Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dairy: Good for the Jews?

As a nutrition student, I often consider the many issues surrounding dairy. There's the treatment of the cows. Bovine growth hormone. Homogenization. Pasteurization. Fortification. Raw milk, goat's milk vs. sheep's milk vs. cow's milk. But this week when I think dairy I think of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

Most Jewish holidays involve lots of meat. Chicken soup. Brisket. Stuffed cabbage. But not this one. One of the lesser known ones, Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and involves staying up all night and eating cheesecake, blintzes and all things milk-derived. In traditional Jewish dietary laws of kashrut meat and dairy are not consumed together so this holiday becomes unique in shunning meat altogether. It's something of a joke too, since Ashkenazic Jews are not known for tolerating lactose particularly well. In my house, for example, my mother used to place a bowl of Lactaid pills in the middle of our holiday table. For an interesting read about the complicated history of Jews and dairy, check out this article from Tablet.

Shavuot begins on Tuesday night and I will be celebrating, for the second year in a row, dairy-free. After two years of celebrating Passover gluten-free (ie. no matzah), I wonder if something of the tradition is being lost and if so how can I recoup it. So this week I am hosting dinner at my house, dairy and all and invite you to join in the celebration which will include a cheesemaking workshop. I will also have plenty of dairy-free options (thank goodness for Coconut Bliss!). And maybe I'll put out a bowl of Lactaid. After all, it's tradition.

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