Hosting Meals is No Picnic

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I inherited my love of hosting Shabbat meals from my mother. Growing up we had company for at least one meal every Shabbat. Friday nights were often a family affair, but Saturday lunches often involved 10-12 people. Preparing and serving a meal for a dozen people once a week is the kind of task that intimidates a lot of people but my mom taught me the skills to make the whole thing very low-stress and rewarding.

I’ve been living in New York for almost three years now, and I still host one meal a week (but I actually think I’m going to cut down to one every other week because wow is it expensive to cook that much!). One thing that has gotten to be more and more of an issue is dealing with guests who have a myriad of dietary restrictions. Not just vegetarians and/or strict kosher keepers, but celiac disease, lactose intolerance, people who “prefer no refined sugar or flour.” It can be very complicated to plan a menu to satisfy everyone.

JTA has an article today about dealing with hosting Shabbat meals with lots of dietary hoops to jump through, and it quotes me (among others).

So yes, allergies and whatnot are a concern when planning meals, but allow me to introduce you to a little thing I like to call The Internet, where you can search for and easily find recipes that you can serve to any permutation of allergy-ridden guests. For instance, have some vegans and a gluten-free friend coming over and want to serve a decadent dessert that doesn’t involve (ugh) tofu? How about this baby—a chilled double chocolate torte that looks amazing.

Looking for some more tips on how to plan and execute a good Shabbat dinner? Look here! And The Kitchn offers some good basic tips for making your guests feel comfortable, a big part of the mitzvah of hakhnasat orhim.

Posted on June 6, 2011

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