Somehow over the almost two years I’ve been doing this, a number of people have referred to the project affectionately (I hope) as the Shabblog. Cody is one of those people, and I’m so glad to share his vegan Shabbat experience. My mouth was watering as I read this, and I’m sure yours will, too! Also, just a reminder that there are only a small handful of available weeks left before the blog ENDS, so if you want in, now’s your chance!
I have never been a vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan or attempted any sort of paleo/caveman diet, and I’m not a fan of leafy produce. Opposite of my unfamiliarity with all things ‘non-meat,’ I AM kind of an expert in the whole hosting-of-shabbat-dinners thing. This dinner, besides being of new foods, was hosted by a friend with little (ok, by her own admission, zero) hosting experience.
So, an invite to a vegan Shabbat dinner on unfamiliar territory? Perfect, really. (What?! you say?) Shabbat is about the extraordinary, about leaving the mundane. I often take that as ‘try something new, something special.’ And, especially in the Philadelphia young Jewish scene, Shabbat is about community and friendship – old and new. Let’s get this straight right now: this evening was not about the food. Not about the best chicken parmigiana sandwich I’ve ever had, not about the barbecue and spicy chicken wings, that roasted, toasted and satisfied my hunger, and definitely, since we’re in Philadelphia, not about the cheesesteaks.
Like any [vegan] cheesy Shabbat story, my joy and take-home from this evening was about the new faces, the blasts from the past, and the looking at the watch for the first time at the end of the night and being shocked it was no longer Friday.
The invite, via Facebook, went out a respectful 3+ weeks beforehand. It included the pertinent details in an attractive format, like ‘hey, this is going on, you’re invited, [insert cute/clever comment 1], here are the instructions for getting to my place, here’s what you should bring, [insert cute/clever comment 2], I’m excited for this.’ Then, the real winner: it’s catered! Specifically, by a kosher, vegan restaurant.
The host also provided further details about that whole vegan thing, and what that means for bringing drinks (the guests’ responsibility). Turns out, not a lot of kosher wines are vegan. But no fear, and here’s a useful link for everyone, there’s a website to determine what IS cool: barnivore.com. I picked up some ginger beer and Root. If you haven’t tried one of the Art in the Age’s craft spirits, swing by your local liquor store for Root, Snap, Rhubarb or Sage. And get crazy with the mixers!
Despite my familiarity with hosting and attending Shabbat dinners, I still had questions (hint to newbies in town, attending your first dinner as a guest: questions for the host are MORE than ok!) that I sent via private message. Like, ‘Wait, vegan? Is my leather belt and/or shoes allowed in the apartment?’ (Answer, in this vegan’s apartment, at least for hosting purposes: Yes.)
The evening, for me, started with my arrival at the adorable apartment, up the somehow-charmingly-Philadelphian-amount of stairs, after Friday evening Shabbat services at my synagogue. So, I was late. The invite was accurate – I could smell the food and hear the voices from down the hallway and stairway. Delish! I arrived just in time for the start of a medium-length, more observant than I’m accustomed Kiddush and prayers. I made sure to sit with a mix of old friends and a couple whom I had never met, as well as an acquaintance or two nearby. It is a Philadelphia apartment, so it was cozy seating arrangements for the twenty guests. But hey, it’s not New York City, and elbows and knees were not knocking all evening 😉
In the interest of privacy and modesty, I’ll keep the conversations and topics out of print, but dating, Israel, food, new jobs, stress at school and ‘No way, we went to the same camp!’ themes were present. Being a slightly more observant crowd, no photographs were taken, phones (thankfully) were at a minimum, and the ol’ Birkat Hamazon after the meal – benching (grace after meals).
While not in my normal repertoire of Shabbat practices, something about post-meal prayers tends to set my evening into a more relaxed gear. The crowd thinned, and the formality, as often happens, subsided. Cups filled at a faster pace, and the host was finally able to kick back and relax. To those thinking of hosting: it’s the thought, effort and love you share, that makes a successful event, not the number of people, the taste of the food or the on-time start. That said, this evening was beautiful, well attended and filled our tummies with deliciousness. As for on-time, I wasn’t, so I can’t speak to that!
Unfortunately, since this was a catered event, no food was prepared, but I CAN make a suggestion for vegan, kosher food – Blackbird on 6th between Lombard and South. Mmmmm (see above for approval). Now, last week, I did make a dish for a shabbat lunch, and it was vegan, so I’ll share that 🙂
I don’t do specific measurements for things like this, it’s more of an ‘eye it out’ sort of thing…
CSA [mystery] long peppers – some green, some red, some spicy, all fresh
Reading Terminal Market – NJ onions
Reading Terminal Market – NJ scallions
Reading Terminal Market – garlic (only non-local item!)
Reading Terminal market – lime (ok, this probably wasn’t local either)
EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive oil (last one, I promise)
— chop everything up, mix in a large bowl, and then sprinkle in EVOO and about half a lime’s worth of juice. Serve chilled with plenty of chips!
Lime tip: throw a bit of the peel in the disposal to freshen up your sink!