If you find yourself sitting down to eat at synagogue late Saturday afternoon, don't expect much from the menu. Where you're treated to nice meals on Friday night and Saturday for lunch, seudah shelishit, the third meal on Shabbat, is likely to be a sad conglomeration of mayonnaise-heavy salads, greasy kugels, and dry cakes.
According to the Talmud (Shabbat 117b), one is required to eat three meals over the course of Shabbat: One on Friday night, and two on Saturday. Unlike the first two meals, seudah shelishit normally is not too elaborate. Because seudah shlishit is eaten when Shabbat is winding down, it tends to be a sedate affair. When the meal is over, it is customary to sing slow songs, or zemirot to show how sad we are to see Shabbat go.
According to the Shulhan Arukh it is preferable to eat bread at seudah shelishit, but if you are too full from lunch it is permissible to eat a slice of cake or a piece of fruit instead (OH 291:7). Most people do not say kiddush at seudah shlishit, but some do have the custom of saying just the blessing over wine, without any of the preamble found in the special kiddush liturgy for Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
So what can you do to make this obligatory meal something to look forward to? Step 1: Put away the mayonnaise. Just because the meal is typically heavy on the salads doesn't mean that is has to be incredibly unhealthy. Here you'll find three recipes that are perfect for any seudah shelishit. They call for little to no prep work before Shabbat, and they yield delicious results without ever summoning a jar of Miracle Whip.
Tamar Fox is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. Her children's book, No Baths at Camp, was published in 2013 by Kar-Ben, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, the Jerusalem Post, Tablet Magazine, TheJewniverse.com, and many other publications.