Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The vegan sukkah Nazi

I get to use the word Nazi 'cause I'm a Jew... : ) 

And Jews build sukkahs. Without going into a lot of detail, we celebrate Sukkot, which is a holiday best described as a Jewish Thanksgiving. The sukkah is a structure we build in the yard to commemorate the 40 years the Jews spent wandering in the desert, and we decorate it with fruit and palm leaves to celebrate the season's harvest. The best part is that we eat and sleep in it for a week! Eating in the sukkah is very important, and eating good food always jives well with veganism! 

Our sukkah is still in progress of being decorated, but here is the structure: 

We are SUPER lucky to have a group of amazing volunteers come out each year to help us build ours. These volunteers come through a Jewish network and it's everyone's first time meeting. The first year, the organization offered to provide bagels and cream cheese. I wrote back thanking them, explaining that we are vegan and that I would be happy to supply tofutti vegan cream cheese and bagels. The coordinator was super sweet, said they would supply the nosh, which they did... in addition to cow cream cheese. 

Each year since, there has been non-vegan food brought into the sukkah by the volunteers. I appreciate their help so much, it is difficult to ask them not to eat in it, especially since it is such a special part of building a sukkah (and, many times there are young toddlers eating in it). But I can't shake the feeling that it's been "contaminated"! Am I being overly dramatic? Yeah, probably. But would any of them bring non-kosher food into a kosher sukkah? I bet not! Plus, as I've written before, the kids really dislike being around non-veg foods, so it makes me feel like I'm not ensuring their own home is a "safe zone" if I stay quiet. 

So what to do? Endanger the virginity of the veg sukkah, or play the vegan sukkah Nazi? Because as I've found countless times over, it's easy for people to ignore veg requests and "forget". Meaning, I would be paranoid and guarding the structure rather than enjoying it, and really, who wants that? At the same time, there are very few vegan sanctuaries in our lives, and I'd like to keep this as one. 

I think next year I will the organization to forward a nicely worded email to the volunteers from me, hoping that will ward off the issue... and if not, suck it up and deal with it. Another way to teach the kids tolerance.... 

If you're familiar with Judaism, you're aware that many Jews keep kosher - meaning, there is no mixing of dairy and meat, and that all foods are labeled "meat", "dairy", or "parve". This means TOTAL SEPARATION of meat and milk - different dishes, sinks, refrigerators, counter tops and  those food items at all meals (yep, cheeseburgers are OUT!)  Yes, it's a TON of work! And beyond me why they aren't all just vegan - let me tell you, it makes it WAY easier! : ) 

So when the Rabbi's sons asked why my kids couldn't have the snacks they brought, I tried explaining veganism. They were young, so I just said "we don't eat any meat or dairy", knowing they would be very familiar with both terms. He looked completely perplexed until I said, "oh, we only eat parve foods without eggs or fish". He smiled and said, "oh, I get it!"


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