Thursday, February 28, 2008

Yummy pasta goodness

Tonight I broke out the Veganomicon to try out the Penne Vodka. Great stuff!

I (obviously) didn't have penne, but Barilla Plus Elbows stood in just fine, and so did dry roasted almonds for the regular almonds. This was tasty, easy and quick, and I will definitely make it again. Just have to make sure that I have fresh basil around, because it is absolutely necessary in my opinion. We also had a green salad with a balsamic-maple dressing that I threw together and garlic rubbed toast with Earth Balance. And Chad and I split a Ruination IPA. Oh the awesomeness abounds!

The State of Affairs of Operation Go Vegan
So I've listened to even more Vegetarian Food for Thought Podcasts, which I'm convinced would change anyone's mind. They're so well-reasoned and straightforward.

I also checked out The Vegan Sourcebook by Jo Stepaniak, and I've been enjoying it a great deal.

Every time I think of cheese, I imagine baby calves crying out for their mothers, and the mothers bellowing for their babies.

Every time I think of eggs, I imagine an emaciated hen that had to endure forced moulting, where she was starved for up to 14 days without food or water.

And I've also been really interested/disgusted to really REALLY comprehend that the egg and dairy industry all rely on the enslavement of the female reproductive system. As a feminist and a mother, I just can't participate in that anymore. I imagine how I would feel in their stead, and I don't know how anyone can think it's ok.

I think of science fiction stories and books where these kinds of things are done to humans and how it takes that kind of mirror for us to see the sickness of the situation. I'm thinking of this one Twilight Zone episode where an astronaut lands on an alien world, and is taken in by the aliens (who appear to be just like humans). They build him a house and it looks just like the house he grew up in, and he is so excited about it and meeting the aliens. At the end of the episode it's revealed that the man is confined to that house forever - he's an exhibit in the aliens' zoo.

The last time we tried this vegan experiment we had all kinds of caveats. We would cook vegan at home but not hold ourselves to an "impossible" standard when eating out. The Midwest is not exactly a bastion of vegan living, after all. We were coming at it from a health perspective, not an ethical one. Now I'm really coming at it from an ethical, health AND environmental angle. It's all encompassing. But this is a hard life choice - this is a non-vegan world, after all. And I'm coming to realize that unless ethics is at the forefront of this choice then it is far too easy to slip, to make excuses. To convince yourself that this one ice cream cone, this one pizza, this one eggplant parmesan isn't going to kill you. And really, it won't kill you. But it will/did sign the death warrant of many, many animals. And the bottom line is that they just don't need to suffer terrible hardships and die just for my convenience. Because that's what it is. My convenience.

I know that this is heavy and annoying, and probably nobody is still reading. I just need to work through these issues for myself. Everything has been rolling around in my head for the past few days, and I just needed to "get it down on paper," if you will.

I just picked up Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz from the library. And I have to confess: I am scared of reading it. I've seen the PETA videos, I've heard accounts about how the animals "live" in factory farm conditions. I'm still nervous about this book for some reason. But I'm going to read it anyway.

That's all for now!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Maybe vegan, again?

Several things have happened lately.

First: I've been listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast, Food For Thought. Colleen is the founder of Compassionate Cooks, which she founded to help educate people about the many benefits of a vegan diet. Her podcasts are AWESOME. She is super articulate, well-informed, and like the title says, compassionate. None of that snarky holier-than-thou crap that is so often a part of other vegan podcasts (*coughcoughveganfreakscoughcough*). She doesn't ramble on about her friends or what she did this weekend. These podcasts are professional - she's put a lot of time and effort into organizing her thoughts on the topic at hand. She's no-nonsense, down-to-earth, and I LOVE that her message is to *do the best you can*. It's not about being perfect, it's about doing what you can to live your life and alleviate the suffering of others. I highly encourage you to listen to her podcast, it's just really awesome. I especially like her thoughts about "excuse-itarians" - where she refers to a lot of the popular food writers right now, like Micheal Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Waters and members of the Slow-Food Movement making meat-eating, not so much more en vogue as trying to cast it as more morally palatable by making weird darwinian arguments or saying things like "we have to eat them in order to protect the breed." I'm not getting into it here, but if you want to read more, check out this article or this article or Colleen's podcast episode "The Rise of the Excuse-itarian" from 10/26/2006.


