Monday, May 31, 2010

Interviews: Dana: How She Met Her Meat and Went Veg

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

Dana:  I currently follow a pescetarian diet, as I eat fish about once per week. My diet consists mostly of grains, fruits/vegetables, eggs, dairy, tempeh, seitan, and some meat substitues.

CYoFC:  For how long have you been a pescetarian?

Dana:  I stopped eating meat five years ago. I followed a vegan diet for the first six months and then a strict vegetarian diet for the next year. I then incorporated fish into my diet and have done so for the past 3.5 years.

CYoFC:  What prompted you, originally, to change your diet?

Dana:  I read an editorial in my university's newspaper about animal cruelty. The writer mentioned a video called "Meet Your Meat," which is produced by PETA. I ordered a free copy of the DVD; while it was incredibly painful and disturbing to watch, it solidified my decision to give up meat. I have always loved animals, and truthfully, never cared too much for meat, so the decision was a no-brainer at that point.

CYoFC:  It takes a lot of courage to watch something so painful, but you did it and it changed your whole outlook. Were there any challenges along the way to changing your diet? What about current challenges, or aspects about pescetarianism that you don't like?

Dana:  When I first started learning about the mistreatment of animals in the food industry, I was incredibly passionate about spreading the word. I believed that if people really knew what went on, they would not want to eat meat either. Unfortunately, this initially translated into a lot of frustration with friends and family members who did not feel so inclined to change their eating behavior. Over time, I learned to focus only on myself, and this has made it much easier to be around others that eat meat.

I am able to find something that accommodates my diet on nearly every menu, so I don't think it interferes with my lifestyle in any significant way. The biggest challenges, however, are the "hidden" animal products. For example, gelatin is in many yogurts, and chicken broth is frequently in restaurant foods such as Mexican rice or broccoli cheese soup.

The primary thing I don't like about my current diet and lifestyle choice is that it is difficult to decide where to draw the line. I don't eat cows, but I do wear leather... I won't eat chicken, but I will eat fish... And so on... This creates some moral conflict, but I have found it helpful to think of my dietary choices in the way environmentalists conceptualize a "carbon footprint," where every little bit helps.

CYoFC:  This moral conflict you raise is often used by opposers to argue against vegetarianism in any form. "Animals are killed, so are plants," etc., etc. But at the end of the day, an individual choice must be made, and people must choose what works for them, mentally and physically. Do you plan on remaining pescetarian? If so, what motivates you? If not, what motivates you to change?

Dana:  I plan to maintain a pescetarian diet indefinitely.

CYoFC:  Why should others go vegetarian or pescetarian?

Dana:  I think this is a very personal decision, and I have moved away from trying to persuade others to give up meat. However, I think EVERYONE should make an effort to avoid meat that comes from factory farms. Small, organic farms (which don't use growth hormones) tend to raise animals in pastures and sometimes use more "humane" methods of killing the animal.

CYoFC:  Do you have any tips or advice for people who want to do this?

Dana:  Experiment with lots of new foods. Make a big effort to get protein. Soy-based products are great, but beware that some are high in fat. The best options are typically seitan or wheat-gluten based substitues, which are high in protein and have no more than 2-3 grams of fat per serving.

CYoFC:  What are your favorite foods?

Dana:  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a new brand of meat-substitute foods by Gardein. The pulled pork and beef burgandy are especiallly good and simple to prepare. It is sold at Whole Foods and stores that have a health/organic section. I also like Tofurkey deli-slices. Quinoa is one of my favorite, high-protein grains.

CYoFC:  Are you getting enough protein?

Dana:  This is something I struggle with, which is why I added fish into my diet and have begun to make more of an effort to consume eggs and fake-meat products. I also try to eat a lot of nuts and protein bars (I added protein shakes while training for a marathon).

Want to go vegan but worried about protein? Finding enough protein is completely possible with a vegan diet. A great example of a high-protein source is kamut noodles, or any kamut product. Kamut is a type of grain originating from ancient Egypt. One serving of a popular brand of Kamut spiral pasta noodles has about 10g of protein and only 1.5g of fat (0g saturated). I like these, myself. 

Dana mentioned that she watched the documentary, Meet Your Meat before becoming meat-free herself. For those interested, you can watch it by clicking here. If you are just beginning to learn about the meat and dairy industries, I highly suggest you watch it. I warn you, though, this video is shocking and disturbing.

Dana, 29, is a clinical psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to vegetarianism, her interests include running, golf, sporting events, reading, relaxing, and shopping.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Meatouts and the Aftermath

I am a frequent and vivid dreamer. I'm able to write paragraphs, sometimes pages, of detail recounting what happened, how I felt, what peoples' intentions were in those images that flicker across my retinas as I sleep. Usually, I find this cool and entertaining. But sometimes, I can't shake apart what I dreamed and what I actually read in the paper or heard from a friend.

This was the problem with Meatless Mondays.

For weeks, I thought that I had simply dreamed about cities, nationwide, opting out of meat for entire days at a time. I thought I had dreamed about some Great American Meatout that couldn't possibly exist.

Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe it wasn't a dream at all, that maybe it was something I'd heard on the radio driving to work. Maybe it could exist.

