All questions, problems or issues about keeping kosher ultimately revolve around the basic principles of kashrut described above. Usually, the questions have to do with the last basic element, the complete separation of milk and meat products. The use of different sets of dishes and pots and pans, developed in order to ensure a greater separation between milk and meat foods. This is also the basis of waiting several hours after eating a meat dish before eating a dairy product, so that the two types of food shouldn't even mix together in our stomachs! (A much shorter wait is required after some dairy foods before consuming meat.)
Whether a particular food is considered kosher or not usually has to do with whether any substance or product used in its manufacture was derived from a non-kosher animal or even an animal that is kosher but was not slaughtered in the prescribed manner. Rabbinic supervision of the production of food (a practiced called hashgachah) enables it to carry a "seal of approval" (but no, it is not "blessed by a rabbi").
There are three categories of kosher foods:
1) dairy foods, such as cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
2) meat foods, which includes all kosher animals and fowl slaughtered in the prescribed manner, and their derivative products.
3) pareve foods, using a Yiddish word meaning "neutral." These are foods that are neither dairy nor meat, such as eggs and fish, tofu, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and the like, provided they are not prepared with any milk or meat products.
In keeping kosher, it is necessary to keep all dairy and meat foods completely separate. Pareve foods, however, may be mixed in and served with either category of food since these foods are neither milk nor meat.
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