Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mixing Milk and Milk

Strange how these things go. Last week, just as I was sitting down to study the portion of Re'eh, which contains a summary of the Kashrut laws, my family was also sitting down with a nutritionist to deal with one of the so-called curses of the Jewish people: lactose intolerance. This affliction targets Ashkenazi Jews to such a degree (upwards of 60%) that lactose free product ads are targeting us.

Well, my son, my pizza-devouring son, has been suffering from severe stomach pains lately, and once we were able to rule out anything more serious, and once we got past the notion that it was getting-into-college stress related, we discovered that it is a severe case of that very curse of lactose intolerance.

It's nothing I've ever had to deal with - and as a vegetarian who also loves all things dairy, that's a good thing. All my professional life I've had to explain to people why Jews separate milk from meat (an idea expanded upon by the rabbis, whose roots are also found in this portion), and now I was faced with the prospect of getting my son to separate himself from milk completely. or to use those nifty pills or milk substitutes that take remove the danger of lactose, in other words, to separate the "milk" from milk.

The rabbis devised the milk/meat separation in order to ensure that no one could ever possibly violate the commandment not to seethe a kid in his mother's milk. Well, my kid wasn't exactly seething at the prospect of soy milk (or Silk), but I did have to build a "fence around the Torah" (as the rabbis called these protective measures) for him, only in this case it was a fence around Stew Leonards, so that he might enjoy the pleasures of dairy with none of the dangers.

So far so good. He's eating well and not suffering and we've all gotten much better at reading labels. We've discovered that some things that are dairy are still OK, and that other things marked "pareve" by rabbinic supervisors are far from lactose-free. I've added still another layer to my keen eye for ingredients and have discovered how, even more than I had thought, our food is very complicated.

If we are what we eat, it behooves us to take a good look at everything that goes into us. The laws of Kashrut take us on precisely that journey.

Time to get back to my pleasure reading for the summer, "The Omnivore's Dilemma" a scary look at what we eat.

Pass the pizza.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny you just wrote this since we may be having a similar issue with my daughter who is only 11. I thought it might be the stress of upcoming middle school, but it might be lactose. My husband and mom have it so we'll see. Good thing we are kosher so we're not piling on the cheese at every meal.