This eating thing is a journey. I went from being mostly vegan last year at this time back to vegetarianism as I became more interested in eating locally. Because soymilk, tempeh, soy yogurt, egg replacer? Not able to get it locally. And I really, really, REALLY love the idea of supporting small, local farmers and NOT giant corporations. I love shopping at the farmer's market. I love being a part of a CSA. But what I'm coming to realize is that just because I *can* get it locally doesn't mean I should. Because, yeah, those chickens that lay the eggs that I buy might really be free range. BUT, that same farm also sells dead chickens for eating. Duh. Why did I not put this together before?! It's not cool. I think I just fell victim to the ideal of the small, organic farm; I had it in my head that this naturally meant no cruelty, no killing. Or at least no pain. Or they did some magic dance to erase the actual *killing* of another sentient creature that goes on. But. The chickens that they sell? I bet they would have chosen living. And as much as I want to, I'm having a hard time thinking my way out of the fact that the veal industry is THE (not A) natural outcome of the dairy industry. And another image/feeling I can't let go of is the separation of the calf from it's mother, just so we can have the mother's milk. As a nursing mother, I am literally nauseated at the thought. That poor baby, that poor mother, who want nothing more than the comfort of the other...Ugh.

And again, anyway. Another thing that has been coming up is a thread on a message board I frequent (MotheringDotCommune). A woman asked the question "Is human/ethical lacto-ovo vegetarianism possible?" And my first thought was to say, "Yes, of course it is, what a silly question." But the more I tried to think my way - very explicitly - through the set of conditions in which it would be possible, the more I realized how very far from that set of conditions I was living. For instance, if I could have my own hens and provide a place for the roosters to live, I would eat those eggs. Or if I could find a supplier which met those, conditions, no problem. Chickens lay eggs, it doesn't hurt them, it's cool. But the mass production of eggs? It's not cool. I won't/don't need to get into it here, but for a little view of why, check out Colleen's podcast from 1/22/2008 "I Only Eat White Meat." (And I know I'm referring to Colleen a lot, like I've taken her on as my own personal guru - I haven't. I have known all these things in the past. They're just the kind of thing you want to forget so that you can live your life of convenience and cheap, easy pleasures. She's just reminded me of what I've known since I was 18 and chose veganism for the first time.)

My husband is nervous about the prospect of "going vegan" again. Nervous for Silas, nervous that we can't got out to eat here in Meat And Potatoes Land, which is a real concern since going out to eat is part of what we call the "sanity tax" of surviving in Metro Detroit (i.e. this place sucks so much that we have to distract ourselves from it by doing stuff like going out to eat). These are concerns, but they very easily worked around. Silas, thank dog, is a GREAT eater of many delicious, vegan foods. I don't think he'll really miss the cheese or yogurt. And he's always hated milk (except for mama's!) so no worries there. The going out to eat thing? Well, I've done it before. It's a lot of question-asking, going out for ethnic food, and hummus on bagels. It's doable. And it's a lot of cooking at home, which I LOVE to do anyway.

As an aside - Yesterday I got to spend the afternoon partially alone in my house, in my sunny warm kitchen listening to Colleen and cooking up a storm. I can imagine no greater pleasure than educating myself which simultaneously engaging in a creative act that's natural outcome is delicious and nurturing foods for my family to enjoy. It was wonderful. Bonus that a toddler wasn't screaming for my attention every 28 seconds!

I'm rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say is: There's been a shake-up in our kitchen. I'm not sure where all the chips are going to fall, but I think you can see where this is headed. I've dusted off my copy of Becoming Vegan, I've stalked, purchased and practically made love to my copy of Veganomicon, and I've put Slaughterhouse on my to-read list.

Can we have a Maybe Local Vegan? Stay tuned.