I have to give a lot of respect to Jews that keep Kosher, because I know how difficult it can be to stick with a restricted diet. During Passover especially, that diet becomes so limited, that some of my Jewish friends recently asked me if I thought it was possible to stay vegan during Passover. At first I thought, “No leavened bread? No problem!” but then I realized that some keep rules far more strict than that.
I learned that Ashkenazi Jews also avoid a group of foods categorized as kitiniyot which includes rice, peas, lentils, beans, and corn. (Now I know what Meredith was referring to in her recent Passover foods post, when she mentioned becoming aware of so many corn additives!) So no legumes, eh? No soy products… no grains… Ok, that does in fact rule out a major chunk of my vegan diet.
But I wasn’t ready to back down from this challenge just yet…
Last night I invited some friends over for a vegan Passover dinner. One made Charoset, a traditional Jewish dish made of nuts, apples, cinnamon and wine. Often it’s made with honey, which some vegans avoid. An easy substitute is agave nectar. He prepared a bit chunkier than it’s sometimes served, as you can see here, and we ate it spooned onto some matzah. Delicious!
Another friend made the amazing leek patties you see pictured to the left. I realized a bit too late that he’d used tofu to substitute as a binding agent for eggs, so the strict Jews couldn’t eat it. Normally I use cornstarch with water to bind patties, but since that would be out too, if anyone has a Kosher and vegan suggestion, I’m all ears!
As the only Goy amongst our group, I had to do a little research for our main course, which came courtesy of PETA’s Passover pages. They feature several great Kosher recipes, some more traditional than others. I went with the Eggplant Casserole, and it was a big hit.
Through my recipe research I also learned more about the growing movement amongst Jews to move toward vegetarianism. As investigations of unethical slaughterhouses become more and more commonplace, there has been much outrage in the Jewish community over Kosher slaughterhouses, which are typically thought of as being more humane. Turns out that’s not always the case. You can watch a video called If This is Kosher narrated by prolific author Jonathan Safran Foer at GoVeg.com which explores this issue more in-depth.
Back to my original question though, is it possible to keep Kosher, and keep up a vegan diet? Our dinner last night proved that it’s possible, though not without a bit of research and creativity. The hardest part is finding protein, but you can consider these plant-based, Kosher protein sources:
Quinoa is actually a seed, and not a grain, so it makes a great protein packed meal and is great with veggies.
Any nuts (excluding peanuts, which some consider kitiniyot as well). This actually opens up the door for a number of raw food recipes, packed high in nutrients. Raw foodists definitely know some great tricks for turning nuts and seeds into “breads.” Definitely worth exploring if you’ve gotten your fill of matzah this week!
For other resources, check out this sustainablog post on green Passover celebrations.