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Thought for the Day: Tastes From Absorbed Food, aka נ''ט בר נ''ט

Pretty much, people pouring milk into hot meat stew are not calling the CRC.  The people calling the CRC are more likely to have just stuck a dairy spoon into a meat pot in which they are cooking broccoli.  Let's explore that, shall we?  As usual, we need some background.

You know good and well that when you call the rav with that question, his first question is going to be, "Did you cook anything fleishig in that pot in the last 24 hours?  Did you use that spoon in any hot dairy in the last 24 hours?  Was the broccoli host when you stirred it?"  Why is he asking that?  Heat facilitates transferring taste.  Therefore, if you cooked something in the pot or stirred hot milk with that spoon, then taste has been transferred.  The Torah forbids eating foods that have intermingled taste of milk and meat.  So... when you cooked the broccoli, you caused a transfer of  meat taste from the meat taste absorbed in the pot.  When you stuck the spoon into the hot broccoli, you caused a transfer of milk taste from the milk taste absorbed in the spoon,

That should be the end of it; but he wanted to know what had happened in the last 24 hours.  If someone had poured milk into host meat stew and had called a rav, he would not have asked how old the milk nor stew were.  If they are edible and mixed hot, they are forbidden.  What's with the 24 business?  Tastes that come from absorbed tastes have obviously undergone a quantitative change; that is, it is weaker than the original taste (primary vector, if you will).  However, it has also undergone a qualitative change; namely, it is only tasty for 24 hours, after which time it icky.  I hope that's not too technical.  If you prefer: for 24 hours it is נותן טעם לשבח/gives a beneficial flavor, and after that it is נותן טעם לפגם/gives a bad taste.  The Torah only forbids good tasting mixtures of meat and milk (and other forbidden substances, actually).

This concept of a taste from a taste has so much practical use, that it has been given a name: נותן טעם בר נותן טעם/taste give son of a taste giver; most frequently referenced by its initials, נ''ט בר נ''ט (pronounced "knot bar knot").

Back to our broccoli. Suppose it has been more than 24 hours since you used that pot.  Therefore, the broccoli does have a slight meaty taste, but it is נ''ט בר נ''ט and more than 24 hours old, so not a worry.  Your spoon, however, was just used to stir your coffee (which has milk in it for reasons that I simply cannot fathom).  That spoon, therefore, imparts a נ''ט בר נ''ט milky taste which is still good.  As a consequence, we are going to make that brocolli dairy.  It won't make you dairy, but you are not allowed to eat it with meat.  Once the broccoli has become dairy, by the way, it's dairy.  We don't care that it got the flavor via נ''ט בר נ''ט; once the flavor gets into food, it becomes and remains food.

What about the spoon?  Well... it got some meat flavor from the broccoli that is  בר נ''טנ''ט בר נ''ט.  We don't have a term for that because no matter how many  בר נ''ט's you have, its basically the same stuff, just getting weaker and weaker.  The spoon is fine because בר נ''טנ''ט בר נ''ט is just such a weak taste that you'd never notice it.

What about the pot? Technically we shouldn't worry about it, but it looks weird because the broccoli is dairy and you know good and well that the pot is fleishig.  Moreover, the broccoli is fine "after that fact", but you'd never do that on purpose and it's going to be consumed (or tossed) very soon.  The pot, on the other hand, is going to be around for a long time.  Therefore, since you can kasher pots, you'd need to kasher that pot.

What if the pot is earthenware or china and can't be kashered?  Go ask you rav.

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