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Starving the Seder Guests

Thursday, April 5, 2012
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Dear Miriam,

I am hosting seder for my family this year as a I do every year, and I've had the menu planned for weeks. Yesterday, my son called from college to say he wants to bring his new girlfriend with him, and she's a vegan. I have no idea what to serve her. Help!

Signed,
Starving the seder guests

Dear Starving,

Near the beginning of the seder, we say, "All who are hungry, let them come and eat." This includes vegans, last minute guests and new girlfriends. At least that's only one additional person in your case. (There are, of course, a variety of social justice implications to this line in the seder, but that's for another column.) You'll be able to feed her well and graciously, probably without having to alter your menu too much.

If you're planning to serve any kind of green salad, that will be fine for her to eat and it won't appear to your other guests that you've had to go out of your way to make a specialty item. Similarly, roasted vegetables are a delicious and popular seder item that are vegan-friendly. Cube and combine white potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash with some olive oil and salt and a few cloves of roughly chopped garlic. Bake at 425 until all the pieces are brown and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Roasted beets are another Passover favorite (some vegetarians and vegans put a beet on the seder plate in place of the shank bone). Wash whole beets and wrap each one in tinfoil. Put them in a baking pan with a little bit of water and bake at 400 or 425 until a knife goes through easily. After they cool, the skin will slip off, and you can dice them mixed with a little orange juice and fresh dill. Any number of dishes involving roasted eggplant are hearty enough to be a main dish and are also Passover and vegan-friendly, and a simple internet search is likely to yield a lot of additional suggestions.

Many vegans elect to eat kitniyot on Passover, which is the category of rice, beans and other legumes that many Ashkenazi Jews (those of Eastern European descent) avoid as a matter of tradition. For many people, that tradition has taken on the weight of law, but depending on your comfort level and that of your son's girlfriend, you might choose to serve her lentil soup or rice pilaf. One food that seems like it should be in the category of kitniyot but isn't (at least according to many authorities) is quinoa, and it's been all the rage among vegans and others looking for some food diversity during the holiday. It's quick and easy to cook and has protein, and most likely, this girl will already be familiar with it (and may even have some suggestions for how to prepare it).

How wonderful that your son wants his girlfriend to experience your family seder! Understandably, the stress of hosting seder along with this wrench thrown in the plans might make that point hard to see, but hopefully you can appreciate that you've raised a young man who values both family and traditions. Perhaps in time for next year's seder, you can help him see the value in planning ahead and giving his mother time to prepare for unexpected guests!

Be well,
Miriam

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