Monday, April 26, 2010

Interviews: Jason: Hardcore, Punk, & Conscious Eating

CYoFC:  Describe your current diet/lifestyle (vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, freegan, flexitarian, omnivore with vegan tendencies...etc.).

Jason:  I would describe myself as a flexitarian.  The reality of the situation is that 90% of the time, I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian (I'll eat dairy and eggs).  The other 5-10% of the time exists because, well, sometimes I just kind of feel like a burger.  I can't say I'm entirely okay with my "flex," but, at least in my mind, that 10 % flexibility is better than a full on omnivorousness lifestyle or the bitterness that might result from perpetually denying my body food that it (ostensibly) wants.

CYoFC:  For how long have you been flexitarian?

Jason:  I've been on and off vegetarian since I was about 16 years old.  The 100% vegetarian times have been punctuated with periods of either full blown omnivorousness or situations akin to the above-mentioned "flex."  I have never tried being vegan, though many of the meals I eat are entirely vegan.

CYoFC:  What prompted you to become flexitarian?

Jason:  When I was younger, the ethics of food production didn't come into play vis-a-vis my diet all that much.  Mostly it happened because I was a teenager who was really into hardcore, punk, and indie rock.  I read a lot of fanzines, went to a lot of DIY shows at places like bowling alleys and YMCAs, and generally gravitated toward anything that seemed more pure, ethical, or "punk rock."  In its earliest incarnation, I think I tried it out for the first time because my girlfriend was vegetarian (albeit a very unhealthy one!  I think her diet consisted entirely of Kraft Mac n' Cheese).  To my surprise, it wasn't very difficult to not eat meat and, for reasons that would later become more clear and explicable, it just seemed like "the right thing to do."

These days, the reasons behind my own form of vegetarian range from the ethical to being conscious about my health and the things I put into my body to my increased knowledge of behind-the-scenes food production... as an adult you have much greater degree of control over your consumption habits.  My adult desire to minimize my impact on the world's resources leads to me to ask myself a lot more questions about the things I consume.  Where did this come from?  How did it get here?  Who had to make this?  Was it sprayed with poison?  If so, how does that affect the local environment or me now that I'm eating it?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

It goes on and on and on.  It can be very stifling.  And paralyzing.   Yet it's a goal of mine to keep on striving toward being as conscious as I can about these things.  I believe it's part of being a good citizen of the world.

CYoFC:  Those certainly are very difficult questions. Were there any challenges to becoming flexitarian? What about current challenges of being flexitarian, or aspects of it that you don't like?

Jason:  Not really.  My flexiness kind of nips those challenges in the bud I think.  I suspect that if I were more strict about my diet, there would be times that could be frustrating.  I've experienced that in the past with pure vegetarianism.   I think for many vegetarians, vegans, etc. this manifests itself most fully when a veggie type person finds themselves having to dine in a less than veggie-friendly establishment with family, friends, or what-have-you.  It might lead to that person resenting the choice of restaurant or the resentment of others who (if they're conscientious friends) are forced into acknowledging your dietary needs and are thereby de facto limiting their own dining options should they decide to partner with you for a meal.

In my experience, though, most vegetarians and vegans are very gracious and seldom try to alter people's dining choices or options (i.e. they're generally willing to bite the bullet and take one for team when the team decides to dine out at a less than ideal choice).

Or it might be a situation like you're at a wedding and the entree choices are fish and chicken and steak which means that you're just going to have to eat green beans and red potatoes.  Which kind of sucks for you, but isn't the end of the world or anything.

I travelled in South America for quite awhile as a vegetarian and that was somewhat hard on me.  Mostly because I found myself in many places where there weren't very many vegetables to be had and so I was concerned that I was lacking many vital nutrients.  Not only was I probably not getting as much protein as I should of, but I was also missing out on all the great stuff that different colored veggies can give you.

But on the whole, I've never found vegetarianism to be all that challenging.  Especially since I've always lived in or near big cities. 

CYoFC:  Do you plan on remaining flexitarian? If so, what motivates you? If not, what motivates you to change?

Jason:  I do plan on staying pretty flex for the time being.  I would like to segue into pure vegetarianism again, but I'm reluctant for reasons I mentioned earlier.  More than anything, I want to become more savvy and conscious about the who, what, where, when, why of the things I eat.  It's always a struggle.  Especially when financial concerns come into play.  For example, I live in southern California.  There is an abundance of avocados here.  Yet everywhere you go (Trader Joe's in particular), avocados are being imported from Chile.  And I can buy them (Chilean avocados) for less.  And I do.  This is something that I REALLY want to change.  To me, it's unacceptable.  On the other hand, it gets complicated because avocados are a water-intensive crop (an issue in SoCal) which is not only a drain on water resources but also makes them more expensive to cultivate and thus more expensive to buy at the market. 

