Double Standard: Health

Vegetarians and vegans are used to being the brunt of many jokes and criticisms around the dinner table.

But what upsets me the most is the double standard that people hold, especially when it comes to health.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of the following, “I don’t care if you are vegetarian or vegan, but  you should learn about nutrition so you stay healthy.”

I always want to respond with: Well, duh!  Everyone should have some basic knowledge of nutrition; not just vegetarians and vegans!

Why aren’t you concerned about everyone’s health?  Why specifically mine?  If you’re so concerned about people’s health, why don’t you go support school lunch reform, or nutrition label reform, or start a petition to require nutrition classes in public school?

I realize that this misguided concern people have about vegetarian and vegan diets is a product of a cultural and historical bias towards a meat eating diet– rather than any substantive study of vegan diets that shows that they aren’t healthy.  The ideas that most people in the U.S. have about nutrition come from ads, family doctors, and parents.  Few people have actually studied or taken classes about nutrition.

Of course, I’d rather have people be concerned about my health, and at least acknowledge that a vegan diet can be healthy, rather than just automatically assuming that it’s impossible to be healthy and vegan.

And sure, you can be an unhealthy vegan; but you can be an unhealthy anything!  And in my experience vegans and vegetarians are more conscious about the source and nutrition content of their food than most people.

So be careful what you say to vegans about their health.

They probably know more than you do.

That concludes my rant for the day.

If you want to know more about being vegan– or just about being healthy– look up Dean Ornish, John Robbins, or T. Colin Campbell.

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Odds and Ends

I’m not dead!  Just incredibly busy trying to keep afloat during the last month of school before summer!

I’ve actually started a few real, thoughtful posts.  However, my brain is mush at the moment, so I’ve been unable to sort them into anything publishable.   In the mean time, here are some interesting vegan articles that I’ve read when I’ve had free time in between going to class and preparing for class.

I always like reading about celebrity vegans– especially the lovely Mayim Bialik, aka Amy from The Big Bang Theory.

Woody Harrelson was great in the Hunger Games as Haymitch, and he shared his recipe for vegan brownies with VegNews.  However, in true Woody fashion, these are adult vegan brownies.

Another funny celebrity, Ellen DeGeneres, also talked about her vegan journey in this article from the Washington Post.

On a more serious note, Burger King is actually headed in the right direction, pledging to only buy cage-free pork and eggs…..eventually.  I guess it’s a start.

Most importantly, let’s talk about cheeze!  Specifically, how can we make it more delicious?  I totally want to be a food scientist and get to taste test all the cheeze!

Actually…I bet there’s a lot of money in that…hm, something to look into after graduation :)

Chocolate Vegan Kahlua Cupcakes

Warning: Only for true chocoholics

These cupcakes combine two of my favorite things:  coffee and chocolate.  You don’t necessarily need to use Kahlua.  Any kind of coffee flavoring will give the chocolate much more depth and make these the chocolatiest, richest cupcakes you’ve ever tasted.

I adapted the recipe from the wonderful Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, by Isa and Terry, everyone’s two favorite punk vegan bakers.  If you don’t own a copy, you should get one.

Recipe:

  • Start with “Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake” batter on page 37 of Vegan Cupcakes
  • Add two tablespoons of Kahlua to the wet mixture.
  • Add one cup of chocolate chips to the dry mixture.
  • Mix together
  • Note:  When I’ve made these they’ve always had to cook a few minutes longer than the 18-22 minutes suggested in the book.  However, I don’t know if that’s because of the added ingredients or it’s just my oven :)

You can use any frosting recipe, but I prefer to keep everything at maximum chocolateness so I used this basic chocolate frosting recipe:

  • 1/4 cup soy margarine
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon agave syrup (or any other kind of liquid sweetener you may have)
  • 1 Tablespoon chocolate soymilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • and more Kahlua!  I added about 1 Tablespoon
  • Mix together
  • Add 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • and 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Mix well

Frost and enjoy the most scrumptious cupcakes ever!  But make sure to pace yourself or you may end up like this.

 

 

How can you be vegan?

A dear friend of mine once told me that her parents found the idea of veganism harder to grasp than homosexuality, because: “homosexuality you’re born with, but vegan…well I don’t know where that comes from”.

I should say that my friend’s parents are Texas conservatives and highly religious, so I found their remark very funny.

For those that might find the choice to be vegan odd, especially if you live in the land of red meat, I have tried to explain myself here.

Being vegan for me is a continuation of social justice.  However, when compared with other pressing– and depressing– issues of the day, choosing lettuce over lamb sometimes seems insignificant.  With so many wars and conflicts, inequality and oppression, I sometimes find myself asking, what does it matter that I don’t eat meat?

It matters because I recognize that there is something in my life that I have the power to change.

We spend a lot of time wishing and hoping for things to change.  So when the opportunity presents itself to actually make the world a better place it’s important that we take it.  We cannot give up simply because we cannot change the big things.