Well, sooner or later, I began seeing news articles confirming that this custom had, in fact, begun. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, improve public safety, and encourage healthy choices, Michigan has recently encouraged its citizens to give up meat for one day. Schools in Baltimore have recently begun serving only vegetarian lunches on Mondays. And so on and so on.

This, however, is not without backlash from the meat industry. Buyer, beware: there are lobbyists out there who are invested in influencing the USDA Food Pyramid. Your Food Pyramid, as the USDA calls it ( Even if you do not actively follow these daily guidelines, watch out for the American Meat Institute, the National Pork Board, the Farm Bureau, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

They're pretty pissed.

The prospect of losing sales has them fighting hard against these meat reductions. You may start to see subtle (or not-so-subtle) meat propaganda floating around, and "new scientific evidence" suggesting that humans require more meat, and that meat is a healthier, environmentally safer choice than other foods.

The USDA revises the Food Pyramid every five years. The latest revision? It's due to come out sometime this year. And there's been a lot of talk about what changes should be made to "your" Food Pyramid.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Future Food

With the exception of television shows that I've either recorded or rented on DVD, I rarely watch tv. However, tonight, I took my plate of red greens salad, italian tofurkey sausage with onions and red peppers, and spicy fried potatoes with vegenaise-sriracha dipping sauce, and sat down in front of our tv. I decided on a show called Future Food, a show I'd never seen on a Discovery Channel network I'd never heard of ("Planet Green"). Anyway, this I decided to watch after I heard one of the chefs on the show say he was attempting to "shorten the food chain." Yes.

On Future Food, chefs Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche, of Chicago's famous MOTO restaurant experiment with food in quirky, interesting, and often very sustainable ways. This ranges from creating edible (and therefore eco-conscious) packaging peanuts to using miracle fruit to end world hunger to creating burgers out of what cows eat. It's a smart, entertaining show with a purpose. And I admire anyone who truly believes--and then actually does--make a meal out of stuff they found on the front lawn. Read interviews with these creative chefs here and here.

The episode I watched tonight was the "Burger Wars" episode, in which the kitchen creates its own version of three different burgers: a regular, 100% beef burger, a veggie burger made of spinach and herbs, and a burger made only of ingredients that cows eat (they used beets, corn, and grains). It was a competition to see which burger would win in two taste tests - one with college students, and the other, with MOTO customers. More than a competition, though, the idea behind this (and the show entirely) is to expand accessibility of sustainable products. And one way to do that, according to Omar Cantu, was to "shorten the foodchain" by eliminating the cow entirely. Right on, Omar. I won't tell you which burger won the competition so as to not ruin the surprise.

I also highly recommend checking out the Planet Green network website. If you're interested in DIY living, sustainability, vegetarianism, or if you're simply curious, you might find something you like there. I especially enjoyed the article on how to eat your own trash to cut down on landfill waste.

From the episode "Burger Wars," Future Food chefs prep their burgers for the college taste-test at DePaul University.

Interviews: Everett: Cheese Research Made Veganism A No-Brainer

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

Everett:  Vegan

CYoFC:  For how long have you been vegan?

Everett:  about 2 years

CYoFC:  What prompted you to become vegan?

Everett:  I was vegan for 3 years previously (college and post college). Initially I was vegetarian for many years and took an environmental toxicology class in college and also read a bunch of books, Diet for a New America etc. I was convinced by my research that vegan was the choice for me because of the environmental and health benefits.

CYoFC:  I see. Were there any challenges to becoming vegan? What about current challenges of being vegan, or aspects about it that you don't like?

Everett:  Not really except for eating out with non-vegans. I didn't have a hard time with cheese or ice cream once I knew the conditions that most of it is made under and what all animal milks contain. eg. white blood cells, pcbs, hormones etc.

CYoFC:  Yeah, there are a lot of harmful ingredients in dairy that many people don't know about. Do you plan on remaining vegan? If so, what motivates you? If not, what motivates you to change?

Everett:  Yes. Although I recognize it as a process more than an end solution. For example, when I travel to foreign countries I try my best to eat what the locals eat. Obviously this means bending my personal rules at times.

CYoFC:  Sounds like flexibility works for you. Why should other people go vegan?

Everett:  That is for them to decide.

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

Everett:  Organize potlucks. Make it fun. Learn to cook. Learn to cook. Learn to cook. Get connected with like minded people.

CYoFC:  Good advice. Favorite foods?

Everett:  Indian, Thai, Avocados

CYoFC:  Avocados have that soft, cheese-like consistency - only they contain healthy fat rather than the unhealthy kind! Speaking of cheese, describe what the giving-up-cheese process was like for you.

Everett:  Easy. I decided I was going to then I did. But I would suggest having a very good reason. Once I did all the research cheese actually became a very disgusting substance to me and I didn't want to eat it.

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

Everett:  Ahhh...The infamous question.  Yes. I guess. I surf, ride my bike everywhere, do yoga, and have good muscle tone.  I feel that I do get plenty of protein.

Thanks, Everett!

Everett, 34, of Los Angeles, CA, is a vegan who enjoys linguistics, languages, surfboard construction, vintage bicycles, motorcycles, and adventure travel.