Monday, November 30, 2009
I was a vegetarian for many years before I made the commitment to living as a vegan. My transition was prompted by seeing a documentary about the reality of animal agriculture. I could no longer hide from the truth any more. Such documentaries aren't for the faint-of-heart, but if you want to kickstart a more informed, compassionate lifestyle, I recommend them for that reason alone. (I posted this yesterday on my Facebook but forgot to re-post here. Sorry!)
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Many cleaning supplies are not only toxic but tested on laboratory animals. Save money, your health and the animals by making your own homemade cleaning supplies. Made with simple and inexpensive materials like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda, homemade cleaning products are a smart and compassionate choice.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Today is Fur Free Friday. My guess is that most readers of this post do not wear fur or support that evil industry. In the spirit of the day, though, take some time to learn more about the fur trade to educate others. Forty-five million animals are brutally killed with steel-jaw traps, gassed, electrocuted and even skinned alive. Please let the people in your life know the truth about these horrible "luxury" items.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Great vegan food is the ultimate outreach tool. Why not give the gift of exquisite treats this holiday season? It's both thrifty and meaningful. In addition to the new vegan cookie cookbook recently published, there are lots of other great vegan baking books you can find online. Get some pretty tins and you're good to go!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today I am grateful that I don’t have a sprained ankle, a migraine or a weird, darting pain in my back. I am grateful for limbs that work as my brain signals for them to do, for joints that move painlessly and even for that scar on my wrist because it reminds me of roller-skating down a hill in the summer and because it’s a good story. I am not grateful for the pimple between my eyes, but I am grateful that there are no others and that it is on its downward descent. I’m grateful that my eyes can blink on their own, I can swallow without help from a medical device, that my days are uninterrupted by pain or a million little aches or beeping machines hooked up to my arms. I am grateful for this strong, able body, and that I can brace myself and slice through the Chicago winds without being tossed around like a dirty plastic bag, getting myself caught in bare tree branches. I am grateful that I can slip on ice and not fear of breaking my hip; I can do a head-to-toe analysis as I look up at the puffy clouds overhead from the sidewalk and know with a relative certainty that nothing is broken. I am grateful for these two strong hands that stir batter until it all comes together and looks just right and for fingers that hit letter after letter on the keyboard, but that can also be gentle, for wiping my son’s tears, for touching a cheek, for entwining my fingers in another’s. I’m grateful for all this and more.
Today I am grateful that I can turn a handle and water pours forth, that it is predictably there and without strange little minnows swimming in circles in it as was the case in my childhood anxieties. I am grateful for this computer that gets cursed at a lot but has been the vehicle for keeping me in touch with people near oceans and in deserts, for reconnecting me with childhood friends I thought I’d lost forever, for meeting people I may never see face-to-face but who inspire me daily, for being instrumental to hatching plans and firming thoughts and giving birth to ideas. I am grateful for my orange-yellow, glittery bike, and my two strong legs that propel me forward, for being the vehicle as I push through space with my own body as the motor, passing the cars as they idle at the stoplight. I am grateful for glass windows that keep out the cold and for oscillating fans when the winter seems as distant as a shadowy dream and for tea, year-round. I am grateful for doors I can lock and that there’s no one in my life whom I’d like to lock out again. I am grateful for our pink and orange rooms, for the dining room wall full of pictures, for all those books with dog-eared pages and the old-fashioned radiators we fill with water when it finally gets so dry that we remember. I am grateful for our bathroom, though it’s nothing fancy, and for the smooth wooden floor under our feet. I’m grateful for all this and more. (Let’s not forget dark chocolate and Satsuma mandarin oranges and hot peppers.)
