April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Miracle of the Downdraft Vent

Yes, I can still remember my mother frying latkes in our Borough Park attached home. As you might imagine there was no working kitchen hood anywhere in sight. If things got bad enough, ie. burning latkes, smoking frying pans, the only recourse was to crack a window wide open. As Chanukah comes in mid to late December, this was not a great solution. It appears that these episodes left an indelible mark on me as proper kitchen ventilation became a “burning” issue when I began looking for my first rental in Teaneck and subsequently searching for a new home.

Of course, as fate would have it, neither my first apartment on Terrace Circle nor my first home on Edgewood Ave in Teaneck had exhaust hoods. Thus the tradition of smokey nights in our kitchen continued.

As our family grew and images of a bigger, four bedroom home evolved, I began to keep a mental list of what I considered essential. I am certain I said more than once that “there will be a working exhaust hood in my new kitchen!” Sure enough, we went to see a lovely home situated a little far out from the neighborhood we originally wanted, but this home had everything we were hoping for. My husband, all excited by the discovery of an exhaust fan in the kitchen, exclaimed “It’s perfect!” as he knew I was adamant about having this. My smile began to fade as I walked into the kitchen after my husband.

“Where is the hood?”

He pointed to the black grate built into the island countertop next to the burners and said, “It’s right there, in the island.”

“Oh… a downdraft vent; they don’t work very well.”

My husband wisely remarked how in the Beit Hamikdash there was the miracle of the burnt offering and how the smoke always traveled directly up and even if there was wind it would always go straight up. I wasn’t sure if he was backing up my point that smoke goes up and not down or if there was going to be a miracle in our kitchen, but I was not too happy.

Chanukah came a few weeks after we moved into our home off “the Strand,” and the big test arrived. Would I be able to make my mom’s potato latkes and not have the whole house smell like oil and smoke by the end of the night? I put the vent on and got to work. One of my friends brought over a gift and came into the kitchen to keep me company. When she saw my vent she immediately knew something was wrong.

“Have you ever cleaned the filters?’’ she asked me. “If you don’t wash them your vent won’t work!”

She carried the filters to the sink, scrubbed vigorously, put them back in and voila! It was a Chanukah miracle, but instead of the smoke going straight up the smoke went straight down into my uncommon and somewhat odd downdraft vent!


Nechama Polak is the broker of record and owner of V and N Group LLC located at 1401 Palisade Ave in Teaneck. [email protected] 201 826 8809.

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