Last week’s op-ed by Mark Bittman made its way around my circles in seconds. Bittman validated what many of us in the natural foods arena have been saying for a long while — that dairy doesn’t necessarily do the body good. The same can be said for wheat, corn, soy, meat and many other high-allergen foods. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to give them up, and it doesn’t mean that all sources of dairy and producers of dairy are inherently bad. Just read the comments (all 772 of them at the time of writing this article) and you will see that Bittman has opened up a hot topic here.
I’ll try to avoid such intense controversy — but I do recommend reading Bittman’s article and discussing these topics amongst yourselves: Jews and Lactose; Jews and Food Allergies, and the ongoing debates surrounding them. Many who might not tolerate dairy in its unfermented form (milk, cream, most butters) might very well tolerate fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, cheeses, etc.). As a natural foods chef I always encourage my clients to consume the highest quality dairy available to them — be it raw or low heat pasteurized, un-homogenized if possible and always organic.
Crossposted from Haaretz
A series of inventions by a talented member of Afikim made the kibbutz a major player in the global dairy industry. Today, their computerized milking systems can be found in over 50 countries and will soon supply some 40% of Vietnam’s milk consumption.
“It’s a fairly trivial sort of love,” she says as she sinks down onto a faded sofa. It’s afternoon, outside the dairy, which is surrounded by endless groves of green banana trees, and Chen Weiss, freshly discharged from the army, is taking a little break.
“I arrived for the first milking at six in the morning,” she says, holding a raspberry drink in one hand and a pack of cigarettes in the other. “Cows are a very trivial thing to kibbutzniks,” she adds casually, pulling her hair back. “It’s a nice animal, very kind. It may look big but it’s really very gentle. We have almost 400 dairy cows here. In terms of size, our dairy is a little above average. Some kibbutzim have smaller dairies than we do, but there are also some that have 1,500-2,000 cows.”
Many passionate kosher foodies know that kosher cheese is no longer limited to blocks of cheddar and shredded mozzarella. More and more, kosher cheese makers are trying their hands at artisanal, specialty cheeses. There are Israeli cheese makers who travel to France to learn the tricks of the trade, and Wisconsin cheese makers who add spicy flavors to their authentic Midwestern cheeses (that just happen to be kosher). Raw milk is also increasingly common in kosher cheese, as are strong, sharp flavors.
“In the past 10 years, kosher cheese has really taken off,” said Elizabeth Bland, the Alabama-born cheesemonger at Brooklyn’s Pomegranate kosher supermarket. The self-described “cheese mistress” has organized kosher wine and cheese pairing parties for the past three years (“I don’t eat much meat because it messes with my cheese schedule,” she said with a laugh).
Shavuot is just around the corner, meaning, it’s time to break out the dairy. With recipes for cheesecake and cream cheese rugelach on every corner, I like to add an Italian twist to my holiday table with panna cotta, a silken mold that translates to cooked cream (check back for more Italian recipes this afternoon). While I normally try to limit my dairy consumption, Shavuot screams out for us to challenge our lactose intolerance and enjoy decadent and delicious dairy desserts like this one.
There are many arguments for eating dairy on Shavuot, though, the one that resonates most with me is the abundance of milk and cheese in the spring. It’s a true celebration of eating seasonally, as cows and sheep are producing extra milk at this time of the year. Switching over to eating fresh dairy products is also a nice change from cleaning the greens coming from our CSA and local farmers’ markets.
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