Today I am grateful for the many glass jars of spices that make me feel like a magician when I cook, a pinch of this, a teaspoon of that, my feet dancing back and forth with self-assurance, and for feeling when I do this that I’m reconnecting with a piece of my grandmother’s sweet spirit. I am grateful for making people laugh, for those who see me at my worst but don’t turn away, for the way my heart does a little dance when my son tells me he loves me, so pure and unguarded. I am grateful for more good days than bad, for moods that seem more level, for being more certain that I’m here for a reason, and for each day when I can feel this buzzing inside like a million bumblebees. I’m grateful for purposefulness and for silliness, and for any time I can calibrate the perfect balance of both. I am grateful for the love I feel, for the flame of hope that can’t be extinguished despite all common sense sometimes, for the way I feel when I do more or better or more generously than I expected. I am grateful for making strangers smile – or even laugh, an uncommon treat – for the way I feel when the birds start singing in the spring (full of hope and anticipation and deep inhalations, that’s all I can say) and for the way I felt when my grandfather looked at me, his eyes full of love. I am grateful that he taught me how one can convey more in a simple glance than a thousand words, even though that hasn’t stopped me from trying. I am grateful for that little girl who never believed for a second that she was inferior to a boy and who grew up to be me. I am grateful that I live in a time and a place when I can live according to my values and desires rather than something imposed on me. I’m grateful for all this and more.
Today I am grateful for the many people who make me laugh and smile and actively savor living in the moment. I am grateful for the four-legged companions I’ve been blessed to share a home with, for what they’ve taught me about enjoying life with all they’ve got. I am grateful for Lenny, my dearly departed dog and hound-shaped soul mate, who looked at me with those soft eyes of pure, uncomplicated love (exactly the way my grandfather looked at me) on the last day of his life, wagging his tail just to see me even when we both knew death was so close. I am grateful for our cat and her little black button nose, perfect little thing, and for the way I feel when I see her looking out the front window as I’m coming home. I am grateful for all the wise and hilarious and deeply human friends of mine who try so hard not to accept the ordinary and challenge me to be my best, too. I am grateful for my son, who lets me know when I’m being mean or impatient, who teaches me so much about loving who one is as is, who thinks I should have my own bakery I’m that good. I am grateful that he teaches me to love without condition because I can be such a jerk sometimes. I am grateful for my mother and her big, kind heart, who gets teary when she sees a total stranger cry, who is so profoundly unmaterialistic she cannot receive a compliment without offering the object to the admirer. I am grateful for my aunt, who loves her sister fiercely and for loving me when I was a child as if I were her own. I am grateful for my brother, who has never let our different natures put a wedge between us. I am grateful for all the animals I have met at shelters and sanctuaries, who have taught me to keep shining my light no matter what, who are deeply resilient and full of innate dignity. I am grateful for John, for too much to say here, for too many things but here’s a start: for the big smile, for trying to make me laugh when I’m in a snit, for his compassion and grace, for always wanting the best for me (how many can honestly say this?), for his mind that never stops, for his boundless curiosity, for his inability to conceal it when he thinks something is really fantastic, for thinking that I'm fantastic, for teaching me that I am worthy of love by such a good-hearted person. I’m grateful for all this and more.
Thanks to all who have made mine such a lovely life. I am truly grateful for it.
Simple soups warm the soul and quell your hunger. Decide what sort of soup you want - bean-based, a broth-y or creamy one - and go from there. Soups are very easy to improvise and help you develop confidence in the kitchen. Starting with a little sauté, such as onions, garlic and ginger, add your water or broth, spices, additional vegetables and beans. Coconut milk, tomato purée, peanut butter, and lime juice are all great additions (just not at the same time!).
Monday, November 23, 2009
Ten Better Ways to Express Gratitude For Abundance In Your Life Than Eating An Abused Turkey’s Carcass
Others don’t need to suffer and die because our cultural traditions tell us that we need this in order to express gratitude. I am thankful each day that I don’t contribute to suffering. It was through my lens of being a vegan that I realized that gratitude is not a passive thing, but something that we cultivate with our actions and mindfulness. If you are lacking gratitude in your life – and we all go through this from time to time – it has a trickle-down, self-perpetuating effect: you feel resentful of others’ blessings, you become miserly, you close yourself off to the positive flow and abundance that wants to happen, the people around you are negatively influenced and treat you in ways that reinforce your self-destructive attitude. Fortunately, it’s easy to jump-start an active expression of gratitude in your life and nothing requires ingesting a tortured bird. Please let us know what you do to bring more thankful expression into your life.
