“I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you…Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that [serve only vegetarian options]? Just print a bumper sticker.”
Did this article that concluded with this choice comment in today’s NY Times Sunday Styles section annoy others as much as it annoyed me? Of course weddings should reflect one’s values, so if you’re kosher, or vegan, or vegetarian, why wouldn’t you serve kosher, vegan, or vegetarian food? As the vegan Kathleen Mink quoted in the article said, it was a “no brainer” to have a vegan menu at her and her husband’s wedding. But another vegan pastry chef served meat at her wedding because she was afraid celebrity chefs like Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud would think she and her husband “were crazy” if they didn’t serve meat. Yes, it’s important that the couple be good hosts and make their guests feel welcome, and it’s hard for a guest to feel that way if there’s nothing they can eat at the wedding banquet. Vegetarian guests or those with others with dietary restrictions certainly appreciate their hosts’ thoughtfulness in offering them options they can eat. But since when is it a hardship for omnivores not to have everything they can and will eat on the wedding menu!?
There’s an underlying assumption here that somehow vegetarian, vegan, and I would extend this also to kosher food cannot be prepared deliciously for discriminating palates. If vegan, vegetarian, or kosher food is not appealing to non-vegans, non-vegetarians, or non-kosher folks, it’s the failure of imagination and skill of the chefs, not that these foods can’t be tasty. These cuisines have come a long way from the bad old days of “rabbit food,” as the readers and contributors of the Jew and the Carrot know well. In Jewish tradition, the wedding banquet is a se’udat mitzvah, a meal celebrating the performance of a mitzvah, which has a moral connotation. As does veganism and vegetarianism for many of their practitioners. But there doesn’t need to be a divide between morality and aesthetics. In Judaism, we have the concept of hiddur mitzvah – the “beautification of a mitzvah”. Good food at a wedding can, indeed should reflect both our moral and aesthetic values.
But that point is made only to the extent that indeed our guests enjoy themselves. That’s the proof of the pudding (as it were)! Indeed, I know from my own experience that weddings are a chance to prove to our family and friends that keeping kosher can be no less fulfilling than eating lobster and pork belly, even as vegetarians “see their weddings as a chance to prove that they are eating more than tree bark and lettuce.”