He's not the only one confused. Despite the recent portraits of orthodox or ultra-orthodox Jewish life on Netflix (by the way, the majority of Jews are either reform or secular), I'm betting that most non-Jews (and even some Jews) are equally clueless and wondering - what's this about milk glasses or meat plates?
So as a public service, I offer the following guide. Disclaimer: I am reform and don't keep kosher, although I have orthodox family, so I may get a few things wrong. Also, some things will be omitted because of space and time - there are literally volumes on kosher laws. And I will be offering side and sometimes snarky commentary, because - well, just because...
Permitted land animals: Most people know this. Kosher red meat only comes from mammals that chew the cud and have cloven hooves: cows, goats, and sheep are allowed. Almost any bird is allowed, except birds of prey.
Not allowed: Pigs (everyone knows this one), rabbits, snakes, frogs, snails, horses. (I'm okay with most of this. Bacon is tasty, but pigs are smart, affectionate animals - and I don't like to eat animals that respond to their names. Rabbits, not as smart, but cute. Horses, not that smart either, but I'm not eating Black Beauty. Snakes and frogs - yuck. Snails sound pretty nasty, until you have them as escargot in a French restaurant and then yum.)
Any meat, even from a permitted animal, must be prepared in a kosher manner from slaughter to table. I'm not going into the rules about kosher slaughter - because I don't want to. Once the meat is at the butcher shop, all the blood must be eliminated - by soaking in water multiple times. That’s why you will never get a rare steak at a kosher restaurant.
Permitted fish: Fins and scales required. Salmon, trout, flounder, cod, etc.
Not allowed: Dolphins, whales (See above on not eating smart animals.) Alligators, turtles. (Don't want to eat either.) Oysters, shrimp, lobster, clam, crabs. (I love shellfish - one reason I don't keep kosher. Other reasons are too complex for this blog. Another time.)
Alcohol: If made from sugar or grains and has no contact with any possible non-kosher ingredient (will get to that in a minute), most alcohol is fine. Whiskey, vodka (Kolya's favorite), gin, except during Passover when grains aren't allowed. Anything made from grapes or having any grape ingredients has to be kosher. How do you make wine kosher? Observant Jews must watch or personally handle the process from crushing the grapes to bottling the wine.
Milk and meat: Eating them together is forbidden. No cheeseburgers. No ice cream after a chicken dinner. No cheese on meat spaghetti sauce. Six hours must pass between eating meat and eating milk. Not as much time the other way unless you eat hard cheese. Cakes and pastries are dairy - or pareve - which can be eaten with either dairy or meat because pareve foods contain neither. Dairy tends to taste better. Just saying. But wait six hours to eat it after a hamburger.
Dishes: Observant Jews have four sets of dishes and four sets of silverware, four sets of pots and pans, because you can't eat meat from a plate that's had dairy or vice versa. Some strict orthodox have separate sets of glasses for milk and meat. It doesn't matter if you run dishes through the dishwasher in between. The spiritual aura of milk or meat clings to the plates. Don't ask. So, you do ask, why four sets? Because of Passover. (Below.)
Passover: The eight-day holiday in the spring when Jews remember the Exodus from Egypt. You probably know that bread is forbidden. So is cereal. In some communities, corn and beans, out. Crackers. Cake. Cookies. No. No. No. (Unless, made out of matzo meal and specifically kosher for Passover) Wine has to be kosher for Passover. So does Coke. So does EVERYTHING. Actually, if you keep kosher, you can't eat ANY foods that aren't specifically kosher for Passover. You also scrub the house for any hint of breadcrumbs, store away the pots and pans and dishes from the rest of the year, and then bring out the stuff that's only used for Passover.
How do you know if something is kosher? For food to be kosher requires not only that kosher ingredients be used, but to ensure no cheating, the preparation of kosher food must be overseen by an orthodox rabbi. Packaged foods are marked to indicate whether they are kosher - with a K or a U inside an O. There are other symbols, including a Hebrew K - look them up. Foods that are pareve or dairy are marked, usually, and again pareve means that a food item can be eaten with meat or dairy. Fish are considered pareve. So are eggs. Don't ask.
Okay, so what have I left out? A lot. This was just meant as a rough guide. If you're interested in more in-depth knowledge, there are a lot of resources out there. Or contact me. I might not be able to answer your questions, but we can have a nice chat.
Nerve Attack is available for preorder on Amazon and through independent bookstores everywhere. The first chapter is available on her website. https://www.sleemanning.com