1. Take a child to a park and really be present for her. Push her on the swings, jump in a leaf pile together, giggle. Have fun, don’t be afraid of looking silly and know that you’re creating memories for a lifetime. You’re helping to create a happy, grateful child.
2. Volunteer at the local animal shelter and take the dogs for a walk, play with the cats. If you have the means, consider adopting the one who steals your heart.
3. Think of someone who made you happy this year without asking for anything in return and try to be that someone for another person. Give the gift of your kindness every day.
4. Have a gratitude party: invite your closest friends over for vegan treats and just enjoy one another’s company. Or have a holiday cookie exchange party and supply baking sheets, rolling pins, cookie cutters, decorations and ingredients for a festive afternoon of baking together. Don’t forget the music...
5. Go through your clothing, including gloves, socks and hats, and find items that are still in good shape that you can donate to a local homeless shelter. Blankets are also useful. You can also find items in good condition at a nearby thrift store and purchase those for donation to charity.
6. Find something you’re passionate about and give the gift of your time to it. Whether it’s volunteering at the local homeless or battered women’s shelter, the local animal shelter or at your park district, as donation dollars and grants are dwindling, non-profits rely even more than ever on volunteer efforts.
7. Make amends to someone you have hurt, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Give your sincere apologies for that which you were responsible for and ask for forgiveness. Whether or not you are forgiven, rest assured knowing that you did you did your part.
8. Watch a movie or listen to music that inspires you and lifts your spirits. Share this with others who are having a hard time.
9. If you are struggling with feeling hopeless and depressed, making a daily commitment to maintaining a gratitude list is a great way to get out of that. Every night before you go to bed, write down three things you were grateful for that day, and then the ways you caused those grateful moments to happen. They don’t have to be major, earth-shattering occasions you are taking note of: simple things like that you swept the kitchen or returned some phone calls are important to acknowledge when you are feeling down and the acknowledgement can help you lift yourself back up. As a great little side effect, you will find yourself bringing more blessings in your life in order to maintain your list.
10. Give thanks for the blessings in your life whenever they occur. Your gratitude will become a more intuitive response with practice, like a muscle that is given proper exercise. Remember to appreciate the small and the big gifts – a stranger smiling, a friend appreciating you, a new skill you’ve learned – and really feel thankfulness deep inside you. Others will feel this in you and create more blessings in their lives, keeping the happiness flowing in and out. If others have turned off their ability to feel gratitude presently, it shouldn’t affect you. Move on, knowing that you are creating a beautiful and lovely compassionate life.
“My life is my message.” Mohatma Gandhi
Your local library is a great, though often overlooked, resource for assisting you on transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. From cookbooks to informational books and documentaries, most well-stocked libraries offer excellent resources for making positive changes in your life. Checking out an online bookseller is a great way to get a reading list together.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Please consider sponsoring a rescued turkey this Thanksgiving at one of the wonderful farmed animal sanctuaries throughout the country. Sponsoring a turkey in someone's name is a meaningful and affordable holiday gift. Your donation dollars help to offset the considerable costs of caring for these gentle beings.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Plan ahead. One of the obstacles to maintaining a vegan diet is group meals out. Calling ahead to a restaurant to ensure that a plant-based meal can be prepared is essential sometimes to a relaxed and enjoyable time out. Restaurants want your business and in this economy can't afford to lose it because they're unwilling to accommodate vegans. Diplomacy + straightforwardness = success!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Feeling uninspired and lacking motivation? Go out in nature for an hour or two. Whether you're watching birds at a local lake or just breathing in fresh air, we all need to recharge once in a while and reconnect with a bottomless source of inspiration for those who love the earth: nature.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Rather than worrying about future meals (like what you will do at holidays and birthdays and so on), approach each time you eat as an opportunity to live according to your values. Getting hung up on an imagined "future failing" to justify not changing is flawed thinking. Try to nurture a more nuanced, successful approach by remembering this simple truth: one meal at a time. Click here for lovely Lagusta's 101 easy vegan quick meal ideas.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Having a community that supports you is vital to integrating changes in your life and maintaining them. At the very least, having a supportive community can bring a lot of happiness into your life. Try to find a community that supports your compassionate lifestyle. Whether it's a Yahoo group, a message board or a local vegetarian organization, try to find one that fits your needs.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
What do you do when you don’t really have the mental energy for a long post-y post due to a boy-whose-headache-mysteriously-disappeared-once-school-was-off-the-table but you still want to write something? Drum roll, please: it’s time for Random Snippets of Randomness!
