Unfortunately for those of us interested in food, the megillah doesn’t include any recipes. But that doesn’t stop us from imagining what Queen Esther had on her table. Chances are that the banquet Queen Esther planned for the King included some plant-based dishes. She may have even served less meat because she was concerned about the King’s cholesterol level, right?
So to answer my own question, Queen Esther was probably not on a diet, but maybe she was on a mission.
Maybe she served a smooth carrot bisque with a cooling cucumber salad. And why on earth wouldn’t she have made a healthier Hamentaschen using the smallest amount of coconut oil possible? (Okay, maybe it is a stretch to say she had access to coconut oil in ancient Persia or that she knew what hamantashen were, but you get the idea…)
I find the Talmudic story of Queen Esther’s vegetarianism compelling and inspiring. (It appears in some manuscripts of Megillah 13b.) Esther needed to keep the laws of kashrut while hiding her Jewish heritage, so vegetarianism was the perfect solution. Based on what we know today, it’s highly possible that her switch to eating more fruits, vegetables, tubers, legumes, and whole grains impacted how she felt in her body and in the world.
Eating plant-based food might have:
- Stabilized her mood and energy levels throughout the day
- Given her a taste of her own courage – showing her that she had the capacity to step outside of the mainstream (it is hard not to eat what everyone else is eating).
- Maybe she even lost a few extra pounds in the palace.
Esther’s courage and fortitude ultimately saved the Jews of Persia and bequeathed us one of the most enjoyable holidays of the year. This Purim, you can highlight plant based foods in honor of this story and in honor of our own health.
Many Jewish holidays have a script which determines what we eat but the Purim meal is pretty much free form. Ashkenazi tradition is to serve hamentaschen and Sephardi tradition ends the meal with nut and filo pastries. But other than dessert, the Purim meal can be anything you want. Why not experiment with including a plant based dish?
The possibilities are endless. Serving fresh cut seasonal fruits while everyone is gathering is so easy. A hearty soup can be a great starter, especially if Purim falls on a cold day. Including fresh and creative salads in the main course and including some satisfying starches like potato, sweet potato or rice are sure to please.
Mishloach Manot is an opportunity to share healthy food (homemade and store-bought) with people you love while supporting ethical companies who make food products you care about. If you’re trying to help the people in your life make healthier choices this is another way to show it.
There is a custom to include items from different food categories in your Mishloach Manot. Why not include some beautiful fruits and vegetables? Make a healthy breakfast for two and deliver it early in the morning. Or bake a whole-grain bread and send along with jam and raw honey. Honor the spirit of Mishloach Manot while sharing healthy, beautiful and delicious food with family and friends.
How are you creating a healthy Purim? I’d love to hear in the comments!