If you think preparing your kitchen for Pesach is a challenge, imagine how much more difficult the festival is for those who avoid not only chametz, but also meat, fish and all dairy products.
For vegans, a Seder plate featuring a tofu version of a lamb shank or chicken neck, is not an unfamiliar sight.
But an enterprising California couple have now gone further, devising a fully vegan Seder – or “Veder”.
Gary Smith and his wife Kezia Jauron came up with the idea after struggling with the practicalities of Pesach food preparation for vegans in their Los Angeles suburb.
There is only one substantial culinary difficulty that they cannot overcome: the fact that one of the key ingredients when catering a Veder is, apparently, bread.
Mr Smith, 45, explained: “We have a lot of vegan friends who are Jewish. We have one friend who is not invited to her family Seder any more because she is a vegan.
“Saying you are vegan makes people uncomfortable. They say it’s a lot of hassle. My wife and I take our own food to family Seders. My mom makes latkes without eggs to help us out.
“We started talking and said maybe we could make our own Seder, but looking at what it means to be vegan.”
While the Veder menu may not sound particularly appetising to meat eaters, it does not present many technical difficulties for non-Orthodox vegans — apart from the need for bread, of course.
“The food that we serve uses bread products; it is not technically Passover-suitable,” said Mr Smith, who is a member of a Conservative temple. “We will make matzah ball soup. A lot of it is pot luck. Everyone brings a different dish. There are lots of recipes online.”
Ms Jauron creates “gefilte fish” using a substitute product called Match Meat, which is made of natural plant proteins and flavours but contains no animal meat, no cholesterol and no trans or saturated fats. Match Meat comes in a number of different styles and can, the couple say, be tailored to mimic chicken, fish and other meats.
To get around the perennial problem of a Pesach without eggs, the couple use Japanese sea vegetables as a substitute for egg whites.
Other delicacies include egg-less kugel and even a fake brisket, also made from substitute products.
The couple are committed animal rights campaigners and Mr Smith, who runs a public relations company, said the Veder also provided an opportunity to consider the thought processes behind veganism.
“We have created our own Haggadah, and changed some of the story.
“Jews have a history of supporting groups who are oppressed. We see animal rights as a social justice movement. We do not have a biological need to eat animals. We do not have to wear leather. These are choices people make,” he said.
“As well as celebrating Jewish freedom from Pharaoh we look at how animals are enslaved — not in the same way exactly, but in terms of how we use animals for reasons that are totally unnecessary.”