Going Vegan: round deux

As I’ve blogged before, Sean and I have been eating about 75% vegan meals for years now, however, we recently decided to recommit ourselves to eating [almost] vegan.

The reason I call it [almost] vegan is for two reasons:

1) Last time I was vegan I was completely obsessed with hot dogs. I didn’t even eat hot dogs at the time, but I was OBSESSED with them. I think it was completely because “I can’t have it, therefore I want it.” Therefore, by thinking of myself as [almost] vegan I can hopefully avoid this obsession. It’s been working so far.

2) As I’ve said before, I don’t believe it’s morally wrong to eat animals. However, I do believe that animals should live free-roaming, chemical-free lives, should not be cloned and should be slaughtered in an ethical manner. So while Sean and I are committed to eating completely animal-free, we have allowed ourselves the “out” of eating animals on special occasions as long as they fit the criteria above. I do believe that that amount of animal protein in the average American diet is far from a healthy quantity and that, again referencing my anthropology background, “back in the day” animal protein was a rare luxury and definitely not a daily indulgence.

We began this vegan lifestyle by starting with the Master Cleanse. For those of you familiar with the cleanse, you’ll know how hardcore it is. Suffice it to say, I’ve heard of the cleanse for years now and always wrote it off as way too extreme for me. In my 20’s I put my body through many many many extreme eating regimes for a variety or reasons (sometimes vanity, sometimes health.) I decided somewhere along the road that like the Buddha always said “it’s about the middle road.” Because of that belief, I had written off any extreme health measures. However, Sean and I have been talking about maybe getting into the baby-making game, and I told him that given the many many things you can’t control about baby-making, that I wanted to try and exercise some degree of control over the one thing we could: our bodies. Therefore, we agreed that we would begin 2008 with a cleansing program to get ready for the possibility of having a child. Note to family and friends reading this blog: no this is not our way of springing on you that we are pregnant. We are definitely not pregnant.

After doing a bunch of reading, a thought began to synthesize itself in my head. As I’ve said before, I was an anthropology major undergrad and this heavily influences my thinking. I was thinking about the fact that when our bodies were developing millennia ago, that humans average life span was about 30-something. Given that we live much longer than that nowadays, it stands to reason that there is a lot of “built-up gunk” in our bodies that our bodies are not equipped to get rid of because back in the day we didn’t need to get rid of it because we died. Think of our bodies like pipes. Pipes need to be cleaned or they get clogged. What clogs pipes? Years of eating anything besides raw fruits and vegetables (aka: The American Diet.) So I decided that maybe a cleanse was a good idea. A way of cleaning out the pipes for the next 30-years if you will.

My interested in the Master Cleanse (MC) was piqued after hearing that it included Cayenne Pepper, which I already knew is one of the most powerful cleansing/healing herbs available. After reading all three books on the MC. In my mind the most interesting, compelling and holistic of the books is the one by Tom Woloshyn. I’m not going to go into great detail here (although I can speak ad nauseum about this topic) but suffice is to say that Sean and I found the MC to be a fantastic experience. My father decided to do the cleanse after talking to me about it and after 50-years of daily gout medication he has experienced NO NEED to take his medication while doing the cleanse (he’s still doing the cleanse so too soon to know about whether or not this will continue afterwards.) Doing the cleanse was a FANTASTIC way to prep for eating vegan because it:

1) COMPLETELY resets your palate. Because everything tastes so good it’s MUCH easier to eat vegan. Last time I was vegan it took about 3-months for my palate to get used to the food. The cleanse lasts a minimum of 10-days and then BAM, your palate is cleansed.

2) The cleanse really gives you an amazing understanding of how your body works and makes you analyze your relationship with food. This new information will probably make you rethink how (and how much) you want to eat. I especially found it interesting the information about your body’s PH and how that affects disease (summary: cooked foods and animal products make your body more acidic. Acidic bodies nurture disease. Raw fruits and veggies make your body more alkaline. A good friend of mine told me that she knew a young man with gray hair who was diagnosed with cancer. He went on a raw food diet and his cancer went into remission and and his hair turned dark again!)

I know for some 10-days sounds like a long time, but it’s really not, and there are few things you can do that will enhance your life and health like treating your body right with a diverse diet of whole, nutritious foods in proper portions. Incidentally, my two favorite vegan cookbooks right now are Veganomicon and The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. I have about 8 vegan cookbooks, and these two are my far and away favorites. I’ve made so many amazing things from them that eating vegan as felt like an absolute feast and in no way a compromise to my “very well-developed after years of my mom’s amazing cooking and let’s just call a spade a spade:” snobby palate.

Naturally, this post in no way is a recommendation to do anything of the things I write about. You should consult whomever you think is relevant before making any health-related decisions. I simply write about my own experiences in the hopes that you will take the information and make informed decisions of your own.

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A Yummy Vegetarian Recipe and Why eating less meat is good for the planet

I was asked by a reader to post a vegetarian recipe that the whole family would love. This recipe is one I developed based on a packaged food that Whole Foods offers in their stores. I think I’ve done a good job of getting the flavors right, however, I’m more of a “cook by feel” cook, so you might have to play with the measurements (or lack there of.)

Curried Pearl Couscous with Eggplant and Cranberries
1 tbl olive oil
1 small eggplant cubed

1 large portobello mushroom cubed
3 cups water
1 cup pearl (aka Israeli) couscous (available on-line easily)
1/4 cup wild rice
2 cups dried cranberries
1 bunch mint minced
curry powder (to color and slightly flavor), salt, pepper and honey to flavor

Try and buy all organic and farmer’s market products. Put olive oil in a large pot (about 8 qts) to heat up. Once hot, saute eggplant and portobello for a few minutes with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Add water, couscous, rice and enough curry powder to color water a mustardy yellow (maybe about 1 tsp?) cover to boil for about 24-minutes until all liquid is gone. Couscous will plump up considerably. Take off heat and remove lid and add honey to sweeten slightly (I do this completely by taste, but perhaps 1/4 cup of honey), mix well. Allow to cool completely. Once cool add cranberries and mint and any additional salt, pepper or honey. Refrigerate for a few hours. Variations: I’ve used 2 medium green zucchini in place of mushroom and golden raisins in place of cranberries successfully.

Why eating less meat is good for the planet

Personally I have no ethical problems with eating meat that is raised and killed in a humane manner (free range, no antibiotics, natural diet fed, un-cloned, etc.) However, we as Americans do tend to eat much more meat than is good for us, health-wise, or the planet, environment-wise.

Although at one point both my husband and I were vegans, we felt that eating no meat didn’t work for us. However, both for our own health and for the planet (and really, doesn’t it usually seem that doing right by one does right by the other?) we do limit our meat-eating to one meal a day and many days we end up not eating meat at all.

Why is eating meat bad for the planet? A few statistics:

– The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities (and a larger % of nitrous oxide and methane which are even worse for global-warming than CO2)
– Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface
– Clearing forests to creature pasture is a major driver of deforestation such as in the Amazon where some 70 percent of former forests have become grazing pastures
– To create 1 pound of beef requires 4.8 pounds of grain and 50,000 liters of water

More on this:
So You’re an Environmentalist; Why Are You Still Eating Meat? by Jim Motavalli of E Magazine
Livestock a major threat to environment, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, November 2006.
Save the World, Don’t Eat Meat on Brad’s Brain Blog

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