Menu-planning for the holidays has quickly become the transcontinental operation it was always destined to turn into. Group chats chart recipe swapping between family members around the world as soon as back-to-school season starts. This makes way for color-coded spreadsheets which lead to shopping lists planned out based on potential routes through the grocery store. May God help you if you get in the way of a Jewish mother menu-planning for the high holidays. Four-course meals have become the new norm and when you add up every meal for every holiday, the amount of food is simply staggering.
While we have finally started to acknowledge the pressure that comes from planning, shopping for, and cooking so many meals, the pressure to eat such a large amount of food remains. We have barely digested one four-course meal before we start setting the table for the next one. The beauty of breaking bread together and taking part in longstanding religious traditions over laughter and clinking glasses almost disappears beneath the pressure to live up to these impossible standards.
Rethink Your Approach
This is why we recommend rethinking your approach to food this yom tov season. Consider a more balanced technique for menu planning that allows you and your family to avoid such intense ups and downs with overeating and then feeling the need to restrict to make up for it. Make a concerted effort to create a menu that provides enough protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients but try and avoid the pressure to over-prepare. It’s reasonable to expect that your guests will leave the table comfortably full and satisfied without having to undo a few notches on their belts.
1. Take your entire yom tov schedule into account
Have you ever prepared a full four-course meal complete with place cards and swan-shaped napkins only to have your husband and kids come home full from eating at the shul Kiddush? Take your entire yom tov schedule into account when planning your meals and don’t over-prepare for days when there will be a two-course meal complete with pickled herring and a meat cholent at shul.
2. Scale down your courses
Consider choosing just a fish or soup course instead of both. You won’t take away from the beauty of the holiday by scaling back. You can also divide one salad up into smaller containers to be placed along the table to give the illusion of more food without doubling the number of recipes you’re making.
3. Plan with a theme
Consider choosing a theme and creating dishes around that cuisine for every meal. This helps you create a more limited menu without serving the same food over and over again. Try meatballs in a crockpot and freshly made pasta. Consider a Mexican theme that includes build-your-own tacos and margaritas for the grownups. Have fun with your yom tov meals and feel comfortable breaking out of the regular mold!
4. Eliminate waste and post-holiday leftovers
After the holidays end, the last thing anyone wants to look at is another piece of chicken. Make the last meal of the holiday a leftover medley. This way no food goes to waste and you won’t be stuck eating brisket out of a Tupperware at the office the following week. It’s also one less meal to worry about planning!
By shifting your mindset and saying no to all the usual holiday pressure you can ensure a smoother and less stressful yom tov season for all!
This article was originally published in Issue 436 of Whisk by Ami Magazine
By: Miriam Herst