Every potential to solution to a problem has a domino-esque ripple effect.  For example, if I (and others) were to stop buying Chilean avocados because I take issue with heavy fruit (fruit that's available here) being imported across great distances, it would impact the Chilean economy, Chilean workers, Chilean consumption habits.  This line of thought doesn't even consider the fact that Mexico is the world's largest exporter of avocados (and is way closer to California than Chile), and so why aren't more of the cheap avocados I'm seeing at the store from Mexico rather than Chile?  And if they were from Mexico, would that be acceptable?  Or could a Mexican avocado possibly be less resource intensive than a Californian one?  It might be if I live in Los Angeles or San Diego and I factor water consumption into the mix.

The point is, these are difficult questions to try to answer.  People with degrees analyze these things and write papers about them, but the average person standing in the aisle at Ralph's with a crying kid in the cart and a dog that needs to be taken out back at home has other, more pressing issues to contend with. 

It's hard stuff to think about.  Thinking about it too much might make you go crazy.  But I think it's important that people do think about these things.  At least try to think about them a little bit.

Did I answer your question?

CYoFC:  Absolutely. I suspect many others have similar concerns about the avocado issue, by the way, and yet it's not something you hear much debate about. Tell me, why should other people go flexitarian?

Jason:  Sort of branching off my answer to that last question, I believe people should be more responsible about the consumption decisions they make.  That means making an effort to be better informed about the things they consume.  I think that once people have their facts straight -- once they know what commercial beef production or  a slaughterhouse is actually like for example (perhaps even after a visit to one!) -- then (I believe) they have every right to live whatever kind of lifestyle they choose. 

Ignorance can be very nice, but it (generally speaking) is at best irresponsible and at worst very dangerous.

CYoFC:  Do you have any tips or advice for new flexitarians?

Jason:  I would highly recommend trying out flexitarianism.  If my own personal 9:1 veggie-to-omnivore ratio is too high for you, start out smaller.  Ease into it.  Hopefully you'll find that not eating meat is easy and not a very big deal to you.  You might even realize that after a short time of adjustment, you never have any desire to eat meat, at which point you might consider full-fledged vegetarianism.  Or even veganism might be A-OK for you.

Many people have the tendency to have an all-or-nothing approach.  I say, do what you can, see if it works, and, if it does, then try to do a little bit more.

And if any vegetarians or vegans disdain you for not being able to commit 100% (this is very unlikely, but it could happen with someone less mature or misguided), don't let it get you down.  Your trying to consume less meat and dairy is better, much better, than not trying at all.  For realz.

CYoFC:  Good advice. All this talk about food...what are your favorite foods?

Jason:  Pho, Drunken Noodles, Mac N' Cheese, Ethiopian, ummmm.... this is too hard.  I have many favorite foods.  Having to decide on a few is stressing me out.  Next question.

CYoFC:  One last question. Are you getting enough protein?

Jason:  I hope so. 

But seriously, this brings up a good point to make:  I think that most people, both meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike, have little idea of how much protein they actually need.  And our dearth of knowledge re: nutritional needs (in terms of quantity adequate or necessary for good health) is not limited to just protein. 

That said, I think need is probably different for every person and I imagine someone's size, body chemistry, metabolism, etc. all play roles in the sort of thing.

I think, though, what your questions is about really, is whether or not it's difficult to find sources of protein that aren't meat.  The answer, at least if you live in America, is an emphatic NO.  It's easy. 

Speaking of protein, there's an article about protein ( that this girl who has this vegan blog recently sent me that I still haven't read.  I should probably get on that. 

CYoFC:  Right on. 

Jason, 30, of Lost Angeles CA, is a music lover and a self-described armchair intellectual. Some of his other loves are books, dogs, and world affairs. He is in the band, Little Stranger.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Interviews: Mama-to-be: Meat Miminalism During Pregnancy

CYoFC:  Describe your current diet/lifestyle (vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, freegan, flexitarian, omnivore with vegan tendencies...etc.).

MTB:  My current diet would best be described as pescetarian with chicken tendencies (but I don’t eat shellfish due to Jewish tendencies).

CYoFC:  For how long have you been eating this way?

MTB:  Over the past ten or so years, I have vacillated between a standard lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and a pescetarian diet.  Within the past couple of months I have reintroduced chicken into my diet.  This has correlated with my pregnancy (I am 5 ½ months).  Not only did I choose to eat chicken for an easy source of protein, but also because I began to feel very limited by the many pregnancy-related diet restrictions (e.g. no tuna, feta cheese, sushi).   

CYoFC:  What prompted you to first become vegetarian?

