With candles burning brightly and fine wine for kiddush, Friday night dinner is a meal that is designed for “atmosphere.” However, the actual fare of Shabbat dinner varies, depending on custom and personal taste. Many people simply serve their favorite foods, while others stick to the traditional Shabbat cuisine. A typical, traditional Shabbat menu includes:
Fish: Considered both a reminder of the creation of life (since fish were the first animals created) and of the Messianic Age (when it is said that the righteous will feast upon the Leviathan, a giant fish), fish has almost always held a special place of honor at the Shabbat table. In the Talmud (Shabbat 118b), fish is specifically mentioned as a way in which one can demonstrate delight in Shabbat, even if it is simply a bit of chopped up (gefilte) fish. Generally served as an appetizer, fish, which is never eaten together with meat, is served on separate plates and eaten with separate “fish forks” in accordance with the prescription of Maimonides.
Soup: While there is no specific source for serving chicken soup on Shabbat, it is a Friday night staple in many traditional homes.
Meat/Chicken: It is a mitzvah to enjoy Shabbat. The sages often relate the feeling of oneg (enjoyment and pleasure) to eating meat. Since meat was often financially prohibitive, chicken became a frequent substitute.
Rice/Kugel: In Sephardic homes, it is customary to have a dish that is made with rice. In Ashkenazic homes, one is often served kugel, traditionally lokshin (noodle) or potato. Kugel, similar to “pudding,” is a dish that varies greatly in its ingredients, depending upon family preferences.
This Treat was originally posted on August 26, 2011.
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