(Please excuse the insanely large picture. It was too pretty to resist.)
My husband recently picked up a free copy of a magazine in one of the stores in Efrat. Its title is IsraTimes, and it aims to appeal to English-speaking immigrants and tourists, both observant and non-observant with short articles and features on health, the holidays, Israeli society, food, and a variety of other subjects of interest.
One of December’s articles that appealed to me was by Aaron Potek entitled, “Consumption Reduction: When Less Is More.” In an issue focused on kashrut, including a kosher meat industry recently wracked by scandal and widespread ill-treatment of animals before slaughter, this seemed an appropriate topic to address. Potek confesses a lack of interest in becoming a vegetarian, though the guilt of not doing so is always present. (“Put simply,” he writes, “matzah ball soup just isn’t the same with a tomato base.”)
So as an alternative to eliminating meat, he has opted to reduce his consumption, creating an organization entitled MOOSHY, or “Meat on Only Shabbat, Happy Occasions, and Yom Tov [holidays].” He explains that its purpose “is to advocate for Jews reducing our meat consumption while elevating it when we do eat it.”
I grew up in a household where meat was served daily and was the centerpiece of every meal. But as I grew older and became responsible for my own cooking, my interest in such heavy, sometimes elaborate meals waned. (Having numerous vegetarian friends, and then dairy kosher kitchens, also contributed to this.) When the first Crunch child reached the age of eating solid foods, I decided to do a little more research on nutrition, and read William and Martha Sears’ Family Nutrition Book from cover to cover. (Okay, it scared me a little and it was a few years before I would eat a doughnut again, but I got over it.) Its thorough discussion of the foods needed to nourish people of all ages, as well as tips for reducing and avoiding foods that can cause disease, were the first real education in nutrition I had received. The Searses strongly advocate a meatless diet, but their enthusiasm for a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, nuts and healthy oils, was what really took hold with me.
The Crunch family is unlikely to give up meat entirely in the short term. We have growing children for whom the bio-available protein in meat is very important and the fats not yet harmful. We live in a Jewish community where lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are high, and where meat (usually chicken) is a standard basis for Shabbat and holiday meals. And meat is usually easier to serve on Shabbat morning than many of the wonderful meatless ethnic foods that can be prepared—Chinese, Japanese, and authentic Mexican, particularly. (Most Indian food can be rewarmed gracefully, but I have met few people in the Jewish world who like the curries, ginger, chiles and coriander that flavor Indian food.)
So without ever hearing of an organization called MOOSHY, we have adopted its principles. I prepare meat for one or both meals of Shabbat, and the rest of the week we enjoy vegetarian cuisine. We get our protein from fish, soy, cheese, and beans and rice, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day. On Shabbat, I serve one meat dish and the rest of the dishes are meatless including vegetables, salads, and whole grains. I never run out of steam with meatless cooking, and find inspiration by following the food columns in newspapers, food magazines, friends’ blogs, and my favorite vegetarian cookbook, Linda McCartney’s Linda’s Kitchen (a beautifully written and photographed compendium of meatless recipes).
Potek posits that some of the reason for the manifold problems affecting the meat industry is high demand. By reducing that demand, he hopes consumers will be able to influence the industry to improve the conditions for animals and workers alike, while in the process improving their own health. Since one of the goals of Judaism is to elevate the mundane to a level of sacredness and significance, this seems very much in keeping with the spirit of Torah.