Seders go better if you have substantial food for karpas

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
One of the things that’s hardest about Seders is how long they can be. I pretty quickly become exhausted and by that time I haven’t eaten anything of the meal yet. Advice?

realsocialskills said:

One thing I advise seder leaders to do is to use substantial food for karpas instead of just having parsley dipped in salt water. I do that when I lead seders, and I’ve found that it makes for a much better discussion. People don’t tend to have good conversations when they’re hungry and exhausted, and making food available makes a huge difference. 

The point of karpas was originally to dip food in other food. This was apparently not a normal thing to do at that point in the meal, so it was supposed to be unusual and get the kids to ask questions. 

For some reason, that got reduced down to dipping parsley in salt water in a lot of communities. What I do is include more substantial kinds of dip and foods that can be dipped. (Eg: chips and dip, strawberries and chocolate syrup, etc. I know someone who sometimes uses fries and ketchup for karpas too.).

Is there a way you could make that happen at the seders you go to? Might whoever is in charge be open to that?  I’ve found that a lot of people dislike the way that the storytelling part drags on because everyone gets hungry and grumpy, and only do it that way because they don’t know there’s an alternative.

If you’re concerned with the halakhic or ritual structure of the seder, you shouldn’t eat matzah/matzah crackers and haroset until later in the meal. Other dipping stuff should be fine though.

One advantage to seder stuff is — if people will think it’s weird and question it, that’s actually a good thing! Because seders are actually supposed to involve doing weird things to get people to ask questions. So if someone says “but people will think it’s weird”, sometimes you can successfully convince them that that’s a good thing and not a bad thing by saying “then they will ask questions and we’ll be able to have a good conversation about it.”

If you can’t do that, might it be possible to sneak off for a few minutes and discreetly eat a snack?  

tl;dr The storytelling part of the seder can get very unpleasant when everyone is hungry and grumpy. One solution to this is to make substantial food available during the karpas, instead of just parsley and salt water, and then leave it on the table during the storytelling. That tends to make for a much more pleasant discussion.