* What is going on with people wearing pajamas out in public during the daytime? (Not that folks wandering the streets at night in their comfy PJs makes a whole lot more sense, but at least it one could delude herself into thinking that the random pajama-clad individual got locked out of the house or something.) People from all walks of life, young and old, though mostly young, can now be spotted waiting for the bus in powder blue pajama bottoms with smiling cows jumping over various moons, and grocery shopping in pale pink numbers with lipstick kiss prints all over them. There are many signs pointing to the fact that in this shifting geo-political world, the US is not the ambition-crazed Superpower it once was – this is not a bad thing - but perhaps the decline could most clearly be seen in the fact that people are wearing pajamas out in public without apparent embarrassment. I have to say, seeing someone in pajamas outside of one’s home in daylight brings the latent army sergeant I never knew I had inside me out. I just want to growl, “Get dressed, you loser!” When people start breaking out the Snugglies – another symbol of the obvious collapse of personal drive - for their daily errands, I’m going to go into hiding.
* I wish I had nonstop tapes of my son that I could watch one day, or ate least a really complete “best of” library. He is alternately poignant, hilarious, fascinating to me: I have never really gotten over that baby lust I had for him when he was first born, where I could have stared at that perfect profile all day long just to try to etch it into my mind forever. This is not to say that I appreciate every moment or that I am never annoyed: I am, frequently. I deeply feel the inner-schism between wanting to be a good mother and needing to get “my stuff” done. I’m pretty sure that deciding to have just one has made his different stages more acutely felt by me.
* I have never eaten fish in my life and seafood only twice, both times the result of having been lied to about the nature of what I was eating (shrimp and cream of oyster soup). Both were thoroughly revolting. When I was little, I was eating dinner at a family party when a shot of fish swimming by came up on the television (yes, we had the TV on during parties in the basement, which was where the children’s table was) and I simply vomited on the spot. Yep, just looking at a fish activated my gag reflex. I’ve gotten it under control since (except for that time a few years ago at the upscale Chinese restaurant where the server started boning the fish for a table nearby and I came very close to losing it) but I still find the idea of eating fish impossible to imagine. Truly, if I were on a desert island with no fruit around, yep, I’d starve to death.
* I think people look very goofy when they’re trying to be all ponderously serious with snorting their wine and analyzing its “notes.” And who am I to judge but becoming a wine connoisseur just seems like a huge waste of money and time.
* In general, foodie culture strikes the same chord within me: self-indulgent, pretentious, silly, overblown. In the city of Chicago, there are few as worshipped as an acclaimed chef and fewer still who look as ridiculous as the followers of these coddled chefs.
* And what is the deal with all the bacon fetishizing lately? Have you noticed that every hipster and his foodie cousin are all singing the praises of bacon now as if it just suddenly appeared? Bacon cupcakes, bacon truffles, bacon-flavored water! I think people actually believe that they’re rebelling by turning to the symbol for unhealthy indulgence. To this I say that yes, consuming meat is really challenging the status quo. Put up your favorite Anthony Bourdain poster (the very essence of pseudo-rebellion while actually reinforcing the system), put on your comfiest pajamas, and go on with your day like all the other shlubs. Just watch this charming little video first.
* The other day I went to my mom’s condo and I smelled something that brought me back to when I worked at the animal hospital back in high school: it was canned cat food, probably a certain brand. Then I noticed that the maintenance guy of my mom’s building was eating lunch nearby which caused me to consider that he may have been eating cat food. No, right? There are no apartments on that floor, just the storage room he hangs out in.
