Saturday, January 28, 2012

What This Vegan Eats

I've been eating more than writing. Oh, the shame!

Salad w/romaine lettuce, radishes, hot banana peppers. Tangerine. Mini fava bean burger patties (fava beans, rolled oats, wheat germ, grated onions, celery seed, ground chipotle, parsley and a dash of tamari, dredged through whole wheat flour and pan-fried).

Chopped purple cabbage and pineapple, shredded carrot. Tossed with: Lime/sweet onion dressing, sesame oil, grated ginger, dried jalapeno and a hefty pinch of sugar.

Soup: Turnip, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, peas and garlic. Seasoned with caraway & dill seed and smoked paprika.

Red potato/tofu scramble with onions, garlic, black salt, turmeric and parsley. Tangerine & strawberries.

Guac with avocado, diced tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice & onion. Broccoli and corn chips.
Frozen banana & blueberries, fresh strawberries, a tangerine, minced fresh parsley, a heaping tsp of ground flax, a heaping Tbs of organic almond butter and a drizzle of water.

Organic tofu marinated in tamari, sesame oil and coriander, then dredged through whole wheat flour & five-spice powder and oven-baked. Bean sprouts, shredded cabbage/carrots sautéed with tamari, sesame oil, crushed garlic and ginger. Mustard dip for the tofu.

Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrot, radishes, mushrooms, shredded beet greens, tofu & romano beans marinated in a lime/sweet onion/sesame vinaigrette, ground flax seed.

Red lentil soup with spinach, potatoes, onions, carrots, corn, ginger, turmeric and tons of other Indian seasonings (including hing).

Romaine lettuce, vidalia onion, radishes, topped with Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream and smoked soy bits.

Black rice, French lentils, carrots, purple cabbage, onions, potatoes, celery. Seasoned with (as odd as it may sound) rosemary, dill seed, parsley and black pepper. Hearty winter soup, sez I.

Udon noodles heated w/sesame oil and crushed garlic. Stir-fry (broccoli, onions, carrots, mushrooms, celery, tamari, grated ginger, five-spice powder). Organic tofu marinated in tamari and five-spice, dredged through whole wheat flour w/coriander & baked.

Friday, January 13, 2012

On Getting that 'Word' Out!

'Veganism' Is Everywhere!!

I remember a few years ago how articles about veganism in online media sources were just occasional finds. They still are, really. I mean, the word 'vegan' gets tossed around a fair bit these days. You'll find it in food and health-related articles in the NY Times or in articles on the ethics of factory farming in The Atlantic. You'll hear it brought up on daytime talk shows whose hosts have either dabbled with some sort of plant-based thing or who've actually taken it further to refrain from using animal products altogether. You'll hear it in soundbites on entertainment gossip shows when this or that celebrity self-identifies as having embraced and/or rejected veganism (e.g. Larry Hagman is the latest to throw his hat, claiming to have 'gone vegan' to fight his cancer, while Eva Longoria was recently widely-quoted as having suffered almost immediate negative health effects when she supposedly went vegan). The thing is, though, that with few exceptions, none of these article that drop the v-word actually educate the public about anything having to do with veganism.

Partitioning Veganism

We end up with a jumble of mixed messages from mainstream media sources or others in the public eye. Even so-called animal advocacy groups like Vegan Outreach end up condoning animal consumption, either setting up false dichotomies or basically shaming vegans that we're wasting time and energy in actually avoiding personal consumption of animal products. In the words of its co-founders Matt Ball:

I like to sum up this philosophy by pointing out that a half hour of leafleting will likely reduce more suffering than the effort it takes to go from 99 to 99.9% vegan for one’s entire lifetime.
You had better turn a blind eye to those anchovies or to that casein, lest you somehow magically get a couple of hours lopped off your life that you could have used to hand someone a pamphlet!

Vegan Outreach's other co-founder Jack Norris, a self-identified vegan, takes it even further, calling upon vegans to consume animal products to convince others that it's easy to not consume some animal products :

If a food is 99% vegan, then it’s vegan enough for me. I want other people to think that they too can boycott animal cruelty and still eat in as many places / situations as possible, but I also feel okay about it knowing that the small amounts of animal products I might be eating are probably not causing any measurable harm, especially compared to alienating one person from trying vegetarianism for even a few meals.
A few issues arise from this statement, assumptive and straw man-ish as it is. First of all, Norris is using percentages to qualify a food as being "vegan enough" to indicate how convenience should influence the quantity of animal products a vegan should feel comfortable consuming. The fact that it's sometimes difficult for a vegan to eliminate all animal products from his or her daily life (e.g. driving or riding in a car involves using a vehicle whose manufacturing has at some point involved animal testing, tires containing animal products, etc.) isn't a license to shrug and deliberately choose easily avoidable animal products just for the sake of convenience or the sake of appearances. As for appearances: Do you really think that by eating animal products, you're going to convince another human being that going vegan is easy? If anything, you'll just be successful at conveying to that human being that vegans shrug off animal use. Norris doesn't mention trying to convince another human to go vegan, though, but uses the term 'vegetarian'.

