Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sorry for Being Crunchy

I went to New Seasons today to get some butter oil and fermented cod liver oil supplements to perhaps try to heal the cavities that have started forming on Charlotte's teeth. I was talking to the lady that works in the section and I found myself making all sorts of excuses for myself and apologizing. I caught myself apologizing again yesterday to the guy working at Lush when I started to explain how I wash my face and hair. He was trying to sell me skin products. I just wanted a mask made of fresh ingredients since I didn't have the fortitude to go make one myself.

I find that with this whole "enlightened" way of living, I feel the need to excuse myself from mainstream ways of doing things. I've been washing my hair with baking soda and unfiltered apple cider vinegar since last summer. People think it's weird. My hair has never felt so naturally healthy. Now with this diet stuff I'm starting to be one of those people that Portlandia makes fun of. Literally.

I went to Gustavs last week for a small happy hour dinner and found myself asking the waiter if the dairy came from grass fed cows. He started laughing and said he felt like he was in an episode of Portlandia. Then he wanted to know too. So we did some research and discovered that the dairy that Gustavs uses for its recipes comes from a supplier that sources products from several different local farms. The good news is that it was local and thus contributing to our local economy as well as using fewer fossil fuels to transport it. The bad news was that there was no real way to ascertain whether the cows were grass fed, which farms were supplying the products, or how much processing the products underwent. Because it was a supplier the cost of the product was being split between farms and the middle men. I got the spƤtzle alfredo anyway.

I've been reading the Omnivore's Dilemma on my kindle and the more I read the more strongly I feel about what I eat. I have decided that I don't want to be a vegan. I don't really think I have the strength. I am a conscientious consumer of foods. And being such casts an entirely different perception on me than being a vegetarian or vegan would. It could just be me, but I get the impression that vegetarians and vegans have sort of forged a name for themselves. When they object to eating something simply stating that they are veggie is enough to satisfy the curiosity of those who would judge them for being "picky". But if I reject meat or I want to know where my food comes from and I'm just a regular normal polyvore, I must have a superiority complex.

The long and short of it is that I do. I want to be superior. But not over other people. I want to be superior for myself and my family.

Being someone who is rather immersed in the various facets of Portland "culture" I know first-hand what this kind of superiority looks like. At my birth center potlucks most of the food is a spread of grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. It seems pretentious. But these are not pretentious people. And yet they are because they want better for themselves.

It's a hard line to walk. I don't want to always be apologizing for caring about what I put in my body and in my baby's body and I don't want to be preachy, but I also don't want to be a pushover that just goes with the status quo. The truth is that it matters. But the reality is that people really just don't know what they're eating and they don't care because it's so easy not to care.

I'm not going to be an evangelist for whole food living, but I will do my best to live better. I don't have a solution for how to deal with the skeptical looks I get when I feel the need to "come clean" about how I wash my hair. I'm sure I will come to some conclusion though. In the meantime, this vein of eating has been paying off. I'm down a couple pounds in the last few weeks. The bad news is that my knee has decided I shouldn't start exercising again and has been requiring the occasional ice pack to keep from being swollen and sore. More on this later though.

Go forth and educate yourself about your food. You'll hate me because you'll know how I feel, but you'll thank me too!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Adventures in Vegan

Something about the movies I mentioned in my last post (Hungry for Change, Vegucated) is just really sticking with me. Every time I eat a meal I have images in my head from those movies and I feel like my choice to eat certain things is my choice to help or hurt myself and the planet. When you put that kind of weight on your diet, it definitely helps to make more responsible choices.

If you're interested in reading about it here are some links about animal based food production that might have you thinking a bit more about whether meat is really so necessary:

NY Times Article About Environmental Costs of Meat Production

Portland Mercury Article about Mark Bittman

A Vegan Website with Information on Animal Agriculture Costs

A Scientific Journal Article About Animal Agriculture Issues

Links for Sustainable Eating Resources (I shall be pondering these myself)

I just googled "environmental impact of animal agriculture" and got a whole bunch of legitimate hits with information. This is a real issue, and as much as I'm a liberal hippy that likes to be told I'm right, this isn't about being right, it's about doing the right thing.

