So while I was looking over my very first post, I realized that I talked a lot, but I really didn't translate much functional information. I got hooked on whatever it was that inspired me to write it, but lost track of what needed to be said.
So here it is. I would like to take the opportunity to recapitulate exactly what this blog is about. My goal is for this blog to serve as a resource, (for the curious and incredulous alike, of course). There is a lot to learn when becoming a vegan (to understand why you want to become a vegan click on the "Why the heck would I become a vegan?" tab).
You have to learn about nutrition first, because it is incredibly important that you eat a balanced diet as a vegan. For many people, it would be easy enough to fall into the rut of a nutritionally deficient (if not outright dangerous) diet of chips, soda, fake meat products, rice cakes, and dinners that look a lot like all the side dishes of an omnivorous dinner sans the meat (like a baked potato and some iceberg lettuce). If you are wondering about how you can possibly hope to survive as a vegan and how you can obtain all of your necessary nutrients, you can just click on my "How are you still alive, vegan?" tab, and I will lay out some of the basics of nutrition, including nutrients you want, "baddies" that you want to avoid, and which you need to pay special attention to as a vegan, as well as a stout discussion about protein. I hope soon to have some more information about the role of soy products in cancer, but am currently still rummaging through the primary literature. However, if you're just dying to know my general conclusion, it is that whole soy products like soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and edamame actually lower your risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and osteoporosis, while processed soy products such as soy protein isolate, may confer an increase in risk.
Once you know what nutrients you need to eat on a daily basis, you need to figure out what to eat to get them, and occasionally, learn about a new type of nutritionally dense and utterly delicious food you never heard of before (tempeh, nutritional yeast) or perhaps you just need to substitute something in place of a former dairy or meat product (you can make seitan and vegan ricotta, and you can buy vegan cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and ice cream that doesn't disappoint). To find out what to substitute for nearly any animal product check out my "What the heck is that?" tab.
Also, you will have to learn a bit about cooking, since truly healthy prepared vegan food is a rare find. Luckily, vegan cooking is often easier than regular cooking. For example, if you're making Fried Seitan (as opposed to Fried Chicken, and not that either of these are all that healthy) you don't have to worry about how well done the seitan is, all you have to do is make sure that it is a pleasant, crispy, gold on the outside, and warmed through on the inside. Unfortunately, I do not have a tab that teaches you how to cook, but as the blog grows, I hope to have a number of recipes that you can use for almost any occasion. Really, the only way to learn to cook is through recipes. Eventually, there should be a recipe up for almost any occasion- comfort food for fall days, holiday treats, birthday cakes, elegant banquets, impromptu smackerals, simple dinners, breakfasts in bed, delicious desserts, favorite cocktails.... You get the gist. My goal is to tag each post with keywords that you can use to search and find things you are looking for on the blog.
Once you have all this stuff down, you'll eventually run out of something you use daily. Say, toothpaste, deodorant, mascara, or shampoo, and you suddenly realize that the product you have always bought is tested on animals and contains animal ingredients and you now would really like to manifest everything you have learned about animal welfare in your next purchase. Well, then what? You'll come to my site and I'll give you some pointers on buying these things under my "My favorite things about being a vegan" tab. Buying vegan deodorant or toothpaste is daunting, and carries the inherent risk of stink and the inexplicable loss of friends and acquaintances. Well, I've tried quite a few, and have some good suggestions for you!
Also, please note that wherever the text is a different color than grey, that it is a link. Click it, and it will take you to my source, be it the American Dietetics Association’s information about magnesium, the USDA Annual Statistics of Cattle, Hogs, and Sheep, The Humane Slaughter Directive, Amazon so you can order a vegan cookbook, my favorite vegan restaurant Mint Tulip's blog, or Larry and Luna’s website where you can learn more about their vegan ice cream. Go ahead, click away!
And, finally, when you get to the point where you’re relentlessly having to defend this life choice to friends and family (it’s not that bad) I’ve provided the “What the heck are they thinking?” tab to outline some helpful quotes and influential vegetarians throughout history (such as Einstein, Da Vinci, Plutarch, Pythagorus, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Buddha, and Mike Tyson) and of course you can brush up on your facts and numbers in “Why the heck would I become a vegan?” This is arguably the hardest part about being a vegan. Being able to think and speak clearly and answer complex questions in a manner that is both realistic and true to your beliefs without being aggressive and condescending is a skill. This is an area where I get a big fat F. Written in red. I get worked up, I turn red. I start shaking. And why is it that it only gets brought up after cocktail hour and once everybody’s got something dead on their plate? However badly you think you may handle this situation, be assured that I have underscored “Disastrous Debate” ten-fold. I once was reduced to a sopping puddle of tears at the dinner table in front of my in-laws, grandfather-in-law, and a set of family friends while rambling about what God really meant when he declared for us “dominion” over all of creation.
As an inspiration to all of us and our debate debacles, here is an interview with Ellen Degeneres, where she does an awesome job of explaining herself.
Luckily for me, I can seek redress for my awkward confrontations by writing here. So, on that note, I’d like to outline my credentials as a vegan.
