Yesterday, Gandhi's birthday, Alex Hershaft observed his traditional fast on behalf of animals. Today is Rosh Hashanah, a new year. And next week, Farmed Animal Rights Movement, the nonprofit Hershaft began, celebrates its 40th birthday in (vegan) style.
Hershaft, 82, remembers when animal advocacy was less of a party, when it was barely a movement. "I was a closet vegetarian," he says with a laugh. "I kept it to myself. I felt there was something wrong with me."
Even as Hershaft threw himself into the social justice initiatives of the 1960s and '70s, he felt like an outsider, unfulfilled. Then in the mid-1970s, a chance encounter led to him to attend a Vegetarian Society event. He came away "enthralled, vindicated. I could come out of the closet." And he realized, "Maybe this is the new social justice movement for me."
Social justice is central for Hershaft, a holocaust survivor. His activism has been shaped by two Singers -- Princeton philosopher and abolitionist vegan Peter Singer, author of the seminal book Animal Liberation and award-winning Nobel author Isaac Bashevis Singer (Polish and meatless like Hershaft) who wrote, "When a human kills an animal for food, he is neglecting his own hunger for justice. Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others."
Hershaft, who serves on the Advisory Council of Jewish Veg, calls it "the cult of victimhood. Many Jews subscribed, including my own mother. We have suffered and therefore we are now empowered to cause suffering to others." In working to protect animals, Hershaft also aims to protect humanity. He's made FARM's mission to end killing animals for food. Period. That's also the goal of the Animal Rights National Conference.
Now the idea of an animal rights conference may seem like no big deal, but when Hershaft began it 25 years ago, it was radical. He wanted to gather all who care about this issue and how it affects us personally, morally, globally, so no one needs to feel as alone and alienated as Hershaft once did. For people united around accomplishing the same goal, keeping the dialogue going between the various factions is challenging. There's a hundred speakers and about as many agendas. "People get entrenched in their various positions. They disagree and fight." Several years ago, mainstream groups took offense at a militant presenter. "They walked out of our conference." He pauses and smiles. "They're back now."
Having devoted half his life to animal advocacy, Hershaft says, ""There are many ways to accompish our goal. My own philosphy's evolving constantly." Try Meatless Monday. Join animal rights and vegan organizations (um, like FARM). Invest in vegan food innovation or just stock up on veggie burgers. Any way you get there is good.
With the advent of the internet and social media, FARM's messaging is more sophisticated and reaches more people than ever. Yet Hershaft feels a wistful longing to see people returning to the gatherings and grassroots activism that energized him when he began FARM. He appreciates the power of the virtual, but he cherishes the real. A party for FARM's 40 birthday seems just the right choice for the man who started it all, a way to celebrate the animal rights movement's beginnings and its future and a way to bring everyone together. You're invited.
Farfalle with Greens and Buckwheat Crunch
This recipe offers a different spin on classic Polish kasha varnishkes, a Rosh Hashanah favorite. It doesn't break with tradition entirely. It relies on the old Italian trick of saving some of the water used for cooking the pasta and adding it to the sauce. The water retains some of the starch from the pasta and makes everything silky.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or 2 teaspoons fresh jalapeno or pepperoncino, minced
1/2 cup kasha
1 13-ounce box farfalle or other small pasta shape
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
4 cups fresh tender greens, such as arugula and spinach, loosely packed
1 cup pasta cooking liquid, reserved
sea salt to and freshly ground pepper
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and dried pepper flakes or fresh minced chile and stir for a minute or two until vegetables become softened and fragrant. Pour in the kasha and give a stir for a minute or two until toasty-smelling, glossy and fragrant. Add a pinch of sea salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pasta pot over medium-high heat. Add the cooked pasta, lemon juice and zest and capers. Add greens by the handful and pour in 3/4 cups of the pasta cooking liquid. Mix together lightly, letting the heat from the pasta and pasta water wilt -- not boil -- the greens. Pour in the remaining pasta water, season with sea salt and fresh pepper and give a final mix.
Sprinkle the toasted kasha on the pasta and serve.
More at soulfulvegan.com.