Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No Such Thing As a Vegan

The article "There is No Such Thing as a Vegan" has been spinning around the internet pretty quickly in the last couple of days. And it's spawned a whole lot of smack-talking on message boards and comment fields. Not surprisingly, it's making it easy for people to demonize vegans, or say that we're not really vegans, or say that we're doing it all for nothing. It's not exactly helping the cause.

Here's the illustration that is the focus of the article:

The truth is that most vegans ARE aware of those and all products derived from cows, fish, and all animals. But, as the founder of veganism, Donald Watson, himself explained, being a vegan does not mean being perfect. The definition is as follows:
"..."veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment."

Note the words possible and practical.

Here's a particularly scathing response in the comments, from "David":
"Vegans are stupid.

Everything has to die eventually, even you. What do you think it's proving to avoid animal products? I don't condone the unnecessary torture and suffering of animals, but under normal regulations, the life of a cow is hardly insufferable. And even if it is -- oh well. It's a cow. Who gives a shit? Life feeds on life -- you think bacteria feels bad when it eats your decomposing ass? Stop with the bleeding heart nonsense and find bigger issues to worry about rather than where your crayons came from. Forget the cows, there's a lot of PEOPLE that need your help, if you wanna be all compassionate about something. Or just get rich -- f* it, you live once. The world is fine. Enjoy it and die. That's life."

That guy, David, is stupid. His logic is as follows: Animals are suffering and people are suffering. People are more important than animals. Therefore helping animals is stupid. This argument is flawed on so many levels. By this logic, spending time, money, or effort on anything other than helping suffering people is a bad idea. Somehow I think he would disagree with that.

But, there were a lot of positive comments, too. And, once the back and forth escalated, the author of the GOOD.is article, Siobhan O'Conner,  explained her intentions in the comments section: 

"Wow what an amazing response, people. Just to clarify—our intention here was not to actually say it's impossible to be a vegan (that is, however, what the drawing says), but to highlight how HARD it is to avoid animal-derived products altogether. I knew about some of this stuff (particularly cosmetics and non-animal-seeming food products that contain cow parts) but a lot of it was news to me. I guess it raises an interesting question, though, about how far people can go, realistically, in the name of veganism. I myself adhere to a vegan diet most of the time, but I also mindfully indulge on occasion in other things. After years and years of varying degrees of vegetarianism, that's what's worked for me. Vegan cosmetics, when you are using only natural products anyway, can be relatively easy. Eating vegan, to me, is easy. Non-leather shoes, however, I have found to be a little tricky. How far do you go?"

So, she is basically a vegan. As good of one as any of us can hope to be. Maybe a different title would have been better. Maybe not, though. I'm sure it would have fired up the same haters. All I can do, and anyone can do, is our best.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Meat Cheat (denial)

I'm roughly 2 weeks away from when my surgeon said my body will be physically healed from the spine surgery I had back in August. Until then, I've told myself that I could eat meat if I felt I needed to, physically. I have done so, when I thought necessary, but usually with chicken. This is the first time I've had red meat in quite some time. I had Estancia beef from 8 oz., a burger. I talk about this place in an earlier post. I was craving it, and I figured I must have needed the proteins found in that kind of meat.

Since going back to work, I've had less time to prepare and eat right, plus I'm just tired sometimes, and I want to be sure I'm doing all I can to heal properly. My spine is so important to my health and comfort for the rest of my life that I wanted to take no chances.

If I was rich, it would be awesome, and I could pay someone to feed me a plant-based diet that supplied me with everything I needed. The reality is, when left to my own devices, I don't always come through. Meat is my "cheat." It still apaulls me as much as it ever has the way the animals are treated, and I have no desire to eat animals long-term. I plan to be mostly vegan for the rest of my life.

