Monday, December 20, 2010

bye baby bunting

Daddy's going hunting.

Well, at least, that's the plan at some point in the future. My brother-in-law (also Ben) and I were talking last night about meat (and my vegetarianity) and we totally see eye-to-eye, but he still eats meat and I don't. And I explained, rather obviously to him probably, that I didn't mind so much about the animal lives lost to produce meat, but that I did mind a) about their treatment and health and b) about the environment.

I have eaten chicken a couple times since the fall, and turkey twice, and it was because they were local, "organic" (greenwashed and impotent though that word has become, I do still believe that choosing it is a loud way to vote with my money), and free range. In at least of two of those cases, we in fact know the producer personally.

I still miss meat. Beef most of all. But that's the one thing I can't find a way to justify; even when beef is well-treated and grass-fed and all of that other good stuff, it still produces methane, and lots of it.

Now I know that this is not a particularly balanced approach - my wife called it "boycotting" meat, which I think is an apt label. I'm not eating meat, basically, because too many other people are. I could be more balanced about it, and frankly anyone who knows me knows that I will likely be a meat eater again one day (by virtue of my fickleness), but I think I do better, in some ways, as a fervent fundamentalist than a laid-back liberal. It's easier.

I started re-listening to the CBC's excellent series Have Your Meat and Eat It Too enjoying the re-affirmations of the conclusions I've drawn, and feeling good again about being a vegetarian. In the third episode, though, are some of the most compelling interviews, with people like Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan
...and the gist of what they say is twofold:
  1. in nature, ecosystems are dependent on animals: without animals, farms need chemical fertilizers to enrich the soil
  2. governments support the current meat production system by subsidizing corn and soy, which are fed to animals.
In other words, it may be possible to eat meat - and maybe actually help small ecosystems thrive - if we look to smaller producers who have created closed systems within which animals play a crucial role.

Back to hunting, then: my thinking is that those are animals which have led as natural a life as they can have had (making "free range" and "organic" look pretty ridiculous), and that becoming part of the food chain again - in a direct way - I am probably doing much less damage, both to ecosystems and to the global environment, than buying produced meat, regardless of the source. In fact, if it was part of a cull, I might even be contributing to an ecosystem by keeping it in balance.

[addendum: apparently they've discovered that curry spices reduce methane in ruminants! so curried beef is better for the environment...?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CBC is a Superhero

So, yesterday evening I had a quick conversation about this blog and these ideas with a good family friend, and she mentioned not really always being able to follow what I'm on about. Which I think is fair: I'll be the first to admit I occasionally do lose sight of the forest through the trees; I sometimes have a hard time communicating what I want, and sort of leave out the important details.

But, once again, thank goodness, CBC has rescued me from myself. I was driving over to the LCBO this evening and had on the radio, and it being after 9 Paul Kennedy's Ideas was on and guess what?

They are currently running a 3-part series called Have Your Meat and Eat It Too, all about factory farming and the food system!

So for those of you who have been tempted to read the book I've been plugging but cannot quite bring yourselves to buy a copy/ sign one out of the library / root around at Value Village / ask to borrow mine, you can get the meat and potatoes (!) of what I've been saying in only 3 short hours of listening! Carpet sweep your house, put your laundry on the line, make some non-bolognaise spaghetti sauce, and tune in to this program. It's kind of like a greatest hits of The Way We Eat. It's excellent.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


woohoo! veganism experiment 2010 is over! woke up salivating. bacon and eggs! milk in my coffee! meat and milk coma!

so... I made organic fair-trade coffee and had *real milk* in it. Scarfed down some of the formerly banned "salt & pepper" (and milk) peanuts while cooking the half-pack of extra-thick bacon that had been languishing in the freezer for a month, used the fat to cook 3 large farm-fresh local organic eggs, fried up an organic tomato, and then served it with salsa, a sprig of fresh basil, and some unbelievable Scottish T&T Shropshire blue cheese.

Funny thing, though (besides the actual haze I'm struggling through right now... coma coming on good and strong), I felt quite weird about the eating all that animal product again. It actually occurred to me that I could probably go vegan permanently, should I wish. I lasted a month, and though I didn't try very hard to get into the cooking, I'm sure it would get easier and more tasty.

