I’m sitting on the beach with Danny, eating a turkey club with bacon, when he tells me that bacon is not kosher.

“What’s kosher?” I ask.

Danny explains to me that there are kosher and non-kosher animals, kosher and non-kosher meat, and restaurants that are specifically kosher.

I was surprised. Though I wasn’t Jewish at that time, I’d dated Jews before who loved bacon. One ex-boyfriend would pop strips of baconI’d dated Jews who loved bacon into the toaster oven of our college mess hall and eat only that for breakfast. And I’d definitely had a cheeseburger or two and crab dip with my Jewish friends.

I first learned the laws of kosher about a year later, when I was in conversion classes at my local Orthodox synagogue. I heard about how non-kosher animals were killed. Kosher slaughter was quick and painless; the chickens and cows and lambs died instantly. Being an animal lover, I decided to give up non-kosher meat as soon as possible.

In the summer of 2011, I went home to Baltimore and ate crabs, telling myself that was the last time I was ever going to have them. This wasn’t easy; I had grown up on crabs and made jokes that I could crack one open before I could walk. But I knew it was the right thing for me to do. During that last hurrah, I actually felt sick afterwards.

On a plane back from Ireland a month after that, I had my last non-kosher meat: subpar chicken pasta. When I got off the plane, again I felt sick.

While I hadn’t learned about kosher kitchens and was still eating vegetarian at non-kosher restaurants at this point, I haven’t touched non-kosher meat since then.

It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I didn’t fully understand why non-kosher meat was off-limits, but the ethics behind it—coupled with my appreciation of an animal’s suffering and my acceptance of the Torah’s laws—keeps me from going back to meat that was slaughtered in a non-kosher manner.

For months, Danny kept eating non-kosher meat. Then he decided to give up non-kosher beef, and finally, non-kosher chicken. He said as he was eating it that he could feel spiritually disconnected somehow. We were finally in this together.

When I moved from New York to Los Angeles five years ago, I decided to have a fresh start and make my kitchen kosher. I bought new utensils, dishware, pans and appliances, and cleaned out the oven that had come with our new apartment. I read the rules of the kosher kitchen on and contacted my rabbi, who helped me make everything 100 percent kosher.

I found it much harder to stop eating vegetarian food at non-kosher restaurants where they served meat. Most of our friends are non-observant or not Jewish at all, so it was difficult to navigate outings with them while still being respectful of kosher laws.

A typical interaction with a waiter would look like this.

Me: “Excuse me, is the rice made with chicken stock?”

Waiter: “I don’t know. Let me check with the kitchen.”

Two minutes later, the waiter comes back and says: “Yes, it is.”

Me: “Does the salad have balsamic vinegar in it?”

Waiter: “Um. I don’t know. Let me check.”

Two minutes later, the waiter comes back and says there is balsamic vinegar in the salad dressing.

Me: “Is there rennet in the cheese?”

Waiter: “Hold on.”

Two minutes later . . . you get the point.

After I would finally figure out something I could eat, I would then ask if it was made on the same grill as the meat or cooked in the same soup pot as non-kosher items. And when I learned that I needed to checkWhen we travel, not everything is readily available certain vegetables to make sure there weren’t bugs on them, it became impossible. It was just exhausting. A few years ago, I just started inviting friends to my house for Shabbat or suggesting kosher restaurants to meet at instead.

Danny (now my husband) and I have been committed to a kosher lifestyle for several years now. We took it on gradually, which was the only way I think anyone not used to it can be successful.

There are many times when this lifestyle is frustrating. For example, kosher meat is pricey. So are kosher restaurants. And when we travel, not everything is readily available.

But going kosher made sense to me. I don’t want to mix milk and meat, which to me represents mixing life with death. I don’t want to eat animals that suffered as they were being slaughtered. I don’t want to eat animals that have predatory qualities.

Most of all, I’ve acknowledged that kosher food has a huge effect on my soul. If it’s what G‑d wants and the Torah commands, I’m willing to do it. I only get one body and one soul, and I’m going to care for it to the best of my ability.