* I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately, more than usual, which is saying a lot. I miss her every day, she was such a ray of sunshine in my life. I think she had the most positive influence on me of anyone else I’ve ever known. Because of my grandmother, when I see the grandmothers in babushkas pushing their carts down the sidewalk, I melt into a puddle right there. She was the warmest, most loving person I’ve ever known, totally proud but still humble: how she managed it, I just don’t know. She was the perfect role model, even if I feel that I fall short of her example all the time.
* I really wish I could just learn to be a master gardener without turning my life over to the pursuit of this knowledge. I wish I could just, like, download it and have it all intuitively in my brain. I am a lousy gardener: I can never tell what’s a weed and what’s something I intentionally planted so I’m too scared to pull anything and then the weeds end up choking out everything else. On the other hand, I’d love to have a yard full of vegetables and herbs. What is the matter with me?
* I’m still afraid that someone is hiding under my bed at all times.
Clearly, I don’t have a lot to say today. The well has run dry. I seem to either be overflowing with my creative voice or totally depleted. Today, I am obviously running on empty. Maybe next time?
In the colder months, don't forget that the birds outdoors still need food and water, now more than ever. Mixed birdseed tends to have a lot of filler most avoid, but black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds are favorites of many varieties of birds. Keep a supply of fresh water available - eating snow for water requires too much precious energy - either by pouring hot water over an icy birdbath or, for a bird lover's splurge, a heated bird bath.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Please consider a vegan Thanksgiving this year to really show your gratitude for the abundance of the earth and compassion for all her creatures. A vegan Thanksgiving e-cookbook with lots of great recipes can be purchased here, and there are free recipes provided by the great cookbook author Robin Robertson found at vegan.com.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
There are so many great vegan online (and brick-and-mortar) retail shops, where one can buy anything from shoes and jewelry to cosmetics and personal care products. Visit EthicalPlanet.com, VeganEssentials.com, AlternativeOutfitters.com, MooShoes.com, CosmosVeganShoppe.com, VeganStore.com and FoodFightGrocery.com for a variety of unique, cruelty-free products. Not only do these companies scrutinize ingredients for you, they also often feature ethically produced, sustainable and organic items. Let's support these independent businesses!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Want to make a quick, high protein and tasty lunch with a minimum of hassle? One word: hummus! It is incredibly easy to make at home plus it's very adaptable. Try different beans, different nut or seed butters, different flavorings. I love to spike my hummus with a dash or two of liquid smoke while it's in the food processor. This is great in a sandwich or as a dip with assorted crudité.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Well, after last week’s wrist-slashingly fun jaunt through the interior landscape of my inner torment, I figured it was time for a more light-hearted post. That seems to be how I roll around these parts: from deep despair, examining and exposing old scars, to silly posts about, say, decomposing bananas. (No, that was never a metaphor.) As November is World Vegan Month – and, perhaps intentionally – also the month in which countless herbivores can expect to be thoroughly traumatized around the Thanksgiving table as a stuffed turkey corpse is carved and consumed before our very eyes, yes, it is time for one of my funny posts. Where others would zig, I zag. I will wear you down with my charm, damn it.
Thanksgiving. Back when I was a nascent vegetarian clad in black from head-to-toe (as opposed to my Technicolor wardrobe of today), I was welcomed at the annual Thanksgiving meal with as much enthusiasm as a, I don’t know, fundamentalist at an orgy. (Perhaps that is not an apt metaphor because it seems that the more puritanically repressed one is in his beliefs, the more sexually perverse he is, so, really, a fundamentalist at an orgy is probably quite a natural thing.) (You get what I mean, though, right?) Or maybe a librarian at a book burning is better? There I was, at fifteen or sixteen or seventeen, practically spraining my pupils by rolling my eyes so vigorously at my uncle’s bad and inappropriately ribald jokes – same as the previous year - hearing the chorus of Meat Is Murder by The Smiths play over and over in my head as that electric carving knife buzzed away in the kitchen, trying to not imagine the deepening carnage in there. I would steadfastly avoid the kitchen and fill my plate with Brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce, I’d avoid all eye contact and pay attention to my plate alone but, inevitably, someone, usually Mrs. Brown, our family friend from across the street, would bring it up.
