The following is a guest post from a dear friend who wishes to remain anonymous.
Photo credit: Sebastião Salgado.
The following is a guest post from a dear friend who wishes to remain anonymous.
Photo credit: Sebastião Salgado.
I like to take everything I hear with a rounded spoonful of skepticism, because plenty of stories out there are simply too good to be true. In fact, if this weren’t the story of my own life, my own malfunctioning colon, and my own seemingly miraculous recovery, I’d probably dismiss it as bunk. But the fact is, I was in chronic pain for months on end several years ago. I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) by my physician. And in the past four years, eating a vegan diet, I have had exactly zero IBS-related “episodes.”
The wonderful and charismatic Christy Morgan, aka. The Blissful Chef, asked me to share my story on her blog. Read about my IBS misery and recovery here.
Christy is a chef and food educator in L.A. who specializes in vegan, macrobiotic food! She has seasonal e-cookbooks available for purchase and a full-length physical cookbook coming out next year. I can hardly wait! She’s currently visiting Japan, working on farms, sampling the food at vegan-friendly restaurants, and getting a firsthand look at the town where the infamous dolphin slaughter takes place. Follow her adventures at www.theblissfulchef.com and on Twitter (@TheBlissfulChef) as well.
I recently asked Twitter, “Do you spend more or less money on food as a vegan than you did as an omnivore?” and the responses fell pretty evenly into the following categories.
Specialty Vegans – One group said they spend more because food items made for vegans are so expensive. (See Vegan Grocery Bills -Part 1 on vegan replacements for old favorites like cheese and marshmallows.) Restaurants that cater specifically to vegans also tend to charge slightly more per plate than low-end standard eateries.
Organic shoppers – Another group said they spend more now, but that it’s because becoming vegan lead them to critically examine the items they consume, and they now buy significantly more organic produce and other high-priced health foods. Tahini, raw cashews, coconut oil, chai seeds, spelt flour, organic peanut butter; all those would have seemed like luxuries to, say, my mother. This group of folks is paying more, but eating much higher quality food.
Home Cookers – People in the third category said they actually saved money as vegans by eating out less (sometimes because so few vegan options are available) and by cooking more, usually from scratch. This is the secret to being a frugal vegan eater. By all means, use Chick’n patties and vegan cream cheese as needed, especially as you transition to eating vegan, but keep in mind that your goal should be eating more whole plant foods.
Yes, this means learning to cook. Yes, it takes some time, but it saves you a bunch of money, and as much as you may think you hate cooking, you’ll find that a simple meal can taste scrumptious when you have put it together yourself. Accomplishment is a spice that goes well with everything. Read the rest of this entry »
Is it expensive to eat a vegan diet? There are a lot of pricey vegan specialty foods that could lead you to think so. Countless hours of research and development have lead to vegan versions of many meat-and-dairy staples. I’ve tried nearly all of the items below, and I’m quite fond of some of them. But with very rare exceptions, vegan alternatives to meat, dairy, and other animal-derived products cost significantly more than the items they are replacing.
Of course, there’s a good reason for the disparity in price. Government subsidies (yep, that’s our tax money) keep the price of animal products artificially low. In other words, animal farmers and their suppliers are on welfare! (They have to be, because they’re running an unsustainable industry. People simply wouldn’t buy much meat or dairy if they had to pay the true cost for it, and factory farms would rapidly start going out of business.) The makers of these vegan products are not subsidized, so what seems like a high price, is really just a fair price. Now for some vegan munchies. This is just a tiny sampling of the many incredible animal-free foods now on the market!! Read the rest of this entry »
Naturally, when author Nathalie VanBalen contacted me and introduced me to her new childrens’ book, I was excited. There simply aren’t many books out there for kids whose parents are swimming upstream, raising them to eat and live kindly. Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice is a picture book about these quirky plush vikings —> who are passionate about, of all things, juicing. They discover that yellow spotted snails can make a nutritious supplement for juice, but the snails don’t want to be eaten! Their friend Thora urges the vikings to think about the effects of their actions.
This book does the same. It doesn’t tell children what to do. Instead, it respects the intelligence of young readers (and listeners) by asking open-ended questions and trusting them to seek out their own answers. “How does it feel to be food?” “Why do people love some animals and eat others?” These are tough questions, even for adults, to face. But children have a remarkable ability to examine and to challenge the world around them.
Chances are, you’ve heard of Cakewalk Baking Co. already. Cakewalk is Utah’s first and only all-vegan bakery, with an original storefront location in Woods Cross, and now a brand new location right downtown. Just days after they opened their doors, Natala (of veganhope.com) and I had the opportunity to take a look around and to visit with Kelly, the owner and baker herself!
Kelly was vegan before I’d even heard the word vegan. She started selling delicious vegan baked goods to pay for her dog’s medical treatments, and her love for animals is evidenced in everything she does. If there’s a fundraiser for an animal sanctuary, a circus protest, or just a good old fashioned vegan potluck, there’s a good chance she’ll be there with a box of cupcakes or some other sweet creation. (At one unforgettable fundraiser, there was a “Snickers” cake so rich that 20 people couldn’t finish it off!) Kelly is creative and talented with her baking, and can do just about anything. She is determined not to let any vegan feel “deprived” of any favorite junk food from their less-conscious days, which is why you’ll find her dreaming up wildly indulgent treats and offering new items all the time.
Cakewalk is famous for its many delectable cupcake flavors. Read the rest of this entry »
You may or may recall that one of my personal goals for this year was to learn to eat (and enjoy) kale, the ultimate nutritional powerhouse vegetable. Kale is a strong and frilly leafy green. Its flavor is bold and a bit bitter, and its texture is tough, almost rubbery. Kale makes most lettuce look like wilted onion layers. For these reasons, kale can be intimidating to many, but kale fans rave about it, so I had to find out what all the buzz was about.