Paraphrasing from something I’m sure I’ve seen embroidered on a pillow somewhere: If we fail to take the first step, we will never begin the journey.

Because, as I see it, being vegan, or vegetarian, is one of the easiest ways to live a compassionate life.  I’m not physically fighting against factory farms, I’m not petitioning congress, I am simply removing my support from an industry that produces a product I do not wish to consume.  What I’m trying to say, is that I’m no radical and that I think everyone can be vegan if they choose.  Because unlike trying to Free Tibet, or stop racism, or fight for gay rights, being vegan is an individual choice that doesn’t depend on a bureaucracy or government to make a change.  All it takes is you.  If everyone became vegan, there would be less suffering in the world.  If everyone asked the government to free Tibet….Tibet probably still wouldn’t be free.  That does not mean that we shouldn’t take on the big issues.  But nor should we ignore the small fights.

I accept that I am only one person.  But I am going to use my personal agency to the best of my ability.  And that includes signing petitions to Free Tibet as well as eating a plant-based diet.

This quote from Dominion, Matthew Scully’s book on the morals and ethics of how we treat animals, describes perfectly what I believe:  There is not a limited supply of compassion.  And there should be no hierarchy of who we extend our compassion to.

“And it is true that there will always be enough injustice and human suffering in the world to make the wrongs done to animals seems small and secondary.  The answer is that justice is not a finite commodity, nor are kindness and love.  Where we find wrongs done to animals, it is no excuse to say that more important wrongs are done to human beings, and let us concentrate on those.  A wrong is a wrong, and often the little ones, when they are shrugged off as nothing, spread and do the gravest harm to ourselves and others (Matthew Scully, Dominion).

I believe veganism is a concrete way to promote social justice in a world that has enough suffering.  People might dismiss it as trivial and think it will accomplish nothing.  And I say, no, I am not ending the suffering of animals.  But I know that I am ending the suffering of a few.  And that is not nothing.

I don’t think we should wait to extend the hand of kindness to animals until after we have solved all our human problems first.  Because that is never going to happen.

So let us offer our protection to the weak, and perhaps it will help us learn to be more compassionate to each other as well.  It can’t hurt.  Often times tackling the easy things first can create the momentum that pushes us through the harder things as well.

Vegan virgin

Yes, I am a vegan virgin.

~

I’d been a vegetarian for almost two years when one of my closest friends insisted I read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer or she would unfriend me (and not just on Facebook).  Reading that book caused me to become truly conscious of my beliefs and actions.

In this blog I will chart my journey veganward– into the great nutritional-yeasty-unknown!  As an anthropology major I’m especially interested in not only vegan food but also vegan culture– and how abstaining from animal products brings people together to create awesome vegan communities, as well as how following a compassionate diet helps us to be more compassionate in other areas of life.

~

From beef to beets: The beginning

(ha! That section title makes me sounds freaking important– but, hey, it’s my blog, what’re you going to do about it?  It’s all about me!!  Mwahaha.)

I’ve always loved animals, but it took me 18 years to become a vegetarian.  The decision was relatively painless– I was helping my dad prepare dinner one night– calamari– when I suddenly realized I couldn’t do it any more.  I could not eat animals.  Of course, it wasn’t that quick, but it felt like it at the time.  I had been thinking about becoming vegetarian for a while; but it took the actual act of cutting into flesh to wake me up.  Before that night I had gone back and forth because I knew it would be difficult– living in Texas and being a vegetarian– being a poor college student and being a vegetarian– liking the taste of bacon and being vegetarian.  Yes, I admit, I like bacon!  Scandalous, I know for a vegetarian to admit.  But I didn’t become a vegetarian because I don’t like meat.  I became a vegetarian because my actions and my beliefs were not aligned.  The moral conviction underlying my decision– that eating animals is wrong– is what gave me the strength to give up meat cold turkey– pardon the pun.

But until recently that’s as far as my conviction went.  I was okay with eating eggs, dairy, and other animal products (except gelatin– that stuff’s just nasty).

It took me a few months after reading “Eating Animals” to become vegan, but once again I am making the leap into what I believe will be not only healthier, but happier way of life.

It’s a few weeks since I became vegan and I’m here to say– yes it is possible to be vegan in Texas!  (even outside Austin!  gasp!  But really, Austin isn’t part of Texas, I don’t know where it came from, it’s like a little village of hippy hipsterdom in the middle of the rest of this crap– it’s like a little nugget of tofu on the side of a big ol’ hunk o’ beef).

So, I guess I’m not a vegan virgin anymore.  But I’m not a vegan veteran yet….I guess I’m a vegan newborn….eating lots of mushy tofu and beans.  That is, until my winter break ends and I return to college in Tacoma, Washington.  Which is to Texas like Tofu is to Barbecue.  Okay, maybe Portland is tofu, but Tacoma/Seattle is definitely at least, like, edamame.

So enjoy the blog and my random, random ramblings!