"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


A Tale of Two Shabbatot

I’ve attended Shabbat dinners in some wonderful and varied settings, including in rabbis’ homes, with family and friends, and in Israel. My last two Shabbat dinners stand out as remarkable and, for me at least, new territory.

On my birthday, I spent most of the daylight hours in the kitchen preparing Shabbat dinner for my family. Believe it or not, I had never prepared a Shabbat dinner before and couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday. (Have no fear—I did other fun things later that weekend.)

I’d wanted to put together a Shabbat dinner for quite some time, as I’ve gradually been getting more interested in cooking. After finishing Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and starting on In Defense of Food (click here to read last week’s post about those books), I was inspired to concoct a Shabbat dinner from scratch, using whole foods to a great extent.

Everything was vegan, and four out of five dishes came out fantastic. The polenta with bruschetta as well as the salad were great, and I made them shitarayn-style. The bean-and-barley cholent was made using the recipe from Roberta Kalechofsky and Rosa Rasiel's The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook and was better than expected. The pumpkin pie was out of this world and was the only dish that had any soy (silken tofu). My whole-wheat challah was subpar because of a few mistakes on my part (e.g., the recipe called for four loaves and I only made one, but I accidentally used the full amount of sugar). I don’t blame the recipe, but readers’ favorite recipes for vegan challah are welcome.

This past weekend, my friend Will and I went to visit our friend Sherri in Philadelphia. For quite some time, Sherri has been telling me about a local Reconstructionist group called Kol Tzedek. I know relatively little about the Reconstructionist movement, but I’ve long been eager to attend one of Kol Tzedek's vegetarian Shabbat potlucks.

At the conclusion of Kol Tzedek's "Kol Tehilla" (voice of praise) service on Friday night, people split up to go to one of four different homes hosting vegetarian potlucks. I went to a co-op inhabited by six warm-and-welcoming, progressive-minded folks. All the main dishes were vegan and delicious: two quinoa dishes, kale, salad, spicy squash, and a tofu dish that even Will admitted tasted like chicken. The company and the discussions were terrific, and I couldn’t help but wonder about vegetarian Shabbat potlucks in my area.


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