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Bal Tash­chit: Do Not Destroy

The com­mand­ment of Bal Tash­chit is giv­en in Deuteron­o­my 20:19 – 20. It can be under­stood to mean that our actions should pro­tect the envi­ron­ment, and that waste­ful or destruc­tive behav­iors are eth­i­cal­ly wrong. This instruc­tion can speak to us now, as we adjust to the new glob­al real­i­ty of liv­ing dur­ing a pandemic.

While we are in home quar­an­tine to pro­tect our­selves and oth­er humans, we can simul­ta­ne­ous­ly eat in a way that pro­tects ani­mals and our planet.

Food Thoughts and Actions 

Life has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly in a short amount of time. Food is a sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture of people’s expe­ri­ence of the COVID-19 out­break, with peo­ple eat­ing at home more than before, and reports from sev­er­al coun­tries about pan­ic-buy­ing and stock short­ages in super­mar­kets. Those choos­ing to prac­tice home quar­an­tine have to think about food in a new way.

Before quar­an­tine, my most com­mon pref­er­ences about food were (most­ly) about me and my family:

- Eat food that makes me and my fam­i­ly feel good – gives us sta­ble ener­gy through­out the day

- Eat food that allows us to main­tain a healthy body weight

- Eat food that is plea­sur­able and some­times also entertaining

Prepar­ing for quar­an­tine, my pri­or­i­ties shifted:

- Choos­ing food that will not per­ish quickly

- Find­ing a bal­ance between food which will keep us well and treats which will bring us comfort

- Lim­it­ing our shop­ping excur­sions, with­out bulk buy­ing in a way which leaves oth­ers without

And now, at home in quar­an­tine, I find myself think­ing about food in more fam­i­ly-focused ways:

- Meal­times and cooking/​baking add much need­ed struc­ture to our days at home. I use this print­able meal plan­ning tem­plate to cre­ate our week­ly meal plan

- Cook­ing and bak­ing feels more therapeutic

- Refrain­ing from eat­ing in reac­tion to bore­dom, stress, wor­ry and anx­i­ety (As a psy­chother­a­pist, I believe that express­ing emo­tions is more effec­tive than feed­ing them)

Food for Thought

I am also think­ing about our food choic­es and how they direct­ly link to this pan­dem­ic. It is imper­a­tive for us to under­stand how our end­less human hunger for resources and food is dis­rupt­ing nature.

In light of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic (and Ebo­la, Sars, and bird flu), main­stream media is start­ing to report sci­en­tif­ic research which reveals how our encroach­ment on nature is destroy­ing our planet’s bio­di­ver­si­ty and cre­ates the con­di­tions for virus­es to cross-over from ani­mals to humans. Our food con­sump­tion impacts ani­mals and the envi­ron­ment. It is not com­mon knowl­edge that land use and emis­sions from large-scale meat and dairy pro­duc­tion con­tribute to cli­mate change.

David Quam­men, the author of Spillover: Ani­mal Infec­tions and the Next Pan­dem­ic, pub­lished an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times to this point right after the COVID-19 infec­tion start­ed in Wuhan in late Jan­u­ary 2020. His piece is enti­tled, We Made the Coro­n­avirus Epi­dem­ic” and he writes We cut the trees; we kill the ani­mals or cage them and send them to mar­kets. We dis­rupt ecosys­tems, and we shake virus­es loose from their nat­ur­al hosts. When that hap­pens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

In every­day life it is hard to real­ize that our indi­vid­ual food habits and pref­er­ences make any dif­fer­ence. But they do. Food pro­duc­tion meth­ods, dai­ly eat­ing choic­es, and food waste habits have a pow­er­ful impact on our envi­ron­ment, for bet­ter or for worse.

Food Choic­es for a Healthy Us and Healthy Planet

Now is a per­fect time to get back to the basics with food — eat­ing min­i­mal­ly processed fruits, veg­eta­bles, starchy veg­eta­bles, roots/​tubers, intact whole grains and legumes. These should make up most if not all of our dai­ly calo­ries dur­ing quar­an­tine. For all of us (includ­ing meat and dairy lovers), includ­ing more non-ani­mal foods in our reg­u­lar diet can only bring good to our per­son­al and envi­ron­men­tal health.

