What Happens When My Guests Don’t Eat Rosh Hashanah Staples?

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Dear Miriam,

I am having a number of people over for Rosh Hashanah with a variety of food restrictions, including one person who is allergic to apples and another who is vegan and doesn’t eat honey. How can I still make the meal feel traditional and sweet? 


Sweet Substitutions


Dear Substitutions,

As a host, accommodating your guests’ needs is a large part of your role. But you can do that graciously and within reason without throwing your whole menu and planning process into chaos and making your own holiday more stressful than it ought to be. You’ll need to talk to your guests about their varying food restrictions, decide what you’re able to provide based on your own bandwidth, and be willing to ask for help and set boundaries.

Unless the person with the apple allergy will have an anaphylactic reaction to them sitting on the table, you can still serve apples. But you’ll only know how serious these restrictions are by asking. When you have vegan or vegetarian guests, it’s important to have substantial food that will satisfy them (translation: protein and not just veggies). In most cases, as long as you carefully describe ingredients and maintain separate serving utensils (or label things if you’re doing a buffet) you don’t have to have all the menu items meet everyone’s specifications. 

Maybe for the apple-allergic, dipping challah in honey is sufficient, or serving honeyed carrots as a side dish or honey cake as a dessert will be enough. If your guest is Jewish, she’s encountered this problem at previous Rosh Hashanah meals and probably has her own solution, which you’ll only know if you ask. Since the vegan won’t eat honey, expand the dips for everyone: silan (date honey), maple syrup, chocolate sauce, vegan caramel, or even frosting could all be fun options. You can also ask if she has a favorite vegan Rosh Hashanah main dish and could she provide you with the recipe.

Hosting can be a wonderful, enriching experience and an opportunity to share a meal with friends is a beautiful way to start the new year. But you don’t need to turn yourself inside out to do it. If someone offers to bring something, say yes, and specify that it should meet one of the requirements for one of the food restrictions – either that of the person offering or of one of the other guests. “Thanks, I’d love for you to bring a dessert. Is it possible that you could bring one that’s vegan?” You can also outsource by purchasing pre-made items to ease your overall cooking load, especially of potentially unfamiliar foods. Your desire to accommodate is admirable, and I hope your guests’ appreciation matches your attention to detail.

Be well, and shana tova u’metukah – a sweet and happy new year,