I suppose that if you self-identify as a vegan and want to convince your meat-eating friend that it's easy to find a meal that doesn't include meat, going ahead and ignoring that pat of butter on your baked potato or the sprinkle of parmesan on your marinara sauce might be effective. I should hope that as a vegan, though, you'd know enough that there's no ethical distinction between eating a chicken's leg or her eggs, a cow's tongue or the milk meant for her calf. There's as much suffering involved in the lives of those enslaved for their so-called products as there is for those enslaved for the taste of their flesh. There's no less injustice involved and the truth is that they all end up in the slaughterhouse in the end. Where eggs and milk are concerned, even additional lives--those of male chicks and of the calves produced through repeated impregnation--are lost. Norris confuses the issue completely. To him and to Vegan Outreach, it's "vegan enough" to continue to deliberately provide demand for this enslavement and slaughter of others. And why? To convince someone that it's not difficult to sometimes consume some animals, since it would supposedly be off-putting to try to show them that it's not difficult to be vegan? Vegan outreach, indeed. And it's not just Vegan Outreach rejecting the opportunity to send a clear vegan message. PETA does it in all shapes, sounds and smells (e.g. in a letter to the editor where they promote "go[ing] vegan -- at least for one or two days a week" to save water).

Mostly Plant-Based Diet?

The truth is that when the word pops up in print these days, its meaning has become quite commonly understood to be something akin to 'mostly plant-based diet'. We have non-vegan foodies like Mark Bittman to thank for that, along with every other food or health fad writer who's jumped on the bandwagon to find ways to pimp the word 'vegan'. Upon pointing this out here or there on the interwebs, I invariably end up with at least one person raising an objection, insisting upon one (or a combination) of the following, that

a) every little bit counts,
b) I can't expect things to be 'all or nothing',
c) anything that lessens [sic] animal suffering at all should be celebrated,
d) I'm being overly-critical/judgmental/divisive in not embracing that Person X (who is advocating not eating this or that species or part of an animal on this or that day of the week) and I are really fighting for the 'same cause',
e) and that it's important to get The Word out there. (Apparently, I tend to forget about this thing called The Word again and again!)

The thing is, though, that something is spreading, but this so-called 'word' has little to do with examining the ethics of using other animals. More often than not, it has nothing to do with educating others to reject animal exploitation at all--even when it appears to do so.

The Result?

With wrongheaded messages like these, is it really any wonder that those outside of advocacy get it wrong? When so-called animal rights activists--well-funded groups perfectly capable of disseminating truthful and consistent information--choose instead to 1) send mixed messages to the public, and 2) to shame those who take the rights and interests of animal seriously out of trying to set things straight, should we be surprised that the word 'vegan' is now being tossed around by so many to mean anything from vegan, to someone who occasionally eats an occasional salad with an oil and vinegar dressing? All of a sudden, everyone's a spokesperson for veganism and neither being vegan nor actually taking animal rights seriously seem to be qualifying criteria for this.

A blurb I read sometime last week on the Indianapolis Star's website ("Vegan diet can be a healthy, satisfying start to the new year"). In this bit purportedly promoting a "vegan diet", its author, in fact, recommends "eating vegan or vegetarian a couple of times a week" and partitions veganism into 1) something that merely means not eating animals and 2) something that sometimes means not using them at all. In this other article I read today ("Local vegetarians have limited options"), a self-described "flexible vegetarian", who excuses away awkwardly re-branding her regular old omnivorism bent by insisting that she doesn't like "labels", is quoted as saying that it's "hard to be a vegan" in her area and that one would likely "starve to death". The article continues by using 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' interchangeably and quotes another apparently stellar authority on veganism-cum-vegetarianism, an assistant professor of dietetics, who offers up that it's hard to find vegan-friendly food in grocery stores and that (because he's also got a degree in sociology or psychology tucked into his jeans), it's also difficult to not eat some animal products (e.g. meat) because you can't go out with your friends and not "be the picky one". These are the people who are out there getting the so-called 'word' out.

Get Talking!

Who's going to tell the public that veganism isn't about having the occasional grilled cheese sandwich or sprinkle of smoked pig's flesh on a salad and calling it "vegan enough"?

Who's going to tell the public that the animal enslaved and slaughtered for human use doesn't care whether you wear her flesh on your feet or gnaw on rib once she's dead? Meat = dairy = eggs = leather = fur.

Who's going to tell the public that we owe other animals more than to continue to use them for the sake of convenience, or worse, for the sake of appearances?

Who's going to tell the public that we owe other animals--these sentient persons--more than to continue to use them as things?

Who's going to tell the public that we don't need to keep participating in or perpetuating this cycle?

