Cowspiracy, the latest documentary revealing the devastating impact of animal agriculture on our environment, left me wondering: Can anything today be eaten in good conscience?
If you haven’t seen Cowspiracy, you’re probably thinking you’ve heard this message countless times. Didn’t Food, Inc. tell us back in 2008 that our food system is in peril?
Yes, but Cowspiracy is different (and also hilarious). In addition to shedding light on the issues surrounding factory farming — that it’s responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry and is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption, pollution, etc. — it asks the question: Why aren’t the leading environmental groups addressing the issue?
I don’t want to ruin the film, so stop reading if you hate spoilers, but the film makes several eye-opening declarations about two foods I’ve considered acceptable choices: sustainable fish and grass-fed beef. According to Cowspiracy, all fish, even those species labeled “sustainable,” are in fact unsustainable. And grass-fed beef is out because there isn’t enough land worldwide to support this type of farming. Kip Anderson, the filmaker, concludes the film declaring veganism as the only sustainable diet on a global scale.
As these ideas surfaced throughout the film, all I could think about was my morning muesli. Of course I would miss that first summmer burger, but what would I do without my daily oats, soaked and softened in milk, the bowl I fix every morning before even thinking about coffee. Of course I would miss that block of cheese at lunch and the bacon and crème fraîche on my pizza and the occasional scoop of ice cream after dinner but could I survive with my morning ritual so disrupted?
Coincidentally, I watched Cowspiracy the night before Food52 Vegan arrived at my door. I opened the book to find muesli made with nut milk as the first recipe. The stars had aligned to give homemade nut milk a go.
I scooped a cup of cashews into a bowl and covered them with water. The following morning, I drained the plumped, swollen nuts, then puréed them with water, maple syrup and vanilla. The process was easy — cashew milk, unlike other nut milks, requires no straining — and it tasted surprisingly good, which assured me I could, at the very least, stomach vegan muesli. I poured the milk into Mason jars, stuck them in the fridge, and went about my day. But as the day progressed, something happened: every time I passed the fridge, I snuck — chugged — a glass of cashew milk. It tasted rich, creamy, and so refreshing. I drank the quart within a day, then immediately soaked another cup of cashews. I have made a batch of nut milk every morning since.
News to me: nut milk, if anything, is an indulgence. My morning muesli has never been happier. I’ve never felt so hydrated.
Friends, I am not going vegan but I feel inspired to explore a way of eating I have always considered a step too far, a diet of nuts, berries and odd ingredients found only at health food markets, an austere way of living that would leave me hungry all day long. Thus far, this has not been my experience. I have made vegan chia pudding that tastes as delicious as when made with whole milk. I made a freekeh salad two nights in a row that I cannot wait to share with you. Cashew milk will forever be a staple in my fridge.
I have yet to explore the world of tempeh, nutritional yeast and tofu feta, and I am not ready to give up eating something as miraculous as the egg nor am I ready to stop eating meat, but I know my reliance on animal products, dairy in particular, could use some scrutiny. I’ll keep you posted.
Have you watched Cowspiracy? Thoughts?
Muesli with cashew milk:
Cashews after 12 hours of soaking:
One cup of cashews yields about 5 cups of milk:
Source: Food52 Vegan by Gena Hamshaw — This book, the first vegan cookbook I’ve owned, somehow makes vegan cooking feel familiar/accessible. It’s filled with bright, simple, and healthy recipes — I’m loving it. I have used this method for nut milk with almonds and cashews, but I prefer using cashews because with cashews, you don’t have to strain the mixture through cheesecloth. One cup of raw cashews produces about 6 cups of milk, whereas 1 cup of almonds produces 3 cups of milk. Cashew milk is creamy and delicious, and I can’t get enough of it. You can also use steel cut oats, which only have to soak for an hour. The chia pudding recipe in the book calls for bananas and cinnamon, so feel free to add those to taste — purée the bananas with the cashew milk if you choose to add them. Below is a half recipe.
for the cashew milk:
- 1 cup (5 oz |120 g) cashews, soaked in water for 8 to 12 hours and drained
- ¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup or 4 pitted medjool dates
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- small pinch salt
- 4 cups (950 ml) water
for the chia puddings:
- 1½ cups homemade cashew milk
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch salt
- 6 tablespoons chia seeds
- Put cashews in blender or food processor and purée until fine, scraping down the sides. Add the syrup, vanilla and water and purée until smooth, scraping down the sides again if necessary.
- Transfer to storage jars and chill. Use within 2 or 3 days. Shake before using.
- To make the puddings: Put the chia seeds in a medium bowl. Pour the cashew milk, maple syrup, and vanilla overtop. Add a pinch of salt. Let sit for 5 minutes. Give it a stir. Let sit for 10 minutes. Give it another stir. At this point, the chia seeds should be getting plump and the mixture should start to resemble a loose tapioca pudding.
- Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. Before serving, check the consistency. Add more milk to achieve the desired consistency. Taste. Add more maple syrup if necessary.
Freekeh salad also from Food52 Vegan. Will post recipe soon. So good, and easy, too.