Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SPILLED MILK - November 2013

         by Fireweed, for the Island Word, November issue, 2013 

A short time ago in Newbury, England, the local police department started receiving late nite inquiries about a most unnerving noise. It happens every year at the same time, Sgt. Patty Fisher told the Newbury Port News , but there's nothing spooky or scary going on.” The strange sounds come from the nearby Sunshine Dairy Farm, she explained,and are a normal part of farming practises.” The mothers are separated from their calves almost immediately after birth in order to prevent them from nursing. Concerned callers, reported the Daily News, are advised to simply “expect loud noises from the cows at any time of the day or night.”

It's heart-breaking but instructive to recognize that the haunting bellows of a grieving mother cow communicate  imposed suffering. More and more people are re-considering conventional food choices, and calling into question so-called “normal farming practises.” For many, realizing that there is nothing 'humane' about denying a cow's maternal instinct to bond with her babies is an important first step in the transition to a more compassionate diet.

Meanwhile, industry marketers remain busy distracting their consumer base away from the many uncomfortable 'details' that dairy production entails (forced impregnation, mastitis, downed cows, veal calves, green house gas emissions, heavy water use, etc.) Their job is to convince an increasingly doubtful public that consuming the milk of another species remains desirable and necessary.

Remember the “Got Milk?” campaign, featuring stylish portraits of celebrities sporting milk moustaches? Advertising gimmicks have included promoting milk consumption as integral to building strong bones, as a cure for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and even as an aid for weight loss. As investigative health journalist Martha Rosenberg writes in “Got Propaganda? Why All of the Milk Industry's Health Claims Have Been Proven Wrong” (Alternet, 2012), each of these campaigns has been reprimanded by independent health professionals. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection has demanded that the industry stop making misleading claims.
Rosenberg points out, for example, that ads designed to elevate dairy over calcium-fortified juices - a chief competitor for consumer dollars- have been brazenly contradictory. Did they think no one would notice that the very study they based their promotion of milk upon as a 'cure' for PMS actually credited calcium (not milk) with providing the alleged relief? Sufficient calcium is easily acquired without dairy products of any kind in one's diet since it is found in such a wide variety of food sources (oranges, kale and other leafy greens, almonds, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, white beans, dried figs, tofu, tahini, fortified juices, and more.)

An attempt in 2011 to employ the PMS angle again - this time with a failed sense of humour - involved ads that stereotyped women as 'always right' and men as 'always wrong.' Bumbling husbands and boyfriends were portrayed bringing home cartons of milk to supposedly placate their partners during that 'difficult' time of the month. The ads were pulled in a matter of days as an outraged female demographic cried foul over the sexist messaging. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that an industry predicated upon manipulation of the female body (in the form of cows' reproductive capacities), also sees economic potential in exploiting a woman's concerns with her own hormonal cycle.

In reality, the human body has absolutely no requirement for dairy products (nor the milk of any other species beyond our own) and an estimated 75% of the world's population is lactose intolerant! Cows milk consumption has actually been on a steady decline for many years (prompting the heavy push to keep people hooked), and today we find any number of tasty non-dairy milk alternatives on the shelves of popular grocery stores. It's not difficult to make homemade varieties but the convenience of commercially available organic soy, rice, oatmeal, coconut, quinoa, hemp, almond, cashew and other milks is certainly attractive. How to choose? It can take our taste buds a month or so to adjust to new flavors and stop comparing everything to the old familiar. So it's best to cleanse the palate by not switching back and forth between cow's milk and new alternatives while experimenting.

Far more challenging for many folks is giving up dairy cheese...and understandably so. The emotional addictions we develop to certain foods are often chemically based. “Casein, one of the proteins in cow's milk,” explains author Victoria Moran in “Main Street Vegan, "crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes something called casomorphin” (an opoid, not unlike morphine.) Naturally designed to keep calves happily nursing and coming back for more, casomorphin is even more heavily concentrated once milk is turned into cheese. It can help to remember that we're not baby cows, and are no longer willing to be complicit in their fate.

Understanding the nature of our cravings is certainly the first step to releasing their hold over our taste preferences. Most of us are attuned to the classic four: sweet, salt, sour and bitter. But “umami,” or “savory,” says food writer Jennifer Valentine, is an often-overlooked taste experience commonly associated with animal products...like aged cheese. She suggests eating fermented foods, which are high in umami flavor, as one way to boost the “savory factor.” Mushrooms, miso, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, and potatoes are also 'umami-friendly.'

Consumer demand for dairy alternatives is creating a food revolution. In Germany's all vegan foodstore chain “Veganz", shoppers can now peruse 80 different varieties of 100% plant-based cheeses! North American stores are finally beginning to increase their selections of this item, and people are also learning how to make their own. Check out my super easy recipe below for a creamy, cheezy spread including miso – a fermented condiment that practically sings 'umami'! Cheeze Louise also makes a delicious filling for spanakopita or lasagna.

Please visit the links list on the right hand side of this page for highlighted references, recipes and more! 

Cheeze Louise

1 block medium firm organic tofu (350 grams)
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (soaked 8 hours or overnite)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 T. light or dark Miso (your choice)
1/2 tsp. organic lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1/2 tsp. sea salt, dash of pepper
dill, carmelized onions, pine nuts

Press, or squeeze excess water from the tofu, drain the cashews and pat dry. Place all ingredients (except for the optional items ) in a food processor. Blend until creamy. Depending on the tofu, you will need to stop and start, removing the mixture from the blade and/or sides of the bowl with a spatula. Thin with another 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice if very thick. Depending on the intensity of the miso, you may also want to add a wee bit more salt. Refrigerate for a couple of days in a glass jar to allow the flavors to deepen…patience is a virtue here, and this spread will easily last a week. 

To use the mixture as a filling for spanakopita right away, omit the lemon juice if your food processor will blend the ingredients without it, remove to a new bowl, fold in a T. of fresh dill (or 2 tsps.dried), 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of carmelized onions (sauteed ahead of time in a little olive oil over low heat until browned, and set aside to cool), and 2 T. pine nuts. Combine with a generous amount of fresh chopped spinach (or well drained frozen spinach) and spread on phillo pastry brushed with olive oil to roll or fold into individual spanakopita. Bake on a dark cookie sheet at 425 F until golden brown (about 10 minutes…maybe 15), and enjoy! 

Happy Celtic New Year:) 

To read the article I wrote for this time of the year in 2012, please click here: http://www.thetransitionkitchen.blogspot.ca/2012_09_01_archive.html

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