Eat­ing well and mind­ful­ly dur­ing quar­an­tine is prac­tice for all of us to eat in more envi­ron­men­tal­ly and social­ly respon­si­ble ways when the pan­dem­ic is over and nor­mal” life begins again. Dietary choic­es that are bet­ter for the envi­ron­ment are con­ve­nient­ly also those which allow us to achieve opti­mal human health. Over­con­sump­tion of meat, fish, dairy and processed foods is destruc­tive for our envi­ron­ment and our per­son­al health. It is moti­vat­ing to think that we can pos­i­tive­ly impact the envi­ron­ment with our food choic­es every day we are liv­ing in quar­an­tine, and that these same food choic­es help our phys­i­cal health too.

Veg­an Recipes for Us and Our Planet

Here are some veg­an recipes that are deli­cious and health­i­er for our bod­ies and our planet.

Veg­an Chal­lah: This veg­an recipe is a make-over for the icon­ic Jew­ish bread. This oil-free recipe hits all the Chal­lah taste and appear­ance box­es – it smells like Chal­lah, tastes like chal­lah and pulls apart like chal­lah. Best of all, it is health­i­er for our bod­ies and our plan­et. You can down­load the veg­an chal­lah recipe card here and print it at home.

Mush­room and Wal­nut Gardener’s Pie with But­ter­nut Squash Top­ping Recipe: This recipe is fea­tured in the Jew­ish Food Hero com­mu­ni­ty cook­book project, Feed­ing Women of the Bible, Feed­ing Our­selves cook­book. This plant-based recipe is a healthy take on a shepherd’s or cot­tage pie. This hearty and nour­ish­ing pie is filled with a boun­ty of veg­eta­bles. Even car­ni­vores will be hap­py to eat this dish because it is full of bold fla­vor and plant-based pro­tein. Bet­ter yet, it takes just fif­teen min­utes to pre­pare the ingre­di­ents. There is a kosher-for-passover alter­na­tive giv­en in this recipe so you can make it all year around and for the hol­i­day too.

Veg­an Nut­ty Choco­late Chip Cook­ies (Kosher-for-Passover): These cook­ies are pesach friend­ly and you can make them with either white beans or sweet pota­toes depend­ing on if you eat kit­niy­ot or not dur­ing Passover. You can use mat­zo meal or kosher fine almond flour (for a gluten-free ver­sion) to make these cookies.

The recipe below yields a dozen cook­ies — which I can tell you from expe­ri­ence will go quickly.

Image cour­tesy of the author

Nut­ty Veg­an Choco­late Chip Cookies

Yield: One dozen cookies

Tools:

Mea­sur­ing cups and spoons

Food proces­sor

Rub­ber spatula

Medi­um bowl

Two bak­ing sheets

Parch­ment paper

Ingre­di­ents

1 ¼ cup cooked white beans or cooked sweet pota­to purée (depend­ing on which you eat dur­ing the holiday)

¼ cup nat­ur­al almond butter

1 tea­spoon vanil­la extract

¼ cup hon­ey or 2 table­spoons sugar

1 tea­spoon bak­ing powder

¼ tea­spoon salt

½ cup mat­zo meal (can use almond flour)

3 table­spoons choco­late chips (use a dairy, nut, and soy-free version)

Instruc­tions

Pre­heat the oven to 350 F

Line two bak­ing sheets with parch­ment paper

Rinse white beans mul­ti­ple times in the colander.

Put white beans or sweet pota­to purée, almond but­ter, vanil­la, sug­ar, bak­ing pow­der, and salt into a food processor

Mix until very smooth, scrap­ing down the sides of the con­tain­er when necessary

Trans­fer the dough into a mix­ing bowl and fold in the mat­zo meal or almond flour and choco­late chips

Place round­ed table­spoons of the dough even­ly spaced 2” apart on the bak­ing sheets

Bake for approx­i­mate­ly 20 – 24 min­utes, or until they turn gold­en brown

Remove the cook­ies from the bak­ing sheet and allow them to cool before serv­ing or storing.

Kenden Alfond is a psy­chother­a­pist and 99% veg­an. She has a BA from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty, an MA in Coun­sel­ing Psy­chol­o­gy and a cer­tifi­cate in plant-based nutri­tion from Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty. Kenden’s work for the Unit­ed Nations and var­i­ous NGOs has seen her liv­ing in India, Afghanistan, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Con­go, Switzer­land and Cam­bo­dia. Kenden start­ed Jew­ish Food Hero to get health­i­er plant-based food onto Jew­ish tables around the world. She is the author of The Jew­ish Food Hero Cook­book and Feed­ing Women of the Bible, Feed­ing Our­selves.