The holidays are a great time to gather with family, friends or neighbors to come together and enjoy each other’s company. Perhaps this time you will be hosting Muslim guests at your table or during a work holiday party. Here are some tips to accommodate your Muslim and other guests who may have similar food restrictions.
While generically these rules apply, be sure to ask your guests directly for any food restrictions to avoid embarrassment. Never assume that the guests will follow all the guidelines below, but be open to their feedback!
Here are some tips:
- Have a Potluck: I love potluck parties because they are hassle-free and there are tons of foods to choose from. This also gives people with food restrictions to bring their own dietary-restriction friendly dish to share with others. What a way to share cultures and diversity without breaking the budget.
- Halal Meats: Halal is a method of preparation similar to Kosher. For meats, this means the blood has to drain from the animal’s body prior to eating. A prayer such as, In the name of God, is said prior to the slaughtering. Some Walmart’s and local international foods may carry halal meats.
- A few local markets are:
- No pork: Although not all Muslims abide by every rule for food, most Muslims do not consume pork. They may, however, be okay with eating chicken and beef. Ask ahead of time.
- No alcohol: (or alcohol-based dishes): A majority of Muslims follow the no-alcohol rule. You do not have to “keep the alcohol away from the table” however do not pour everyone a cup ahead of time. Consider having carbonated drinks, sparkling water, or even Vernor’s Ginger ale as a sparkly champagne alternative for the big toast.
- Seafood is generally safe: Halal food also includes any seafood besides sharks or sea mammals such as whales. As long as people don’t have a seafood allergy, who doesn’t love shrimp?
- Vegetarian/Vegan Alternatives for the Win: Vegetarian and vegan dishes are safe as long as they are not mixed or cooked in the same dish as non-halal meat foods were prepared. Consider not adding ham to your mac & cheese if that is a family favorite. I have recently heard that using jackfruit to make pulled pork is also a vegan favorite. If your guests are like me, I like to have at least one main entrée that is a meat dish because I am not a vegetarian. In that case, I volunteer to bring a meat dish if something is not already on the menu. (Potluck for the win!)
- Marshmallows: These little bundles of goodness are a perfect touch to holiday festivities. However, if you are going to have marshmallows, consider purchasing halal marshmallows. Muslims are refrained from eating gelatin made from non-halal meats. These marshmallows can now be found at Walmart. You can even ask your Muslim guests to grab some for the party!
- Gummy Worms: With all the creative ways to eat your treats for the holidays, gummy worms are another small thing to watch out for that contains gelatin. Luckily the brand Haribo is halal. Grab your gummy worms from your local Kroger or grocery store.
- Desserts: Sweets are generally safe, as long as you check ingredients to avoid gelatin foods.
- Some of my favorites: Some simple foods to include at your holiday parties are vegetarian lasagna, pasta, pizza, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, roasted vegetables, pies, an ice-cream sundae station, cookies, and an endless amount of candy.
It’s never too late to have a festive holiday party with family, friends, neighbors or co-workers. Happy Holidays!
Nargis Hakim Rahman is a Bangladeshi American Muslim writer and a mother of three kids. She is a fellow for Feet in Two Worlds/WDET 101.9 FM for a food journalism fellowship.
Nargis graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a psychology minor. Rahman was a part of the Wayne State’s Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, a honors learning community. She has reported for The Muslim Observer, a national Muslim newspaper since 2010, The South End, Wayne State University’s student newspaper, and The Hamtramck Review, Hamtramck’s community newspaper. Rahman is passionate about community journalism in the Greater Detroit area. She hopes to give local American Muslims and minorities a voice in the press. She blogs for Brown Girl Magazine and Haute Hijab.