April 19, 2000
Chag Same'ach, all!
Tonight was my first vegan Seder, and it was wonderful! I've heard various folks discuss the issues surrounding a vegan Passover so I thought I'd share my experience.
I have been vegetarian for about 8 years and vegan for around 4. I have been Jewish since birth. I attended a Yeshiva through eighth grade so received a fairly comprehensive Jewish education in addition to becoming fluent in Hebrew (though many years of disuse has caused that to deteriorate greatly). I attended many Seders growing up, in particular at home and at school. As I got older and began to question the religious aspects of my culture more, I found myself increasingly frustrated with many aspects of the rituals. However, after reconciling what I'd learned over the years, including Judaic Studies such as Kabbalah in college, I settled into being an atheist* Jew, which is actually not a contradiction. [* That actually wasn't a very accurate simplication of my belief system, but in any case, it's not terribly relevant.]
As I'm sure all of you know, being vegan means almost always being on the outside when it comes to group meals. There may be a dozen dishes that everyone can eat and only a couple that we can. My sweetie is also vegan, which helps a lot as we both love to cook, though his other sweetie is ovo-lacto. This year we decided that we would host our own Seder and, since we could, make it vegan. We invited our parents to join us but they mostly couldn't make it. The one set who could ended up cancelling early this afternoon due to a sudden illness. To make matters worse, our other housemate was having a bad allergic reaction to some boxes that were brought into the living room and informed us that she would not be able to attend, either. So this left just the three of us and all of our food plans.
By this point, all of our Jewish friends already had Seder plans. We had even been invited to some, but declined in favour of our own. So this afternoon, we began calling friends who we thought would make good company and soon assembled a group of seven, including ourselves, which was about what we could comfortably seat at the table, anyway. Meanwhile, we were busy in the kitchen preparing the array of vegan dishes that would be served.
The meal itself consisted of the following:
= Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Dip, served with matzah
(from Lorna Sass' _Complete Vegetarian Kitchen_)
= Vegetable Soup with Matzah Balls
(personal modifications of a soup recipe I was given
and matzah balls from back of matzah meal box, with potato
starch (or NRG) in place of eggs)
= Potato-Leek-Broccoli Casserole
(modified from the Potato-Leek Gratin in _Vegetarian
Celebrations_ by Nava Atlas)
= Carrot Tzimmes
("Julia's Carrot Tzimmes", recipe found on the web)
("Highlands Charoset", recipe found on the web)
= Steamed Asparagus
= Fresh assorted berries
= Chocolate pudding
(from _Tofu Cookery_ by Louise Hagler, but with grated
Ghirardelli chocolate instead of just cocoa powder)
= Vanilla cream topping
(also _Tofu Cookery_)
In addition, we had an assortment of wines, sparkling grape juice, and fruit juices, and of course the usual other stuff found on a Pesach table.
But wait, you might ask. What about the Seder plate? Well, I'm glad you brought that up. :) Much of it was as per usual: we had both parsley and lettuce for the greens, chopped horseradish root as well as horseradish condiment for the bitter herbs, and the aforementioned charoset. Instead if a shankbone, we use a roasted beet. Apparently (according to our sources) the Talmud explicitly allows for roasted beet to replace the shankbone, as the color helps supply the relevant symbolism. We labeled it the "shankbeet".
The real dilemma was the egg. I felt very strongly about having a vegan Seder and did not want an egg on the plate but we could not agree on a suitable alternative. Then yesterday while buying ingredients I stumbled across the perfect substitute: miniature white eggplant! We'd never seen them before, or even heard of them, but there they were in the produce section. They are egg-shaped and egg-sized and egg-colored, except for the stem, which I cut off anyway. They fooled several guests who had to do double-takes upon closer examination. I suppose this might be where the eggplant got its name, huh.
The Haggadah that we used is an egalitarian "reconstructionist" Haggadah called _A Night of Questions_ that we received from the aforementioned parents who ended up unable to join us. All present agreed that it was an excellent book. The open-ended commentaries and questions posed made us all think and spurred much good discussion. It also has a companion CD which I played pieces of since I was the only person who knew the melodies and songs and I wasn't going to sing by myself. :) Since I was the only person with a strong background on the matter, I guided the Seder, but it was led by all. We took turns reading pieces and guests chose the commentaries or pieces they wished to read aloud at any time.
Since the earlier chaos resulted in a late start, we fudged the order a bit by letting the meal run through most of the rest of the Seder and reading and talking between or during courses. We retired to the living room for dessert and to listen to the remainder of the songs on the CD.
All present agreed that it was the best Seder they had ever attended, which was quite a compliment, given that not only was it the first we'd ever hosted, but we'd only just thrown the group together a few hours beforehand. Luckily, we have some very cool friends.
(Cross-posted to vegancooking and jewishvegan)