So I think I'm gonna go middle-of-the-road; nothing like being lukewarm and sitting on the fence: I'll be a vegetarian. I loooove cheese too much and have an excellent source for local organic "ethical" eggs, and our grocer sells lots of organic milk products, many of them local since we have no less than three big dairy producers within less than 50km. It's not the perfect solution, but I think it's one I can sustain, which I really don't think is true of being vegan, particularly in a house with two other non-vegans.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

the skinny on this vegan thing

So look, I haven't really explained my vegan madness here, at least not on the blog. So I thought maybe it was time.

The authors of this book I've cited (The Way We Eat... - which, btw, I picked up haphazardly for $4 @ Value Village) point out a number of what for me were very salient points:
  • organic beef, which treats the animals better than factory farming, means they get to eat grass and hay and roam large swaths of pasture. However, cows that eat grass and hay actually produce more methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2 (, and in giving them room for pasture, they use way more land than factory-farmed animals
  • eating local (particularly local and out of season) can actually cause more damage and use more energy than getting stuff from overseas. Example 1: Californian rice - in fact, it takes much more energy and much more water to produce rice in North America than it does to grow it in, say, Bangladesh, and ship it over by sea. Example 2: greenhouse-grown local tomatoes use tons of energy to heat the greenhouses, and tons of water to irrigate.
  • farm animals produce lots of waste. The more of us there are eating meat and cheese and eggs, the more waste gets produced, and that waste ends up running off into groundwater, into lakes and streams, into rivers and oceans. It can also contaminate those self-same animal products.
  • cows consume 5 times more than people, so if we stopped eating beef and used that land to grow crops for human consumption, we'd actually have a lot more food! (see "where's the grain?" in this Cornell study from 1997) essentially, if we stopped eating animal products altogether, we'd put a lot less strain both on the food system and on the planet. It really is difficult though! I now weigh 213.6, which means I've lost 2.4lbs in two and a half weeks. Great diet plan, I guess, though this was not a goal of mine. I don't really like tofu, though meatless burgers are okay, and I've made some headway on nice vegan main dishes with things like potatoes, green beans, pasta, and rice. It's going okay. I can imagine just keeping on going; it certainly does get easier, but it's still a bit of a struggle.

Preview: Global TV tonight began a new series based on the now famous 100-mile diet. It actually looks even more difficult than going vegan. My wife wondered aloud whether this was my new quest... so this evening I spent some time Googling local sources of flour (or maybe bread? pasta...?), dairy (can't wait!), and coffee (no dice. argh), and I'll have a look around for locally-sourced beer (luckily we live right near one of the world's great wine regions) and yeast, and we actually already have connections to local produce, local honey, local chicken, and local eggs. So maybe come August 15th...? I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

milk is in everything...!

argh. So far the two things I've found hardest about this experiment have been 1) giving up things I like and 2) realizing just how prevalent milk and eggs are in what we eat!

For instance, my mother-in-law, knowing I was vegan for the moment, bought some awesome hot sauce for me with which to ease my pain (or substitute one kind for another, really). I had it on a bunch of things over one meal and then checked the ingredients... milk products! In hot sauce, I ask you? So I've been reading much more carefully, and have found the ingredient "lactose (from milk" in things like PC Black Bean & Salsa whole grain chips, their Flaxseed tortilla chips, their tomato basil rice cakes... all things I thought would for sure be safe. Then, and this one stung, I have been eating more nuts as part of my diet of late, and I bought some "kettle-cooked" salt and pepper peanuts from Sobeys, unquestioningly inhaling handful after handful. Well... of course, three days in, I checked the ingredient list only to find milk ingredients listed! frack.

As a side note, I have discovered that it would actually be very easy to become a plump vegan. the nuts alone could do it. A cup of sunflower seeds, for instance, has 1000 calories in it! wow. so like, 2 cups would be most people's daily caloric intake. Kinda makes me think maybe instead of rice, which only has about 200 calories per cup, we should be sending over bags and bags of sunflower seeds to people in need. SO much more bang for the buck!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

not my cup of tea (too!)...

so... day 6. I've already eaten more wraps with salsa and tofu than I care to count, and I've watched my family eat things I already miss: mayo, chicken, cheese, milk in my tea (that one was a bit of a blindside)... and I've mistakenly eaten a bunch of non-vegan things: a handful of chips with cheese in them (chips, I thought - potatoes! vegan!), little bits of crumbled cheese from mac & cheese I made for my daughter...

Anyway so being a vegan is not very much fun. At least, not for me. I cannot imagine anyone really enjoying this who really, y'know, likes food. Granted, I haven't started getting into vegan cooking much so to boot I'm essentially also on a rawfood diet, but still.