This brings up a similar feeling I once had about meat: denial. I wrote about it here. And now I'm doing it again. Only this time I'm not in denial about the origins of the meat I'm ingesting. I'm fully aware. Hyper-aware. Sickened. Still, I travel to a place in my mind, surprisingly easily, where I can forget these horrible things and eat meat when I know it's for my health.
The China Study, which lays out a convincing scientific argument for a plant based diet, details the proteins that our bodies need. It's just a fact that eating animals, needing what we need, supply us with the proteins we need much easier than can be done with plants. I think like any other "cheat" there is a trade-off. And I'm speaking purely physically here, not about the treatment of the animals. The trade-off as I see it is this: Eating meat supplies certain vitamins and proteins that we need, easier, to fill in the gaps we might miss otherwise. But, too much of it is harmful. It leads to high cholesterol, cancer, etc.

So, I think, in the long run, I'll be good to go. But, still, denial. I wonder why it's so simple for me to turn it on and off. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Steve-O is a Vegan

I'm a big fan of laughing. And I've been a fan of laughing at guys doing stupid and crazy crap before the Jackass guys got together. I used to watch old skate videos like Jump Off A Building and CKY2K where similar dangerous stupid things were going down. Here's some footage from CKY2K in case you don't know what I'm talking about.

Interestingly, one of the crazier performers from Jackass and the new Jackass 3-D, Steve-O, is a vegan. He's done ads for PETA in the past, has been a vegetarian or pescetarian most of his life, but has recently gone full vegan. He's brought it up in numerous interviews and on the Howard Stern show on SiriusXM Radio. Howard's co-host, Robin Quivers, is also a vegan and so they chatted about it for a bit.

Steve-O was recently interviewed, along with the whole Jackass crew, by Vanity Fair magazine and he makes some interesting points. Here's an excerpt:

I remember when the movie started, I said, “I don’t want to work with animals. That’s not what I’m about.” But then I did the ram scene anyway, and I justified it in my head, like, “O.K., this is for work. I’ve got to put my own personal beliefs aside.” So I got into the pen and my instincts took over. The ram charged towards my nuts, and I put my hand down to block it. That happened a bunch of times, and as a result the tendons in my right hand are totally messed up. This was back in February, and we’re now in October and it’s still not healed. I feel like it’s a permanent reminder that I compromised my beliefs.

I can totally relate to what he's saying there. I've noticed that trying to be vegan often creates situations where I have to weight my beliefs vs. practicality.

But, it's awesome that he's bringing awareness to veganism. It would fair us well to have as many celebrities as possible speak out. And everyone isn't so aware of people like Alicia Silverstone and other high profile vegans. way to go Steve-O! I'm a big fan of your, er, work, and glad to know you're spreading the word! (And Jackass 3-D was hilarious)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A vegan staple of mine: spaghetti

Before becoming (mostly) vegan, one of my favorite home made meals was spaghetti with sauce from scratch, with ground turkey meat. I'd have fresh garlic bread on the side. And if I had it around, a glass of milk. It was always so filling and satisfying.

Thankfully, that feeling remains when I cook the vegan version of this meal. Nothing is lost, in my mind. It's still super tasty. And just like before, it changes depending on what I have around the kitchen.

There are 2 differences between the old and new versions of this meal. First, the ground turkey is replaced with un-meats, like vegan sausage or frozen meatballs. Secondly, I use wheat pasta. That's pretty much it.

Here's the basics:

Fry up some red onion and garlic while the pasta is boiling. Add the frozen meatballs and reduce heat. I add them now so they thaw by the time my pasta is ready.

Add whatever veggies I have - I prefer either zucchini or yellow squash - chopped bite size. Add fresh chopped tomatoes and kinda smash them around. Lately I've been enjoying the locally grown heirloom tomatoes. It might look like one of these pictures at this point:

Add 1 small can of tomato sauce, plain, no salt added.

Throw some vegan parmesan style cheese on top and I'm good to go.

Here's another version I made recently with a spicy soy sausage, made by Field Roast Grain Meat Co.,  I cooked separately and added at the end.Yes, GRAIN meat. No soy in these bad boys. The ingredient list isn't even scary:

Mmmmm. that garlic bread looks so yummy. Earth balance vegan spread, fresh crushed garlic, a dash of dill and garlic salt. Quickly baked then broiled.

