We begin the month of Sivan during which we celebrate Shavuot, when the Israelites received the Torah at Mount Sinai. If you’re not a coffee drinker or dairy eater, like me, Shavuot can be challenging. In celebrating the holiday, people’s all night Torah study is generally fueled by cheesecake, blintzes, ice cream and lasagna. There are many explanations as to why we eat dairy foods on Shavuot. One is that the Torah is like milk and “just as milk has the ability to fully sustain the body of a human being (i.e. a nursing baby), so too the Torah provides all the “spiritual nourishment” necessary for the human soul.”
However, eating dairy foods on Shavuot is a custom, not a law. But, there are lots of delicious ways to enjoy Shavuot without eating dairy.One way is with the the vegan blueberry ice cream recipe that I created for the holiday.
As communities indulge in dairy foods on the holiday, it can be an opportunity to reflect and study Jewish texts about animal welfare in our modern agricultural system. Animal welfare is an important element to Jewish teachings and values. Tsar ba’alei chayim forbids Jews from causing any suffering to animals. Furthermore, there are many Jewish laws that are both for humans and their animals, alike. Animals are commanded to rest of Shabbat. Animals should not be muzzled while working in fields, nor should different types work together to plow and a mother bird must not be present if one takes eggs from her nest. Hunters are villains in the Torah.
However, most of us are disconnected from the process of how animals are raised for our meat and dairy products. Whether or not they are certified kosher, the picture is generally not the idyllic landscape of dairy cows munching on verdant grass in rolling hills. Rather, it’s darker and inhumane situation.
Shockingly, “11 billion (yes with a B) animals are raised and killed for dairy, meat and eggs in the United States” annually. Of these, nine million are cows raised for dairy and about a third of these are killed. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “no federal law protects animals from cruelty on the farm, and the majority of states exempt customary agricultural practices—no matter how abusive—from the scope of their animal cruelty statutes.”
The corporate agriculture model approaches raising cows for milk, as one would make products in a factory—churn out as many as possible as quickly as possible. This adds up to lactating cows frequently being pumped with rBST (a genetically engineered hormone) to increase their milk output and overwhelmingly held in confined indoor pens. Mothers are continuously impregnated to keep their milk supplies going and calves are quickly separated from their mothers with the males being raised for veal.
These practices are used on animals raised for products that are both certified and not-certified kosher. There are no Jewish values that support this model for raising animals for food. Every time we eat, we have an opportunity to make food choices that are guided by our Jewish values that can improve the welfare of animals and help to change our industrial agricultural system.There’s lots of great organizations working to improve animal welfare conditions (click here for a list).
The recipe I offer below is a delicious, non-dairy dessert made with seasonal blueberries whose vibrant bluish-purple color makes the dish especially beautiful and appealing. It also has no added sugars and is sweetened with dates and bananas.The color is fabulous and the taste is delicious!
Banana Blueberry Vegan Ice Cream
1 ½ cans of coconut milk
2 large bananas
¼ tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
- In a blender, mix all ingredients except use only 1/3 of the blueberries. Blend thoroughly.
- Fold in the remaining blueberries, keeping them whole.
- If you have an ice cream maker, follow instructions for your machine.
- If you don’t have an ice cream machine, follow the recipe, but only use ½ cup coconut milk (or even better, do not shake the can and just the cream at the top of two cans). Use frozen fruit instead and place in a strong blender. Either way, it will be delicious!
And click here for another Shavuot, dairy-optional recipe. Chag sameach!