Who's going to show them by example that going vegan is easy?

If not vegans, then who else? If you're not vegan, then please consider what's involved in your continued use of other animals today. Visit Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach for more information. If you are vegan, get that 'word' out--but please just make sure you get that 'word' right. Talk to someone about veganism today.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What This Vegan Eats

Thai coconut curry soup with potatoes, carrots, red bell peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, green curry paste, galangal, coconut milk, organic brown sugar and a dash of Indian chili powder for extra heat.

Baked sweet potato, "Garlicky Cheezy Kale" and cranberry sauce

Oatmeal raisin-date cookies!

Baked potato topped with homemade seitan, roasted red pepper and zucchini, and some of the cooking liquid from the seitan.

Chopped Gardein "chicken" patty, pickles, hot banana peppers, pan-fried mushrooms, roasted garlic hummus, mustard on panini.

Mixed greens & herbs with zucchini, radishes, grape tomatoes, pickled hot banana peppers and ground flax, topped with a drizzle of lemon juice. A perfectly ripened pear.

Potato-bread stuffing casserole, baked sweet potato, Gardein patty, cranberry sauce, carrots & baby peas cooked with herbes salées.

Half an organic Fuji apple and a banana, sprinkled with lemon juice. Toasted whole wheat pita with organic unsalted/unsweetened peanut butter.

Cabbage soup with tomatoes, onions, green beans, mushrooms and seasoned with dill seed, dried chipotle and smoked paprika.

Fruit smoothie with frozen banana, raspberries, a few clementine oranges and some ground flax.

Small baked red potato, "boiled dinner" (cabbage, carrots & celery cooked with salt and a dash of liquid smoke), grape tomatoes.

Whole wheat peanut butter cookies!

Long macaroni (maccheroncelli?) with roasted garlic tomato sauce with onions, carrots, garlic, celery, green bell pepper, zucchini and fresh basil.

Nestled in between Xmas and New Year's, Canada Post's own version of Santa (minus the reindeer) brought me my very own copy of Vincent Guihan's new cookbook, New American Vegan. Look for a review, a shared recipe or two and possibly a giveaway over the next several weeks!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Harvard's New Food Guide: A Victory for Whom?

The Hype

Animal rights activists, welfarists, cookbook authors and bloggers have been sharing a link to a recent
Care2 article for the past couple of days with a sort of fervent jubilation. Maybe it lies in the hope so many animal advocates have that a new year will, ultimately, bring about real change. Maybe it's also a reflection of our willingness -- or eagerness -- to assume that information presented to us from familiar sources is accurate. The article ("Harvard Declares Milk NOT Part of Healthy Diet") by Michelle Schoffro Cook is the sort of thing I've come to expect over the years from the predominantly welfarist Care2 which, with very few exceptions, mostly features short and poorly-written opinion pieces. Schoffro Cook's piece, designed to do little more than to promote her own work and to obtain hits (Care2 has a pay-per-hit / comments policy for to compensate its writers), contains a very simple yet crucial bit of misinformation. This misinformation was published regardless of the string of letters following her name (i.e. MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD) and regardless of the rumoured existence of editors at Care2.

The Dirt

The title of the article hollers out Schoffro Cook's big news. In the short piece itself, she then proceeds to tout Harvard's release of its latest
"Healthy Eating Plate" food guide as a sort of nose-thumbing response to the USDA's not-so-long-ago release of its "MyPlate" guide, meant to replace the horribly outdated food pyramid previously used. Although she mentions Harvard's criticism of dairy products for their high levels of saturated fats and their link to cancer, Schoffro Cook's mistake is in elaborating that the "greatest evidence of [Harvard's] research focus is the absence of dairy products" from the guide. The diagram used for the guide states quite clearly that milk/dairy -- even if restricted to what I'm guessing she must think is the infinitesimally small amount of 1-2 servings a day -- is one of several beverage options provided by Harvard. Animal rights attorney and advocate Doris Lin pointed this out on Facebook today and it's raised in several of the comments left directly in response to the Care2 article, itself.

Less Muddy

It's a shame that so many vegan advocates have been misled into passing around a link to this article, calling this new guide some sort of victory for veganism -- a victory for cows and other animals enslaved and exploited for their milk. It is most certainly not. It is also confusing to me how some could think that even if dairy had been omitted, that this new Harvard "Healthy Eating Plate" is in any way all that significant when it comes to making serious changes to the lives of nonhuman animals, since although some non animal-based alternatives are listed in the Harvard poster's protein section, they're buried among the usual animal-based sources: "Choose fish, poultry, beans and nuts; limit red meat; avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats."

So I'm left asking amidst all of this, in response to assertions that it's somehow a victory: "A victory for whom?" Surely it's not for the animals who will continue to be raised for human consumption -- a good portion of it with Harvard's stamp of approval.