My grocery shopping since we've moved into our new house has been pretty concentrated between Trader Joe's and New Seasons. I try to buy the bulk of my food at TJ's since it's cheaper. I'll be honest, I am tired of driving to five different stores to buy groceries to save money. I figure the few cents I save per item is lost on gas anyway. (don't call me out couponers, I know this is probably bad logic!) I managed to find several animal free food options to get us through until I get paid so I can buy more food. I must say, vegan is a lot cheaper. I bet if I did an actual cost analysis of the ratio of meat and dairy to vegetables and dry goods animal products probably account for more than a third of my grocery bill.

One of the products I thought I would give the old college try was a bag of vegan shredded mozzarella. For dinner tonight I made roasted eggplant with marinara and melted "cheese". It smelled like feet. I figured this was normal since most cheese smells like feet. It tasted worse than feet. It tasted like melted feet. I couldn't even try to figure out a flavor or texture that I could compare it to so that it would be a little more appealing. I scraped it off of all the eggplant, threw on some real shredded mozzarella and put it in the oven to melt. It still had traces of feet but it was worlds better. At least my dinner was vegetarian and I had a nice salad with it too.

I can definitely see the benefits of being completely vegan and I'm sure I would probably not miss cheese after awhile, but I just don't think it's something I can really give myself over to. Kudos to you vegans who hold fast to your convictions! Seriously!

This leaves me to do the next best thing, which is to be veg-curious who tries to keep my diet as vegan and responsible as I can. This means I still eat dairy but I try to buy eggs that are produced by chicken farms that don't torture their animals. I still eat meat but maybe only once a week and I try the best I can to buy only meat that is local. As far as all the fish I eat, I'm sure it's probably fish that was caught in a way that is destroying the ocean, but I'm only willing to fight one battle at a time here and I'm more likely to buy something that is more sustainable if it's available. I found myself filleting a whole salmon for New Years because I bought it from a farmers market vendor that had line caught it in the Columbia the day before. It was cheaper than the grocery store too!

The result so far of this makeshift diet adjustment has been positive I think. I find myself eating way more vegetables and whole grains. I have even discovered some of my most beloved meals are in fact vegan or at least vegetarian. For example, my absolute favorite dish at Baan Thai near PSU is the Thai Jungle - steamed broccoli, carrots, and cabbage with tofu over riced and drowned in an amazingly good sea of peanut sauce - all animal free. I was over the moon about the peanut sauce being dairy free. I begged for the recipe but they wouldn't give it to me. Today my lunch was garbanzo beans cooked in a curry sauce with flatbread (all bought at TJ's). Breakfast was oatmeal (Bob's Red Mill) made with local honey (farmers market), sliced almonds (Bob's), and some added chia and flax seeds (Bob's again!). Then again I ate about 6 pieces of licorice today too - a remnant of the holidays. Perhaps the sugar isn't so good. But at least my meals are generally very healthy.

I just started reading the Omnivore's Dilemma on my Kindle. I have Kitchen Confidential sitting in my reading list too. So far it's pretty interesting, the first chapter is all about the history of corn farming and the reasons for why processed versions of corn and soy have worked their way into such a huge amount of our food. The premise of the book is that it used to be that most of the food people ate they either grew themselves or bought from someone who grew it directly. In this day and age we tend to have very little idea of where our food comes from, especially processed foods. The book attempts to give us some idea of where all those 32 letter ingredient names originated from. I also want to read Food Matters by Mark Bittman. I linked to a couple of articles, one written by him and one about him.

On a final note, I was thinking about having a Vegucated screening. Their website has a link for "host a screening" but I don't think it has to be that complex. If anyone's interested in coming over and watching it, or maybe even having it be more book club style where you watch it yourself and want to meet up to talk about it sometime I think it would be really fun!