“So, dolly, you’re still a vegetarian?”
I’d nod, keep my eyes downward, maybe smile a little to be nice, imagine that if I stared at my Brussels sprout intently enough that she would move on to something else. She wouldn’t.
“You can’t make an exception just for one day?”
I’d shake my head, my inner-voice chanting, “Please move on...please move on…”
One year, this was the detour:
“You can’t even eat the stuffing?”
“I’m okay.” Furtive, even conspiratorial, glances were exchanged around the table and my brother snickered as everyone relived the previous Thanksgiving, the year of The Great Stuffing Deception Debacle. Although my mother cooked stuffing as a side dish in its own pan (in addition to that which was stuffed into the turkey’s anal cavity, mmm) I had been thoroughly traumatized to discover chunks of turkey in this allegedly meatless dish, prepared Just For Me, concealed like landmines under the soft bread cubes and chopped celery.
“Oh, come on! It’s ninety percent vegetarian,” my mother said at the time, which was scant consolation. She looked around the room for validation. As the horror registered upon my face, turkey chunk on my fork and held as far from away from my body as my arm could stretch, she said defensively, “I can’t keep up with what is and isn’t vegetarian,” as if objecting to chunks of meat in a “vegetarian” dish is such an arbitrary, personal opinion. Finally, in exasperation, she said those eternal words that grind away at vegetarians like a set of monstrous molars: Just eat around it.
So, no, no stuffing ever again unless it was prepared by my own hands. The following year, I was deeply engaged in cutting a Brussels sprout, but Mrs. Brown was nothing if not persistent.
“You’ve got such a nice figure, dolly. You don’t need to be a vegetarian.”
There was now a bright pink cloud of self-conscious embarrassment where my face once was but I tried to carry on. Still, I couldn’t leave it at this.
“That’s not why I’m a vegetarian,” I mumbled into my plate.
“What’s that, sweetie?”
“That’s not why I’m a vegetarian,” I said more forcefully and at this point it was certain that everyone was watching us. “To lose weight.”
“Oh? Than why are you? Tell me,” she said, patting my hand.
I sighed. “Because I don’t like to eat animals.” Looking up, I saw the other diners all around us, some in mid-chew, some cutting the turkey on their plate, some self-conscious and at least one (my brother) clearly entertained, practically rubbing his hands together in glee.
“Dolly,” Mrs. Brown tried to explain patiently, like I was some particularly naive visitor from a different dimension, “turkeys are so stupid, they’re not even animals. They're not like dogs and cats. They’re practically vegetables themselves. This is why vegetarians can eat birds: they’re that dumb!” she’d giggle and pretty soon the attention would be off me again, thankfully - it was at that moment when I would briefly feel the spirit of gratitude associated with Thanksgiving - until the next year, when the whole basic scene would repeat itself.
Thanksgiving is often truly dreadful for those who ethically abstain from eating meat, and if it weren’t horrible just by itself, we’re all Post-Traumatic Stress Disordered from the previous years. No wonder all the vegans have an escape plan mapped out in our minds complete with dash marks and arrows out the door (or windows for those really desperate occasions). So, as a little goodwill gesture to all involved, I thought I’d write a little something so omnivores might make it easier on the vegans at their Thanksgiving table this year. Perhaps most helpfully, this can all pretty much be applied for any of our joint dining experiences. No one will yell at you if you print this out and use it as a cheat sheet. Go ahead.
Points to Remember With Regard To Vegans At A Thanksgiving Table
1. We are not content to “Eat Around It.” Would you eat around nuclear waste? Fecal matter? Most of us see meat as what it is, remains of a dead carcass. I’m not trying to be gross here, but you guys are the ones who eat it, not us, okay?
2. A dead “free-range” (or heritage or Kosher or Halal or anything with a fancier title than your regular ol’ Butterball) turkey is still a dead turkey. This is not a value judgment, it’s a statement of fact. Most of us are not comforted by this but we will nod our heads so we can move on. Can we move on?