When eating veg seems too hard, I can always fall back on a trusted meal: Spaghetti.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Taste of Life

What's my favorite place to eat at the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Selma and Cahuenga every Sunday? Thanks for asking. It's A Taste of Life's booth, featuring Vegan Soul Food! That's right. Vegan soul food. Gotta love it.

My 2 favorite things are the breakfast sandwich and the mac and cheese. The sauteed kale looks good, although I haven't tried it. The BBQ Tofu is spicy and crispy and mega-yummy. But, The mac and cheese is a-ma-zing. It's thick and non-traditional, and I love it.

Apparently this place used to have a restaurant that closed down. I'm bummed I never knew about it or checked it out. But, the good news is the booth is here to stay and they are still distributing their foods via grocery stores and other venues.

So, if you're ever in the Hollywood area, check it out! But be sure to get there early. The mac and cheese goes fast!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm being interviewed on Animal Voices Radio

I'm going to be interviewed by the lovely people over at Animal Voices radio on Friday, October 15th, at 12:10 pm PST. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals and my inspiration for becoming vegan, will be interviewed immediately following at 12:30. It's going to be live and anyone can listen online at coopradio.org.

I'm extremely honored and excited for the opportunity to share my story.

The radio station is Co-Op Radio, 102.7 FM in Vancouver, BC. This is their mission statement from their website: Vancouver Co-operative Radio, CFRO, 102.7FM is a non-commercial, co-operatively-owned, listener-supported, community radio station. Located in the heart of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Co-op Radio is a voice for the voiceless that strives to provide a space for under-represented and marginalized communities. Co-op Radio aims to increase community participation by encouraging examination of the social and political concerns of the geographic and cultural communities of BC. 

I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spread the Evol™

I just had a tasty vegan burrito for a snack—a frozen burrito. An Evol burrito. If you're in a pinch, it's a good, pretty healthy option. Here's why I find them superior to other frozen burritos.

1. They're vegan, and there are 2 flavor options
2. You can put them in the fridge for up to 7 days, which makes it much easier to cook without using a microwave (pan fry), or easier to microwave so the tortilla doesn't turn into a rock hard crispy shell
3. The packaging looks good
4. The copy is clever
5. They're pretty green

I like the Veggie Fajita flavor:

There's also a Tofu and Spinach flavor that I haven't tried:

The ingredients are pretty natural and healthy, considering it's a frozen burrito.

Enjoy! And keep it full of Evol.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soy milk at Starbucks


(My spell check just suggested ethogram, whatever that is.) Clearly it wasn't yet familiar with the shorthand for "What the F is up with Starbucks"!?

Lately I've been drinking coffee again. It probably won't last long because I'm not a big fan of caffeine. But I go through phases. Anyway, the drink I usually order is an iced coffee with soy milk, unsweetened. Simple enough.

Some baristas were charging me $2.45, but others were charging me $2.95 (an extra .50 for the soy). But, the menu doesn't specify it. It says iced coffee, or iced coffee with milk, same price. A manager corrected the transaction once because he said it wasn't an up-charge. So, I thought that to be true. Occasionally, someone would charge me for the soy and I'd say it wasn't extra, and they'd fix it. That's until I tried this at one particular Bucks to the wrong barista. She wanted to make it into a whole big thing, telling me the menu says soy is extra, and I was wrong. I just said I order it a lot and it's not an extra charge. I don't want to make anyone's day suck.

But now I was curious. I called up Starbucks corporate outside on the sidewalk drinking my coffee. I explained to the gentleman from their customer service department that I enjoy an iced coffee with soy milk, and I've been charged inconsistently. I wanted to know if the extra .50 should be charged.

Drumroll please?!..........yes.

Hmm. Well, from now on, when I don't get charged the extra change, it's a bonus. That makes the whole experience better.

This leads me to another question. Why is soy milk an extra charge? Dairy milk is from an animal that needs to be raised and fed and milked and pasteurized and shipped cold and on and on. It's crazy soy milk, from plants, is pricier. What a world.