How Green and Leafy Is My Valley: My foray into the world of healthful eating made me wonder if our town had a vegetarian organization, a group of like-minded individuals that gets together and maybe compares tofu and sprout recipes. Well, I found a Valley vegetarian group, but it's not at all what I expected. The organization Jewish Vegetarians of Arizona has been around for five years. According to ophthalmologist and member Dr. Jay Lavine, the group was formed to "promote vegetarianism in the Jewish tradition." What does that mean? Lavine says Judaism holds out vegetarianism as an ideal. Back in the Garden of Eden, he noted, Adam and Eve never considered eating meat. Only after the Fall did our ancestors start to feed on animal protein. And even then, Jewish law imposed serious restrictions: no pork, no shellfish, no mixing of meat and dairy. While the Bible recognizes meat eating as a practical necessity, Lavine says it implicitly suggests that vegetarianism is a more exalted course. The group believes that Jewish beliefs and vegetarian principles mesh on a number of levels. Lavine says both emphasize the importance of health; both decry cruelty to animals; and both share environmental concerns, ranging from pesticide use to overgrazing. The group's two dozen or so members communicate through occasional events and a bimonthly newsletter. The group is neither exclusively vegan--people who give up dairy products and eggs as well as meat--nor, interestingly enough, exclusively Jewish. Lavine runs a vegetarian-nutrition info line for people who have questions about a vegetarian diet. Call 242-1988. And if you are curious about the organization, you can write to Jewish Vegetarians of Arizona at P.O. Box 32842, Phoenix, AZ 85064.
Fowl Play: Remember the howl a few months ago when a nutritional study claimed Chinese and Italian restaurant food were as bad for your health as a two-week trip to Chernobyl? If I remember correctly, the report labeled one Italian specialty, fettuccine Alfredo, a "coronary on a plate." And soon after the report's release, sales figures at Chinese restaurants all over the country dipped faster than Bill Clinton's popularity. Maybe you heard about the findings and decided to eat only rotisserie-spun chicken. Right now, it's an extremely popular restaurant and fast-food item, touted by industry sources as "wholesome food" and a "healthful option." Well, prepare yourself for more bad news. According to Tufts University's Diet and Nutrition newsletter, rotisserie chicken is essentially a Big Mac with wings and thighs. From a nutritional perspective, it's not much different from fried chicken in terms of fat and calories. I guess about all we can look forward to in the future is rotisserie broccoli.
Oh, You Swine: In Texas, a devout Muslim is seeking $600,000 in damages from a restaurant that added unadvertised amounts of pork to its beef tacos. Islamic law, like Jewish law, forbids the consumption of pork.
The family's attorney says his clients have been "duped" and are filled with "guilt and shame." The lawyer says that if the restaurant doesn't fork over big bucks to the victims, he'll consider filing a multimillion-dollar class-action suit on behalf of all diners similarly aggrieved.