I started out by putting some in my favorite everyday salad. Sometimes I use half kale, half spinach, other times entirely kale! It’s quite good with all the vegetables and homemade dressing, once I let it sit for five or ten minutes to marinate and soften.
Ah, but now a wonderful new world has been opened to me by the vegan Twitter community: the world of easy, homemade, vegan “junk” food. I’m talking, of course, about kale chips. I threw a batch of them together on impulse before heading to work yesterday, and we devoured them all within minutes. Kale chips are more compulsively eatable than popcorn or potato chips. You can flavor them just about any way you like, I imagine, and since they’re made out of kale, you can actually pat yourself on the back (with your seasoning-covered fingers) for munching on them!
The day I learned to feel bad about eating was the same day I learned to feel bad about myself. I was seven years old. Until then, I’d never noticed the size or shape of the body I inhabited, and I’d never forbidden myself any food. At dinner with my family that fateful night, I had just reached for my eighth slice of my mom’s homemade pizza (my favorite meal) when she called me away from the table to talk to me about overeating, and about the weight I’d been putting on. I don’t remember the first seven slices of pizza I ate that evening, but I will never forget that last, joyless slice, topped with sausage, green bell pepper, mozzarella, and black olives. I chewed it grimly, robotically, eyes and throat burning with stifled tears, and marveled that the food I loved gave me no pleasure or comfort. As I ate it, I only felt worse. The little girl who timidly returned to the table that night, steeped in shame and disgust at her appetite for food and her grotesque body, was the girl I would be every time I ate for years to come.
From that point on, food and I went through constant cycles of desire and guilt. There were fad diets, brief struggles with exercise, a few meager attempts at self-induced vomiting, and baggy clothes to hide me from the eyes of others. I imagine my obsession with calories, fat, weight, and my distaste for my own body were rather standard for an American girl. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder. I wasn’t obese. Once I got a growth spurt in my teens, I wasn’t even overweight. I was just your average girl who felt guilty because she ate “bad” food. (“Badness” could be quantified by the number of calories, fat, sugar, carbohydrates, size of portion, time of day… I halfheartedly imposed nearly every category of diet on myself at some point.)
But there are two kinds of guilt.
Most of us carry around the wrong kind of guilt, especially when it comes to food. Guilt is only rational when it is linked to the morally bad, not the nutritionally bad. However, morally bad food, food worthy of feeling guilty over, does exist. What makes some food bad (in the primary, ethical sense of the word) is the suffering and injustice that was carried out in the production –generally, its extraction from the body of someone who was given no choice. The only morally bad foods are foods for which other beings were harmed.
Morality in general comes down to whether an action is harmful, cruel, or unkind to others. Why it took me so long to apply that sense of right or wrong to my food, I can only guess. But after years of shifting foods from one category to another based on their carb-ness, fat content, or color, the simplicity of this logical good/bad food dichotomy blew my mind. Veganism freed me from counting calories and all that other nonsense. Eliminating animal products from my diet meant eliminating any cause for legitimate, ethical guilt about food, breaking the eat/guilt cycle. (Okay, there are still ethical considerations that factor into plant foods, such as whether coffee and cocoa are fair-trade certified, and whether palm oil is taken from the orangutan forests, but eating a diet of plant rather than animal foods bypasses direct victims; an enormous moral leap!)
Once the food guilt was gone, everything else fell into place–not within a day, but at a steady rate. Emotionally, I began to fully enjoy eating again, and since food was more fulfilling, my desire to occasionally binge went away. I stopped thinking of any foods as “forbidden,” not even animal products! (I can eat them, but I really don’t want to. Eating the result of suffering and injustice? Yuck!) I truly don’t deprive myself of anything anymore, and this healthier mental attitude has changed my entire life.
And what happened to the self-loathing? Well, it helps that ethically good foods tend to be nutritionally good foods as well, once you take sugar and processed junk out of the equation. I have lost weight. Too much weight, according to some people. But without guilt coming between me and my body anymore, I’ve found that I can truly be happy with my physical size and shape, no matter what other people think of me. My body is fueled by compassion now. How delicious is that?!
To learn more about how I lost weight (without trying) by going vegan, click on The End of Dieting.
I’ve met plenty of vegans who are repulsed by the very thought or smell of eggs, and can’t believe they ever ate them. But there are others who will admit to missing something about an omelet, or an egg salad sandwich, or quiche, at least until they think about where eggs come from. Eggs, the kind with shells on them, are bird (or reptile) menstruation. In terms of standard modern consumption, the menstruation of a chicken. Usually a filthy, caged, suffering chicken. Now that you’re completely grossed out, let’s talk about making plant foods taste like eggs! You really can have the taste with none of the cruelty or ickiness.
This discussion forum has been in the works for a while, and when friend from Twitter asked me to activate it, I couldn’t say no! The forum is primarily for vegans in the Salt Lake area, though anyone is welcome. (You don’t have to be vegan already to participate, and you don’t have to be in SLC.) The Vegan Salt Forum is a place where you can meet other vegans, encourage people who are hoping to become vegan, share photos of your animal friends, share the best places for a vegan to eat or shop in SLC, talk about animal rights issues, plan get-togethers, and anything else you can think of.
The only rule is that everyone treat others with respect and keep the forum civil and friendly. To sign up, register through Ning by entering your email & creating a password. I’ll make a permanent link to the forum on the right-hand side of the blog, but for now, you can just click on the image above or click right here to start. Hooray!