I just wonder what kind of person is more satisfied with being an ethical eater than with eating stuff that tastes good. But maybe it gets easier...?

Good thing beer's still vegan.

Friday, July 16, 2010

end day 2, day 3, and a list last night's supper was more wraps, but this time with fresh tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, salsa again, kidney beans, and tofu. I also had some organic blue corn chips and not-organic white corn chips, and some peanuts. whee.

I've started a list of what things I can eat as a vegan:
  • nuts
  • veggies
  • potatoes, rice, bread
  • fruit
  • beer & wine
  • soy stuff: soy milk, tofu, fake cheese, tofurkey...
...? anything else you can think of?

...have so far eaten lots of nuts, lots of peanut butter, wraps with tofu and veggies and mustard, rice boiled with vegetable stock, corn-on-the-cob... and I think I've actually gained weight. For the record, I'm at 216 right now. curious what I'll be in a month's time. Predictions? Up? Down?

an experiment in veganism

So I'm reading this book right now - I'm about 50 pages from the end - called The Way We Eat, about the ethics of food and the choices we make about what we put in our mouths. It's been very compelling and very complicating, blurring lots of lines for me between the right and the wrong of organics, local food, seasonal food, meat-eating, GM foods, the environment, etc.

Essentially, though, what the book seems to be leading up to is the conclusion that the most ethical choice we can make - in terms of the treatment of animals, the treatment of people, and the welfare of the planet - is to be vegan.

So I've resolved to try to be vegan for a month, to try it and see what it's like. I'll report in as often as possible, mainly with the rundown of what I've eaten and my victories and defeats in this quest.

I'm on day two right now.

Yesterday after breakfast (eggs, bacon, coffee with milk, berries) I thought I'd try to make a go of it. We were at the cottage and drove back from Muskoka, making a stop at the infamous Weber's burger joint on highway 11. I dutifully ordered the garden burger (mushy beany blech), but then Jen got a hotdog that was waaaaay too big for one person, and Abby wanted a hamburger that she didn't finish. Ethically, I thought it would be worse to waste that food than to eat it, so I finished them off rather than throwing them away.

For supper I had three wraps with beans and salsa, a couple pieces of bread and PB, some hickory-smoked almonds, some apple juice, and cherries for dessert.

Today for breakfast I had more bread and PB and coffee with vanilla soymilk, and then for lunch we were out (Williams Coffee Pub at the harbour) so I ordered a grilled veggie panini with no cheese. They're pre-made, I was told, but the veggie wraps were good. Does it have cheese in it, I wondered? My server asked if I was vegan, so I explained I was trying it out for a month. A sympathetic vegetarian, she said she couldn't imagine trying to go vegan, and that the only other "sauce" I could have for my veggie wrap, besides the cream cheese they normally put in it, was mustard. Okay, I said, I could deal with that. When it finally came, however, it did have the cream cheese! I asked Jen what to do, and she pointed out, again, that it was probably more ethical to eat it than to send it back to be thrown out so they could make me a new one. So day two, halfway through, I've had to compromise twice already. I also had beer with lunch, and a coffee with soy milk, which they did manage to get right.

I'm hungry.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"I'm Thinking Future Friendly"

I'm blogging again at 10 to 1 in the morning because I just saw a commercial for a total crock. Well okay it was not marketed as such, but here it is: was for a bunch of products that are marketing themselves as being "future friendly" - i.e. environmentally responsible or whatever.

I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but the first things that came to mind were:
  • if Downy is making its fabric softener more concentrated (to reduce the plastic used), doesn't that make it harder on the water supply? Doesn't that make it more toxic? Same with Tide high efficiency ("HE") liquid... WTF?
  • how do they make Coldwater detergent? What have they put into it to make it work? Why won't they assure us that it's not toxic and that it's biodegradable and made of natural ingredients?
  • aren't stronger Bounty sheets going to take longer to decompose, either in a landfill or in a municipal compost heap?
  • what the hell do they have to do to already toxic batteries to make them last longer? What on earth can they be putting in to make batteries give even more power? why shouldn't this terrify us?
  • what is Cascade made of, if not organic biodegradable stuff?
...recently capitalism, which when done properly can totally spur technology and markets and medicine (etc. etc.) through competition, has been showing its dark underbelly: products released too soon (e.g. Tylenol, Honda), in the name of the quickest profit and the most competetive advantage hurt people and hurt the planet. This website and this line of products is SO lame.