MTB:  My vegetarianism initially began at about the age of 10 when I first was introduced to the inner workings of the meat industry through my social studies class (one of the few units that actually grabbed my attention).  My fourth grade mind was disgusted by the idea that so many animals were bred just to be slaughtered and I very quickly lost my appetite for meat.  After about a year, I gave in to pressure from my parents who convinced me that my growth would be stunted (how lame)!  Then about 8 or so years later I was suddenly staring at a chicken sandwich, unable to eat it.  I reconnected with my earlier disgust with the meat industry and also my growing awareness of how it was impacting the environment.  In addition, I was no longer convinced that the only way to maintain a healthy diet was by including meat in my diet.   

CYoFC:  Were there any challenges to becoming vegetarian? What about challenges of your current vegetarian-esque diet?

MTB:  Initially, there was a learning curve, i.e. I would mistakenly order (and sometimes begin eating) a meal that included meat before remembering my new commitment to being a vegetarian.  Eating meat was such a long-standing behavior that it just took some time for the change to become second nature.  The only real challenge that I’ve encountered since then is getting the third degree from well-meaning (okay, maybe not all have been well meaning, but more judgmental) friends, family, and relatives.  Although, this has gotten easier over the years, which I think is partly due to the fact that it has become more of a social norm. 

CYoFC:  Do you plan on maintaining vegetarian leanings in your diet? If so, what motivates you? If not, why not?

MTB:  I would like to remain a meat minimalist for the time being.  My plan is to return to a pescetarian diet, likely after my little one has arrived.  I try to do what I can in leaving as little a footprint as possible (through diet, recycling, public transportation, etc.), short of it becoming a rigid, compulsive part of my lifestyle, i.e. I try to find a reasonable balance between doing my part to lesson my impact on the planet and being able to relax and enjoy the time that I have in this life!   

CYoFC:  "Meat minimalist" - I like that. Why should other people go vegetarian, or at least become meat minimalists?

MTB:  If more people ate less meat, it would (in theory) reduce the tremendous impact that the meat industry has on the environment. 

CYoFC:  Do you have any tips or advice for new vegetarians?

MTB: Have something short and sweet prepared to say when people ask you why you are vegetarian to a) shut them up and maybe educate them a little, and b) so you can get to your meal more quickly!

CYoFC:  Right on. Favorite foods?

MTB:  Dessert, all kinds of fruit, and Morningstar sausage patties.

Thanks, MTB!

At 25 weeks!
MTB, 27, lives in Manhattan with her husband, 30. They moved to NYC about 9 months ago after he finished his doctorate in math and got a job there.  MTB is pursuing a doctorate in clinical-developmental psychology, and is currently completing a practicum where she works as a school psychologist conducting psychoeducational evaluations, therapy, and remediation with children K-12 in the Bronx. MTB and her husband are expecting their first child in July. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Interviews: Shenee: A Native South Texan Pledges Vegetarianism For Life

CYoFC:  Describe your current diet/lifestyle (vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, freegan, flexitarian, omnivore with vegan tendencies...etc.).

Shenee:  I am a vegetarian, although because of my vegan boyfriend I eat a mostly vegan diet due to his delicious and constant cooking. For my own part I don’t purchase dairy products or eggs, but I occasionally eat a piece of cheese or two when I am at one of my many nanny houses.

CYoFC:  A vegetarian with vegan tendencies! For how long have you been vegetarian?

Shenee:  I have been a vegetarian for 8 years.

CYoFC:  What prompted you to become a vegetarian?

Shenee:  I had been considering becoming a vegetarian for a long time when one day during my second year at university I read a quote in some Buddhist literature that bluntly stated how selfish it is to consume “flesh of other creatures in order to fatten our own flesh.” That is really what did me in. But I also found inspiration in my mother who is a vegetarian and was since I was a child, however she never forced her dietary habits on my siblings and I.

CYoFC:  That quote is really quite eye-opening. Were there any challenges to becoming a vegetarian? What about current challenges of being vegetarian, or aspects of vegetarianism that you don't like?

Shenee:  At the time that I became a vegetarian, I was living in Texas, but not in Austin, mind you, but South Texas. Of course my mom was supportive of my decision, but most of my family didn’t understand. In the beginning I also faced some resentment coming from ignorant people who felt that because I was a vegetarian automatically meant that I was judging them for continuing to eat meat. That is the most annoying thing I have had to deal with.

CYoFC:  I've heard that from a handful of vegetarians and vegans. It's a shame that some individuals feel judgment where there is none - makes it difficult for genuine communication to take place. Do you plan on remaining a vegetarian? If so, what motivates you? If not, what motivates you to change?

Shenee:  I haven’t eaten meat for 8 years and I will never eat meat. I must admit that I did eat fish on three separate occasions when I was living in Hanoi, Viet Nam.