I grew up believing that a life lived without love, compassion, and the obligation to leave this world in better condition than when you came into it is the hight of existentialism. When I was younger I would think about how I could make a difference in the world, and would be bummed (but thankful!) that the battles against sexism and racism had largely been won. It seemed as if the world had been conquered and all was set right. I also wondered had I been born at a time when racism or sexism were more pervasive in society, would I believed them to be wrong? Would I have fought the good fight? “Of course I would have!” I consoled myself, and then I ordered a pepperoni pizza and gobbled it down with a blank stare. But, it slowly occurred to me that all was not right in the world. I’d really like to emphasize “slowly” because it was a shift that occurred on the magnitude of years. I realized that the good fight was to be waged on my dinner plate, and that there is a significant amount of pain and suffering in the world that is absolutely unnecessary. In the words of Leo Tolstoy “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”
So here I am now. What is it that I know about animals? I know that I grew up with dogs, and dogs are fabulous, but pigs are smarter. I know that people who cannot love a dog, are incapable of love. I know that I have a little bird that makes a very special and sweet sounding “awoo!” that she reserves for use in only three distinct situations. One being when my husband walks in the door around 6:00pm, the second being when I walk through the door to pick her up from the house she stays at when I go on vacation, and thirdly, when she sees birds fly by the window. This noise she makes is totally unlike any of the other raucous screechy parrot and mimicked household noises she makes on a daily basis. She’ll also sit on my shoulder, and tug on my hair until she has my attention, and once she does, she’ll press her beak to my lips as if to give me birdie-kiss. This may sound like the ramblings of a crazy person, but if you take the time to really get to know a bird, they surprise you with how smart and how sweet they really are! I know that every week I have the opportunity to feed the penguins at the aquarium, and that each one knows his or her name. Each one has its own personality. Falkland will float along beside you wherever you go as you work. Quoin will nip at your behind and then jump up onto the rock and wait to be fed. And if you don’t feed him immediately, he’ll be back in the water nipping at you once again. Good Hope will swim all around you, and you’ll hear his heavy breathing before he suddenly catapults himself out of the water into your bucket of fish. St. Croix and Saldhana will take your fingers off with the fish, and White Black will ever so delicately and gently take the fish out of your fingers. I’ve also had the opportunity to “coo” to a one-eyed screech owl named Percy, who “cood” back to me several times before flying to my shoulder and hunkering down. This little rehabbed, unreleasable owl was born in the wild, but has adapted to his new human family so well that you can pet and talk to him as if he were your dog.* Time and time again, animal intelligence amazes me. Even if you don’t necessarily identify it as intelligence, the interaction goes well beyond what you could expect to experience with something that should be treated merely as an object.
*To be clear- Percy, like other wild animals are not pets and should not be made into such- the animals I am speaking of have unique circumstances and unfortunately cannot be released to the wild. They do not live in anyone’s home but are housed at an institution where their caretakers are properly trained to take care of them.
I’m sure many of you are thinking that the person writing this is an incredibly naive softy. I would just like to say that I work at a farm, and I have seen a goat named Ramsey disappear from the farmyard and in turn be distributed in neatly wrapped parcels to people who asked me “What does goat taste like?” and “How do you cook it?” To which I say, “Sorry! You’re on your own! I’m a vegan!” I’ve witnessed the little piglets of the spring (even the blind one!) turn into little Italian sausages by fall. And I’ve seen the people who dared to buy the package that read “lamb heart.” I just want to know how you can sit down to feast upon the heart of a lamb without feeling absolutely evil? I’ve worked at a hunter check station for Sandhill Cranes and watched as hunters dropped their catch on the cold cement and blood splattered floor of the garage. I opened the bird’s eyes to determine their age. The first eye I opened had been shot out, and nothing but a gush of blood was behind the lid. And I cut the birds open, still warm, to determine the sex. And I talked to the hunters, asked them how many birds they killed, how many birds they shot that were not retrieved, and scribbled down their answers in the records of the Department of Fish and Game.
At the wildlife clinic, it is helpful for veterinary students to necropsy the patients they could not save, so that they can learn what went wrong and how to improve in the future. Necropsies are also done to monitor wildlife pathology. I have seen the embryos of an ectopic pregnancy removed from the abdomen of a squirrel. I have seen a rabbit’s head skinned, one eye removed and filled with water to check for punctures (the student wanted to know why in life the rabbit seemed to have problems with the eye, although there was nothing apparent externally). I have removed the ribcage from birds by cutting through the bones with scissors, and I have prepared a bird for necropsy that was so rotten that the keratin sheath of the beak slid right off the bone in my very hands. I’ve witnessed maggot infested corpses and seen beetles fall out of the scavenged side of a dead animal. I’ve looked into the eyes of an animal minutes before it was euthanized.
So, you see, the fact that I am a vegan is not because I am squeamish, or wimpy, or not “tough enough” to eat a steak. It’s not because I am from a generation that is out of touch with reality because everything we want is packaged and delivered to our fingertips. Or because I come from a generation of “softies” who can’t handle that the world is tough and that battles are bloody. I have confronted what is going on in our food production, and, in various ways have confronted the fact that nature is ruthless and brutal, and that things die, and sometimes things die an awful death. That is the way of the world. But understanding that fact, and realizing that I, as a human being, have been endowed with the choice to not be a part of it, to not contribute and bring more unjust and unnecessary pain into the world is why I am a vegan. Especially when the only true reason for causing pain and suffering is self-satiation. Just because you like the taste of dead animal.
So, anyways... Lighten up!! It’s time for Meatless Monday! And I’ve just the recipe for this beautiful fall evening. It’s a recipe that I’ve actually been making since long before I even considered going vegetarian. It’ll warm your bones and feed your soul!
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, one that has been deseeded, minced (If you are wimpy use one deseeded jalapeno)
1 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp chile powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1 15oz can pinto beans, rinsed
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed
1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 cup couscous
Any toppings you like- Daiya Cheddar cheese, vegan sour cream, avocado, diced scallions, etc.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.
Add vegetables and saute until translucent. Add spices and saute until fragrant. Add beans, broth, and tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add couscous and simmer 5 more minutes. Serve and top with whatever you like!