A couple of weeks ago we attended the garden party at the home of a dear friend who has just completed her cancer treatment. They caught it early enough and she is going to be ok. I am forever thankful to God for that.
The theme of my friend's celebration was to bring dishes created from produce from our own gardens if possible. Well, I'm not much of a gardener(not at all actually) and have been told that I have a black thumb. No pun intended.
But, I do have some collard trees that my dad planted for me a while back and they are just massive.
So, I made a raw collard greens dish:
But I must admit, the other dish I made that seemed to be the most appreciated, also got me in the most trouble. My Almond Feta stuffed Zucchini Blossoms:
My dear friend whose party this was graciously shared the squash photo on her urban farming Facebook page. I am thankful and humbled that it received a largely positive response.
But apparently not everyone felt so positive about my dish.
When it was stated by my friend that my cheese was vegan, someone felt the need to chime in with his "learned" opinion. Just for fun, let's call him Dairydude.
So Dairydude says " vegan feta??? That sounds like some sort of genetically modified soy concoction synthesized for the purpose of allowing smug urbanites to feel superior to people who consume milk."
Wow, that was a mouthful. And a pretty big assumption on his part. Did I set Dairydude straight?
In a matter of speaking. I did nicely defend the fact that I was raised by a farmer's daughter and there's not much smug about me. I talked about how many people have issues with digestion of dairy products and it is a welcome substitute for those people to have nondairy options for their favorite foods. I came this close to pulling the race card by stating that most blacks and asians don't digest dairy very well either and was he implying that blacks and asians who can't digest dairy as smug also? But I didn't, as I realized that that kind of response would be over the top and more than a little obnoxious. The last thing I wanted was to come off like a jerk on my friends' page. lol
But, this blog is my own turf. Sure, I don't intend to be purposely offensive or obnoxious, but I would be less than honest if I didn't continue my thoughts on the issue of milk consumption and Dairydude's comment.
So, let's take a hard look at what the consumption of dairy entails. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do read and watch all the info I can on this and other issues of animal product consumption.
Dairydude stated that the idea of eating a dairy substitute was somehow smug and I would suspect probably elitist in his opinion. Really?
I don't doubt that there are some smug vegans or non dairy eating folks out there, but I don't believe they're the majority. There are other compelling reasons not to consume products made from the milk of cows.
Ok warning. If you are one of those who call yourself cheese addicted, I'm about to ruin your day. If you are a vegetarian who believes that cows are not harmed by your consumption of dairy products because "at least I'm not killing them for their meat",(a position I used to hold) you may be tempted to put your fingers in your ears and scream la la la la! Sorry about that.
So what's wrong with dairy? I'm glad you asked.
Like all lactating animals, the female has to be pregnant in order to produce milk for her baby. Momma gives birth, momma nurses baby. After a while, baby is weened, everyone's happy.
Now, lets examine at what the story looks like for a dairy cow..
So that humans can have a continuous supply of milk, dairy cows must endure a yearly cycle of being forcibly impregnated.(On what the industry refers to as the "rape rack") Once they give birth to their calf, they are separated because the milk is needed for humans to purchase. If the calf is male(which half are), he goes immediately to auction to be sold and slaughtered. Or if used for veal, to spend about 4 months in crates before being slaughtered.
Female calves face the same fate as their mothers and are set up for milk production as well.
If you are a parent, imagine the feeling of being separated from your child. Go ahead, I'll wait..
Now, imagine carrying your baby in your body for 9 months(or waiting nervously if you're an adoptive parent) and right after giving birth or a few hours later, someone comes and snatches your child away from you. Go ahead, I'll wait again..
I don't know about you, but I did this exercise myself and it was a devastating thought.
"But, they're just cows Val", you say. "They don't have feelings like people." Really?
What about this? (scroll to the 3:11 minute mark)
Cows naturally have a lifespan of about 25 years or more, but those in the dairy industry live about 4 to 6 years and by then are "spent" from their life of constant milk production. In their weakened state they are then sent off to slaughter.
But, you don't have to take my word for it. How about the words of a fourth generation rancher and feedlot operator?
"If your reason for abstaining from meat has more to do with an emotional attachment to animals than a concern for your health, then understand that dairy cows are truly sick, miserable, abused creatures that are fed a hi-protein diet(often animal based) counterproductive to their health. They are then often drugged with bovine growth hormone and antibiotics, and abused to provide more milk than they have been created by Nature to give, little or none of which goes to their own young." Howard Lyman, author of No More Bull,The Mad Cowboy Targets America's Worst Enemy: Our Diet.
I have to admit, I love Howard. He's lived the life of a cattle rancher. And if anyone knows what they're talking about on this issue, he does. It's often been said that he's most likely sent more cattle to their deaths back in his ranching days than any of the people still in the industry that he's debated over the years or those in the audiences he's spoken to.
I highly recommend checking out his story in the book Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat.
Now back to Dairydude. I've made a decision to no longer take part in the suffering, cruelty, and slaughter inherent in milk production and instead find more compassionate alternatives to the foods I love. But somehow that makes me smug. Meanwhile his dismissive attitude toward those who've made a similar choice to my own is supposed to be what? More down to earth?
(Alert, race card about to be played..)
When white British abolitionists in the 18th and 19th centuries boycotted sugar due to the fact that it was produced by the suffering and misery of black slaves, were they being smug as well?
Now, I'm looking over the definition of smug again. I don't subscribe to the superiority part, but I see nothing wrong with believing with all your heart that you are correct when siding with the oppressed.
And I suspect that Dairydude has a bit of smugness in him as well, since it seemed to me from his comment that he believes consuming real cheese is superior to my vegan version. But that's ok. Everyone is at a different place in their journey. I don't feel or believe I'm better than or superior to those who eat dairy.
Maybe just a bit more informed. But, we all care about different things. And as important as this issue has become to me and many others, there are just as many people or more who just don't want to think about it. It's hard, it's painful and who wants to consider that their personal choices are causing harm to others? It can feel so overwhelming.
But I hope I've given those of you who made it to the end of this wordy post something to consider.
For more info on this and related issues, please check out the links below.
Oh and if you'd like to know what vegan almond feta tastes like, here's where you can find the basic recipe I work off of. Vegetarian Times Almond Feta Cheese.
Mad Cow Boy, site of Howard Lyman