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 (https://www.msu.edu/~corcora5/food/vegan/calcium+protein.html) 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.

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