an electric hot water urn. And we use it all week long because it turns out that these urns produce water the precise temperature for perfect manual drip coffee. We make our coffee using "stove top" Melitta cones - we have a small one for single cups and a large one with a carafe for more - and have for years. Maybe freshly boiled water would be better, but I can make a cup of fresh coffee in just about the same time as I could make a cup of instant.

For Shabbat, we make a pot of extra strong coffee and put it in a metal thermos. This is a variant of the traditional "tea essence", which is extremely strong tea, and has the same purpose - it's already cooked, so adding hot water doesn't cook it any more. There are those who only use tea essence for Shabbat, but we're of the more common school who use a "kli sheini" - a second cup. We put the hot water from the urn into one cup and then transfer that to the serving cup, and then add the tea bag. This officially cools it to the point that the tea doesn't cook.

The thermos keeps the coffee warmish, so that we only need a relatively small amount of hot water to warm and dilute it. Again, it's better than instant, even by the following afternoon.

The current thing is to have a sort of electric thermos with a pump instead of using a party sized perkolator. Our last one had two methods of water delivery - a manual pump and an electric one activated by a button.

After two-three years, the electric pump was working poorly, but the manual pump wasn't working at all. We were having to use the electric pump on Shabbat, which is really bad.

The new one makes somewhat hotter water and is purely manual. So, we won't even have the occasional "oops."

On the other hand, the rice cooker is a luxury. I mean, I'm perfectly capable of making a nice pot of rice on the stove top. However, the short time I had one last December completely sold me on the appliance. It frees up a burner and a pot *and* it's one less thing to worry about. I just have to pour in the rice and the water and forget about it.


The ins and outs of what's currently considered halakhically-acceptable in your world never cease to fascinate me. :-) Tea essence! Thermoses! Second cups! What a world we live in.

E and I got a rice cooker from several friends as a wedding gift (they banded together to get us a nice one) and I love, love, love it. No more scraping rice off the bottom of pots. And it's always perfectly-done. I wouldn't go back to making rice in a pot for the world.

The ins and outs of what's currently considered halakhically-acceptable in your world never cease to fascinate me. :-) Tea essence! Thermoses! Second cups! What a world we live in.

None of this is new or peculiar to now. These things are spoken about in the Mishnah and Talmud - not tea essence per se, but the principle involved of "there is no cooking after cooking." It's why it's okay to cook the noodles or the matzah balls separately and add them to the chicken soup afterwards - because they're already cooked. Thermoses have greatly improved in the past couple thousand years, but there are discussions about "keeping things warm", and how to manage hot liquid so it doesn't cook something not already cooked in there as well.

We apply new technology to halacha, but the halacha doesn't change.

I'm (re)learning laws of cooking on shabbos now, and I gotta tell you, my brain hurts. It seems so simple, but then I start listening to the details and I get completely lost. I'd always been taught that tea essence was the only option, though I'm happier not limiting myself to that!

Sigh. Someday, this won't be the mystery that it is to me now.

Nod. The best thing to do is to do research and to see what friends and your community do before you decide on what level of observance works for you. Remember, it's often not black and white - too many people take on additional chumrot, strictnesses, because they don't know there are other options.

I mean, we're pretty lenient in our observances - staying within the basic halacha, of course, but staying away from the stricter forms. This does change - we have gotten stricter about some things as the years have gone by - but we are taking our time about these things.

We apply new technology to halacha, but the halacha doesn't change.

Fine point. I suppose what amazes me is the inventiveness of the interpretations. I'm familiar with a lot of the inventive interpretations of tradition on the other end of the spectrum -- the Reform and Reconstructionist and Renewal interpretations -- but it always pleases me to be reminded that this inventive interpretation dance happens across the denominations.

Was it Blu Greenberg who said, "Where there's a halakhic will, there's a halakhic way?"

"Where there's a *rabbinic* will, there's a halachic way."

And, there isn't in every case. If the Torah says something categorically, no amount of will can change it.

Then again, I have some issues with the Greenburgs.

But, yes, even though the focus is different, we are an inventive community.

If you don't use a 'blech', what do you warm your food on for Shabbat lunch?

It's weird, but everyone I know in NY, and probably most people in the US, use a blech, but here in Israel, almost everyone uses a 'plata'...basically it's an oversized hotplate. I prefer it, because I can set it on a timer, and in the summer, the house isn't as hot. Also, we use propane for our ovens here, delivered in 'balloons'...and it's just not cost efficient to run all Shabbat.

There's an interesting way to get around the halacha of turning off the gas burner on Shabbat...if you boil something that will overspill the pot, which puts out the flame, you can turn off the gas, because of 'Pikuach Nefesh'...I worked in a kitchen for a while and they did that once....

I would like to get a plata. They sell them here, and they look like a really good idea.

We use the oven set on low. We've never had an oven blow out on us, and it doesn't feel like an open flame, so my husband doesn't lose sleep.

There are a couple of problems with that "solution". One is the presence of the blech, which would protect the flame. The other is that one is *not* permitted to bring liquids to a boil on purpose - so I'm rather confused.

Platas, oven

I use a plata, and I'm pretty happy with it, though the one I got more recently doesn't work with my timers (the old one did).

I wasn't sure about using the oven after learning that covering something completely (hatmana) was not acceptable on Shabbat (which is not to say I haven't eaten food my friends have warmed that way!).