3. Do not, I repeat for the love of all that is good and just in the world, do not ask us if we’re concerned about getting enough protein (or iron or anything else related to the quality of our nutrition). We are not concerned because we know more about nutrition than the average person. But we do not want to hear about your neighbor’s second cousin who was vegetarian for a month and her skin turned green and she had to get a blood transfusion and then was on a dialysis machine for a year and now she’s infertile because the story has lost its factual basis at some unknown juncture. We don’t want to argue. We just want to eat in peace.
4. Don’t ask us if we ever get bored being vegan. No, we're bored with being asked this, not by what we eat. Look at your average Thanksgiving plate: there is probably meat, a starch, maybe some peas, a roll. Think of the variety of colors and textures and flavors we can eat. Almost all of those diverse colors and textures and flavors came from plants.
5. Do not say that you could “never” be vegan. Trust me, you could be unless you’re planning to move to Antarctica or something. Do you mean that you would simply perish without animal products? That you would die of despair? I’m guessing that this is an exaggeration. More than likely, you would simply prefer not to be.
6. Now is not the time to tell us that you’re eating less red meat. Red, white, pink, whatever. We are just trying to avert our eyes.
7. Plants feel pain! Not being in possession of a central nervous system, I am skeptical of the claim that plants feel pain and it also seems to be a cruel design if plants possess this degree of sentience but lack any real ability to escape threat. Still, I accept that some people think this but I have to balance that with knowing that we need to eat plants for our very survival. We do not need to eat animal foods for our survival: they are a “want” not a “need.”
8. Family traditions and/or heritage. Yep, your family ate meat at most meals. How strange! So did mine. And his and hers and that other guy’s family and pretty much everyone I know including all the vegans I know. Unless you grew up on an ashram or a hippie household or in India, chances are pretty darn likely that you grew up eating meat, as did your ancestors except for those who were too poor or ravaged by this or that natural disaster to do so. Family traditions and heritage are not destiny and thank goodness for this as slave ownership, abuse and addictions could be considered a natural part of one’s heritage. But let’s say that you feel you would miss something that brings you warm memories from your childhood if you stopped eating animal products. Get creative, do some research and work on a vegan version. But wait: we’re not supposed to be talking about this. I’m trying to eat!
9. Do not make fun of our food, you thoughtless schmuck. Okay, we get it: you don’t like what we eat. (The feeling is mutual.) We understand that you think vegans eat nothing but giant bowls of wilted alfalfa sprouts with sad-faced lentils each day and that we are miserable, deprived, pitiable souls. Then please, stop taking so many servings of what we brought. Really. We’re trying to eat, too. Stop it.
10. Please don’t think the latest diet fad you’re following is similar to us being vegan. Really, if you are on some low-carb-blood-type-Paleo-inspired thingamabob, that’s cool. Well, it’s not, but we don’t really want to talk about it right now. We just want you know that we are eschewing animal products for reasons of compassion and ethics, not because some quack duped us into it as he laughed his way to the bank. Really, my plate of food is truly fascinating and I must fully concentrate on it.
So what is there left to talk about? Are we that defensive and bereft of a sense of humor that we should all be relegated to the children’s table? Of course not.
A Complete List of Perfectly Acceptable Topics For Conversing With Vegans At A Thanksgiving Table
1. That awesome new coconut milk ice cream you just tried.
2. The dog you recently adopted from the local shelter.
3. The weather.
4. Something you heard on Air America.
5. The degree to which Ann Coulter/Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck suck.
6. Michael Moore is kind of a posturing windbag. We can agree on this.
7. Brown and pink look very nice together, don’t you think?
8. That guy she ran into who used to be in your class. He got very heavy!
9. We’ll even talk about what we’re really grateful for this year when it’s our turn at the table and we’ll try not to sound all smug about it.
10. Seriously, you can talk to us forever about cookbooks and restaurants and recipes we recommend. We live for this! We will write out by hand memorized recipes and book recommendations and we’ll send you links galore when we get home if that’s what you want.
