Why We Don't Eat Meat During the 9 Days, and What to Eat Instead

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Rachael Masri
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For anyone that enJOYS meat, the 9 days preceding Tisha B'Av can be a particularly tough time. In addition to restrictions such as no laundering clothing, no purchasing new items, no bathing or swimming, and several more, the custom is to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine.

Why Not?

But what exactly is the deal with no meat? During this time, all of the normal customs of mourning are observed, as we mentally prepare ourselves for an important day in history— the day of the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. But why meat?

MORE: An Easy Pre-Fast Menu For Tisha B'Av

During the nine days we must "reduce our joy," which certainly applies to meat for many food lovers. Interestingly, the Mishna and Gemara say nothing about this prohibition, so why do we do it? Over time, this custom was simply adapted as a law (Aruch Hashulchan 551:23), and therefore, violating it would be similar to violating the halacha of “al titosh toras imecha,” aka do not forsake the law of your mother, meaning a custom that has been accepted unquestionably through the generations. But why meat and wine? When a relative passes away, there is no such restriction! The answer is that meat and wine remind us of the Temple service, which is a source of happiness, where Hashem was served by offerings of korbanos of meat and wine.

MORE: A Weeknight Vegan Menu

Luckily, there are a few exceptions:

  • Eating meat and drinking wine are permitted on Shabbat, including seudat shlishit (the 3rd meal).
  • Eating meat and drinking wine are permitted at a simcha, such as a brit milah or bar mitzvah.
  • In necessary circumstances someone who is very ill is allowed to have meat.
  • These restrictions vary among Ashkenazim and Sephardim, so it is important to consult a halachic authority for exact details.

Where Will You Get Your Protein?

The first question many people may ask now is, but where will you get your protein? Don’t worry, vegans and vegetarians have been managing successfully for years and we can even eat fish, but now is a great time to grab a few tricks from their food pyramids. Vegans particularly need to focus on a diet of nuts, cereals, whole grains, and legumes. The important part is to balance the diet in order to get a complete amino acid intake, including at least 2 of the previously mentioned proteins in each meal.

Here are some protein packed foods to focus on, according to one health source:

MORE: The Best Vegetarian Tofu Recipes

It may be a bit harder to plan your menus if meat is a constant part of your diet, but we have plenty of protein packed recipes to keep you satisfied until Tisha B'Av:

LENTIL AND TUNA SALAD

lentil tuna salad

Lentils, dubbed the “poor man’s meat,” are a low-cost source of protein. This delicious recipe is a typical Tuscan picnic dish. It can be made in advance, is healthy, and travels well. It is a perfect addition to a shalosh seudos table or a great summer Shabbos appetizer. Seek out the Italian or French Puy lentils; they make a huge difference in taste and texture. They are nothing like the mushy soup lentils you may be familiar with. They are hearty, intensely flavored, and keep their shape perfectly.

WHITE BEAN STEW WITH GOAT CHEESE

White Bean Stew with Goat Cheese

This White Bean Stew with Goat Cheese recipe is an easy weeknight meal that everyone loves. The stew combines delicious hearty flavors that are slow cooked in tomato sauce and infused with a touch a cumin. The goat cheese on top brings the final touch to the dish to add a deeper flavor.

MORE: Tisha B'Av and The Nine Days

PROTEIN POWERED SALAD – QUINOA TABBOULEH

Protein Packed Salad - Quinoa Tabbouleh

This salad makes another great addition to your picnic basket and can replace the traditional coleslaws or heavy salads. It is light, fresh and full of delicious herbs, seasonal tomatoes and protein with the quinoa and sunflower seeds.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI IN TAMARIND SAUCE

stuffed zuchinni kusa mekshi

This Stuffed Zucchini in Tamarind Sauce comes straight from Syria. Although it is usually made with ground meat, in this version there are sunflower seeds (or pine nuts) and brown rice is used rather than white. The tamarind concentrate adds a special sweet and sour flavor to this delicious dish. You can substitute the zucchini with grape leaves.

GINGER SESAME BAKED TEMPEH

Ginger-Sesame-Tempeh

Try something new. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that has a slightly bitter taste. It holds up well to strong Asian flavors and the texture is much more firm and meaty than tofu. This preparation is a great way to give tempeh a try.

Have an easy 9 days!

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