Succoth’s Seven Species & Arsenic in Rice

My daughter in-law Karen invited us for Succoth, saying they’re so busy between jobs and graduate school; they’d probably buy prepared foods.  Of course, I jumped at the invitation- to come and to cook. “I’ll bring dinner,” I offered.

The holiday, a celebration of the harvest, began Sunday night and ends next Sunday, October 7. We’re going on Friday, so it’s also Shabbat. Hence they won’t travel to us but “overlook” that we travel to them.

Always up for a food challenge, I wanted to plan a meal that honors the holiday and also conforms to their dietary regiment—they’ve become vegan.

I was particularly intrigued by the “Seven Species” that signify Succoth or Sukkot, pronounced “Sue-coat.” Spelling variations occur because they’re transliterations from Hebrew.

The Seven Species, (Shivat Haminim in Hebrew) are the seven fruits and grains named in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:8) considered staples of the Israeli diet in ancient times and then the main produce of the land.

They are: wheat, barley, grapes, consumed as wine; figs, pomegranates, olives, usually in oil form; and honey made from dates.

Notecard by April Stewart Klausner

Challah will cover the wheat requirement. I’ll get fresh figs and a pomegranate and cook with olive oil. I’m making vegetarian chili with beans, corn and peppers, and will add some barley to a quinoa dish my friend and food blogger Stacy posted: Quinoa with roasted Brussels sprouts and leeks, almonds and raisins.  I’ll substitute some honey for maple syrup in a recipe for maple- date bars and we’re set.

Yet the vegan diet is hard. I worry that they’re not getting enough protein and both seem too thin. (They’ve decided the baby, 17 months, will be raised as a vegetarian and eat lots of dairy.)

What’s even more worrisome is how foods we once thought were exempt from potential carcinogens, aren’t.

Like rice.

Consumer Reports   found high levels of arsenic, a natural element found in the earth’s crust that if combined with other elements, like oxygen, chlorine and sulfur could become poisonous. Common rice foods, especially items eaten by babies and children, like rice cereals, were found to have elevated amounts of arsenic.

“No federal limit exists for arsenic in most foods, but the standard for drinking water is 10 parts per billion (ppb). … That level is twice the 5 ppb that the Environmental Protection Agency originally proposed and that New Jersey (Yay!!) actually established,” the article states.

I shared this with my kids; saying “read and heed.”  Nathan and Karen chose to become vegans because of concerns about additives in meat and dairy products. Now, given this news, Karen quipped, “maybe we’ll just eat air ferns.”

Scary indeed.  Perhaps Seven Species isn’t such a bad idea.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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29 Responses to Succoth’s Seven Species & Arsenic in Rice

  1. Nancy C-J says:

    Lisa, where you able to find a challah without eggs? When I have vegan family over for the Holidays or Shabbat that has always been a problem.Glad that the baby will eat dairy though. Suzanne has been vegetarian since she was ten and doesn’t miss meat at all.


  2. The Vegan diet can be hard. I have been looking at farm raised and found several places where they raise natural foods. A farm in NJ Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse offers d milk and cheese products from grass fed pasture cows. Could be a great source of dairy for the little one and since you like great adventures, a great trip for you and the grand kids. The owner is a fantastic person. My son has a soy allergy so finding soy free foods is a challenge.


  3. Your menu plan sounds mouth-watering! Enjoy your time with family!


  4. Barbara Klein says:

    Your meal puts my Gahachte lebe” and matzo ball soup to shame.


  5. Barbara Klein says:

    Why didn’t you have a current picture of Uri?


  6. Only cooked for a vegan (friend of my daughter) once; made a pesto primavera and had to use “fake” cheese found in Whole Foods. So are your children Kosher AND vegan? Oy!


  7. Meryl Baer says:

    We have vegan friends who visit, and after three days I am ready for some dairy and chicken. A healthy vegan diet involves time-consuming cooking as well as shopping. After a while I find it boring, but that is probably because I grew up eating lots of dairy, meat and fish and my old taste buds crave the variety. One son is vegetarian, and vegetarians are much easier to cook and shop for.


  8. That’s so sad they are vegan. What about enjoying wine and meat on Yom Tov which is very important mitzvah actually, let alone the proteins that human body needs?


  9. My wife and I are vegetarians but not vegan. I don’t know how people can live the vegan lifestyle because it would be absolutely exhausting. Food purchasing and preparation would dominate your life.


  10. Leah says:

    Very cool! Thanks for the lesson in the Seven Species. And that notecard is beautiful! I’d frame it.


  11. jakesprinter says:

    Beautiful post Lisa Thanks for sharing 🙂


  12. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the information! Happy Sunday!


  13. Jo Bryant says:

    I am almost vegetarian these days. but I don’t think i could do vegan…it looks like too much work


  14. April says:

    Lisa, I just saw your reply to my reply! I am emailing you about purchasing my cards.


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