Most of us are also willing to talk about the reason why were vegan and the horrible reality of animal agriculture, but just not superficially while people are trying to eat so that we can look like the pushy evangelists yet again. Can we talk about it later?
You hold up your end of the deal, and this is what we promise:
1. There will be no red paint throwing on fur coats. Nobody ever really did this anyway.
2. We will not force everyone to watch Meet Your Meat before the football game (we already sent it to everyone’s email via our electronic devices).
3. We will not roll our eyes recklessly. We are allowed one or two good eye rolls, though.
Has this cleared the air? Are we ready to sit together again? Let’s give it a try, Pilgrim.
Ready to replace some of your worn out leather shoes with animal-free options? Some brands that produce only cruelty-free shoes (in addition to being eco-friendly and ethically produced) can be found at ZoeandZac.com, BBoheme.com, Ragazzivegan.com and, for higher end styles, Mohop.com and Olsenhaus.com.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Often the most daunting challenge to those considering the transition to a vegan diet is simply knowing what to cook. There are so many excellent cookbooks these days, as well as recipes online and Yahoo groups dedicated to sharing cooking ideas, so there's no shortage of recipes available to aspiring vegans. What I recommend is to make a weekly menu and grocery list. This makes everything much more manageable. Planned menus are also helpful for saving money (not as many impulse buys) and keeping track of how healthy your overall diet is (even vegans need to make sure we need to get enough leafy greens.) Check out this link for a free downloadable weekly menu planner.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Most of our friends already know this but I just realized that I never really announced this other than on my main portal to the outside world, a.k.a., my Facebook page. I am shocked, thrilled and humbled to announce that John and I were named Activists of the Year by Mercy For Animals. It's an incredible honor by our very favorite advocacy organization. Please consider attending one of their galas and support their tremendous work.
Mercy For Animals is an amazing animal advocacy non-profit that does undercover investigations, humane education and outreach. Please consider supporting their very far-reaching work by attending one of their Celebrating Compassion Galas in Chicago, New York City and Columbus: all money earned goes back to helping the animals.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Being an urban-dweller can mean that we don't get to see much in terms of wildlife. Many people support zoos and aquariums just so their children will get a chance to see a variety of animals. Please reconsider supporting industries that keep wild animals in captivity and out of their natural habitats. Animal sanctuaries offer a wonderful opportunity to connect more deeply with non-human animals in a non-exploitative, compassionate environment. Sanctuaries need our volunteer time and donations. If there are none near you, two words: Road Trip!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Want some kitchen-tested vegan holiday cookie recipes in an e-book format for a mere $3.00? VegNews Magazine is venturing into the digital cookbook realm with their Holiday Cookie Collection, which includes recipes Spicy Gingerbread and Candy Cane Whoopie Pieås. Impress your family and friends this holiday season with some delicious vegan treats.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Want to come home to the deliciously gratifying aroma of dinner already cooked? Get yourself a slow cooker (crock pot). Slow-cooked beans are healthful, yummy and very thrifty. Soak dried beans overnight - adzuki, black, chickpeas, whatever - and before you leave for the day the next morning, drain, cover with fresh water and cook them on the "high" setting for eight hours with one quartered onion, crushed garlic and bay leaves. Then drain and season as you like: I like cumin, more garlic and liquid smoke, salt and pepper.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Chilly weather brings to mind cocoa. The best kind is dairy (and cholesterol) free with fair-trade cocoa and cute little air-puffed, gelatin-free marshmallows. For four mugs, heat 4 cups of unsweetened non-dairy milk, 4 tablespoons of agave nectar and 2 tablespoons of vanilla over medium heat until very hot (not boiling). Stir in 8 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and whisk until combined. Pour and savor...
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Millions of beautiful and healthy animals are euthanized every year due to companion animal overpopulation. Please consider opening your home and heart to a homeless animal this year, and please remember to never support pet stores or breeders. Also, volunteering at your local shelter is a great way to lend a hand. My son and I volunteer at our local shelter and it is both deeply fulfilling and a valuable life lesson in giving back for my son.