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!

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