Eating and Drinking Before the Regular Meals
1. If one desires to eat before the washing of the hands of a regular meal, any food that will be served during the meal (regardless whether such food requires an extra benediction when eaten during the meal, such as fruits, or it is the kind of food that requires no extra benediction when eaten during the meal, such as all kinds of vegetables, pods or potatoes); or if one desires to drink any beverage (except wine) before washing the hands, and he also intends to drink such beverage during the meal; authorities disagree as to whether or not the things thus eaten or drunk are exempted from the concluding benediction and are covered by the Grace after meals, just as those foods eaten during the meal are exempted. Therefore, it is best to eat or drink those things before the meal only, and thereafter, pronounce the concluding benediction, and to avoid eating or drinking of the same during the meal. If we neglect to say the concluding benediction before the meal, we may say it either during the course of the meal or even after Grace. If we eat or drink of these kinds also during the course of the meal, then we must eat and drink some of it also after the meal and then recite the concluding benediction which will cover whatever we have eaten or drunk before the meal.
2. Some authorities are of the opinion that one may drink wine before washing the hands, even though one does not intend to drink any wine during the meal; for, since wine is used only as a stimulant, it is included in the meal, and is exempted from the concluding benediction by the recitation of Grace after the meal. Other authorities hold that even if one drinks wine during the meal, yet the wine drunk before washing the hands is not exempt from the benediction by the Grace. Therefore, one should abstain from drinking any wine before washing the hands, unless one drinks some wine also after reciting the Grace and pronounces thereafter the benediction Al haggefen (for the vine), etc., and thereby also exempts the wine drunk before washing the hands. If one desires to drink some brandy before the meal, one should be careful to drink less the quantity of the size of an olive, whether or not one intends to drink some more during the course of the meal; but if one drinks as much as the quantity of an olive or more, it is doubtful whether or not the concluding benediction should be recited.
3. If before Washington the hands, one desires to eat food, such as honey cakes and egg cakes, after the eating of which we say the benediction Al hamiheyah (for the sustenance), etc., the Grace after meals exempts one from reciting the benediction whether or not one intends to eat of the same during the meal, provided, however, there is no long delay between the eating of the cake and the washing of the hands. If one does allow a long interval to elapse, one should first say the benediction Al hamiheyah, even though one intends to eat the same kinds of food during the meal.