I will continue to be a vegetarian throughout my life due to my conviction that it is not necessary for me to eat animals in order to survive. It is as simple as that.

CYoFC:  Right on. Why should other people be vegetarian?

Shenee:  To each their own. However, people would become a lot healthier if they no longer ate meat. Case in point, the options at a fast food joint would be substantially limited. Mainly this comment is targeted towards the fattest and most unhealthy people in the world, Americans. Recently I had a friend from Japan come to visit. When I asked him if there were any vegetarians in Japan, he responded by telling me that the Japanese diet consists mainly of vegetables, rice and fish, so culturally there is no need to become vegetarian. In Japan there is no stigma against not eating meat at every meal.

CYoFC:  That's so fascinating. Many people probably don't think about vegetarianism cross-culturally. It makes so much sense, though. Cultures in which vegetables are a main focus of the traditional cuisine wouldn't even have a need to put a name to a diet consisting of mostly vegetables. Do you have any tips or advice for new vegetarians?

Shenee:  Just ignore the haters. I came to realize that their animosity is a product of their guilt of being meat-eaters. Also, buy yourself a good vegan cookbook. Then when people ask you “what can you eat…salads?” you can come up with a long and quippy retort.

CYoFC:  Good advice. I'm curious; what are your favorite foods?

Shenee:  Pan-seared tempeh with spicy tomato sauce, split pea soup, CHOCOLATE MUFFINS, vegan reubens

CYoFC:  Sounds delicious! Much love for the vegan reuban right here.

Shenee currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a part-time nanny for a ton of different families and also works in two different kid-oriented stores. As she puts it, "My life is full of other peoples’ children and I love it." She also enjoys craft nights with her girlfriends, cooking vegan food with her boyfriend, napping with her cat Henrietta, experiencing live music and watching movies in the theatre all alone.

Interviews: Ellen: 20 Years of Vegetarianism...and Going Strong!

CYoFC:  Describe your current diet/lifestyle (vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, freegan, flexitarian, omnivore with vegan tendencies...etc.).

Ellen:  Lacto-ovo vegetarian

CYoFC:  For how long have you been a lacto-ovo vegetarian?

Ellen:  20 years

CYoFC: What prompted you to become vegetarian?

Ellen:  An animal rights speaker at my high school and one of those nasty documentaries that shows how Mr. Happy Cow becomes dinner.

CYoFC:  Were there any challenges to becoming vegetarian? What about current challenges of being vegetarian, or aspects about lacto-ovo vegetariansism that you don't like?

Ellen:   Initially, I craved tuna hoagies (subs) and steak sandwiches (grew up in Philly). Those cravings went away after a year or so although I sometimes still crave something with a meaty texture—certain types of mushrooms and meat substitutes usually satisfy me. My parents also thought I would perish without meat, but now they’re vegetarians too!

CYoFC:  Do you plan on remaining lacto-ovo vegetarian? If so, what motivates you? If not, what motivates you to change?

Ellen:  Yes, animal rights and environmental costs of meat eating keep me motivated.

CYoFC:  Do you have any tips or advice for new vegetarians?

Ellen:  Learn to cook and invite me over for dinner.

CYoFC:  Good advice. :) Favorite foods?

Ellen:  Avocado, mushrooms, leafy greens, hard boiled eggs, chocolate, ice cream (sorry vegans).

CYoFC:  Are you getting enough protein?

Ellen:  I think so.

Thanks, Ellen.

Ellen, 36, currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. She's a social worker who enjoys hiking, reading, and sarcasm.

Interviews: Pulin: Veganism - It's Easy When You Know the (Sad) Facts

CYoFC:  Describe your current diet/lifestyle.

Pulin:  VEGAN.

CYoFC:  For how long have you been vegan?

Pulin:  12 years.

CYoFC:  What prompted you to become vegan?

Pulin:  Animal rights.

CYoCF:  Were there any challenges to becoming vegan?

Pulin:  It's one of the easiest things I've done in my life.

CYoCF:  Do you plan on remaining vegan?

Pulin:  Yes, visit to see why.

CYoCF:  Do you have any tips or advice for new vegans?

Pulin:  Visit to learn more and get free recipes!

CYoCF:  Favorite foods?

Pulin:  I'm flexible, no favorites.

CYoCF:  Describe what the giving-up-cheese process was like for you.

Pulin:  There wasn't a process, I just stopped eating it and that was that.

CYoCF:  One last question. Are you getting enough protein?

Pulin:  Certainly.

Thanks, Pulin!

Pulin, 29, resides in Norfolk, VA. He is the Action Team Coordinator at PETA, and digs soccer, reading, and learning about social justice issues.