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What Do "Milchig, Fleishig and Pareve" Mean?

What Do "Milchig, Fleishig and Pareve" Mean?

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One of the primary rules of kosher living is that meat and dairy are kept as separate as east and west—never the twain shall meet. This means that kosher culinary culture is divided into three camps:

Milchigs: Dairy. This includes everything that is made from milk, such as cheese, butter, etc.

Fleishigs: Meat: This includes everything made from meat or poultry, including their schmaltz (rendered fat).

Parve: Things that fits into neither camp, such as fruit, veggies, eggs, fish, water, etc. These neutral foods may be consumed together with eithermilchigs or fleishigs. Note that fish is parve but may not be eaten with meat for reasons that are beyond the scope of this article.

General Neutrality: Beyond the kitchen, the word parve has come to describe anything that is neutral, so a political centrist can describe his political views as parve, and a door-to-door salesman who did not sell anything but was also not thrown out the door outright can describe his reception as being parve.

Dishes: The kosher kitchen has separate utensils for meat, dairy (and often parve), since in Jewish law, flavor can transfer from utensils. So make sure to keep the milchig ladle out of the steaming pot of fleishig chicken soup.

People Too: After eating meat, we wait until the next meal (typically six hours, depending on one’s custom) to have dairy. During that six-hour period, a person can describe oneself as fleishig (but not fleishigs, see below for an explanation). Conversely, for a time after eating dairy (exactly how long depends on custom and circumstance) a person can be called milchig. And, you guessed it, when a person has had neither meat nor dairy, that person is parve.

Except for the Milkman: When a person is described as a “milchiger” it need not mean that he just had cheese blintzes or coffee with cream. Rather, it can (in theory, nowadays) mean that he is a dairyman, who either raises milk cows or delivers/sells milk.

Suffixes, Suffixes, Suffixes

These words appear in (at least) three forms, which English speakers often mix up. Ready to learn something new? Here goes:

Milchigs or Fleishigs. When followed by an “s,” these are nouns, referring to the food itself. Milchigs is a milchig meal and fleishig is a fleishig meal. So when you are deciding between the kosher pizza parlor (where there’s no pepperoni in sight) or the local deli (“corned beef on rye, please”), your choice is between milchigs or fleishigs.

Milchig or Fleishig. When these words are used following the food they describe, they appear in their simple form. So you can have a coffee that is milchig only six hours after your hamburger, which is fleishig. In this case, milchig and fleishig are classed as predicate adjectives.

Milchige, Milchiger, Milchigen, Fleishige, Fleishiger, Fleishigen. However, if the sentence is structured differently, milchig becomes milchige, milchiger or milchigen; and fleishig becomes fleishige, fleishiger or fleishigen.

These differences have to do with the complexities of Yiddish grammar, and the words change depending on whether the nouns are classed as male, female, and neutral, on how you structure your sentence, and whether you are referring to a single item or many items.

Sorry. I can’t help you more than that without writing an essay so long that if you begin reading it while eating fleishige meatballs, you will become parve by the time you finish.

Read; Meat, Dairy, and Pareve.

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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