April 12, 2009

I just read John Robbins second book, Food Revolution, and was both horrified and inspired. The ethics of American business have fallen so low, and the respect for our citizens is so diminished, I feel like a factory farmed animal even living here. Why is it other countries governments go to such length to protect their citizens from harm, and ours works tirelessly to keep us from knowing the harm to which they are subjecting us? Why would our government officials and big business do this?

Profit.

Sell more beef, even if it is riddled with chemicals, hormones and antibiotics, the long range effects of which are unknown. Make better profit margins on crops that whose DNA has been altered using all sorts of DNA from other species.

I knew alot of what was mentioned in the book, but I did appreciate John Robbins pointing out that to eat a plant-based diet, besides all the enormous health benefits, puts him in line with his values.

Living in this ‘free’ country while animals suffer so profoundly and the rich seem to have all the political power they want is bad enough, the last thing I need is to get confused about what is right or wrong for me personally.

I’ll continue to forgo the animal products, and now search through ingredient lists on boxes looking for hidden frog DNA in my soybeans, but mostly I’ll feel confident that i’m living in accordance with what I believe, and that is something that does make me proud.

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Back in the Raw

March 25, 2009

babyboyAfter suffering through the worst morning sickness imaginable at the end of 2008, I felt concerned about getting the maximum nutrition available to me with each calorie, while still indulging all my pregnancy cravings. Guess where I ended up? Raw foods, again.

I discovered raw foods about a year ago, shortly after returning to a vegetarian diet when the warm summer sun brought a bounty of luscious fruits and veggies to my door. But we live in a high alpine climate and once the snow started falling, even the bananas from Ecuador were mealy and tasteless, not to mention hardly worth the fossil fuels it took to get them to Colorado. So while staying vegetarian, I lost my love of raw cuisine, and slipped into the occasional fruit smoothie with some greens added for good measure. But I didn’t feel great.

And then I got pregnant.

Morning sickness lasted a full 4 months for me this time around, and I emerged from the fog in January just in time for a month long trip we had planned to the Australian Coast. As luck would have it, our winter is their summer and I discovered the most amazing produce at every corner: mangoes, passion fruit, avocados, rocket were all plentiful, inexpensive and RAW. And it was on again.

I returned to the states, 10 pounds heavier and determined to keep the raw food love alive. So I bought a juicer. Now I had been religious about morning smoothies and thought that I could not live without them, but when I discovered juicing, raw foods took on a whole new dimension. I could juice almost anything that landed on the counter, and didn’t have to worry about weird stringy pulp that felt like hair in my mouth.

Since purchasing the juicer 2 months ago, i’ve returned to a 70% ish raw diet, and felt amazing. My skin has never felt softer and smoother, i’ve gained a modest amount of weight and the baby has maintained a steady growth curve that the doctor finds pleasing.

The best part, however, is that I know i’m giving my child the very best health possible, without using pharmaceutical products whose true effect is only marginally known. It’s funny how the universe opens the doors for you if you can just sit back and be aware. This is a lifestyle for me, and my family, and i’m pleased to have discovered it once again.

Now if only I could figure out how to grow anything edible in this darn Rocky Mountain climate!

Things I Never Thought

March 14, 2008

03-04-winter-preseason-31.jpgI’ve been (re) vegetarian for a year and ‘high’ raw for almost two months now. It’s been great saving energy, reducing waste, regaining some level of fitness and educating our family. What I didn’t expect to have happen is that I would fall in love with my dog.

9 years ago I rescued a mangey looking little pup from the local animal shelter. He was sort of a ranch dog and completely a mutt, meaning the local ranchers could not trust him with their cattle but he would need a sh*tload of exercise. At the time I was running marathons and took him in as a perfect companion.

Life changes, kids happen, marathon running takes a backseat to diapers, nursing, cleaning etc. And my little buddy sort of got the shaft.

Until I rediscovered vegetarianism. And an amazing, informative podcast called Food for Thought. Suddenly all the animal cruelty from meat consumption had a face, and the face was my rotten little dog that I had forgotten was always at my side in our younger years.

I started running again in the fall, and since going raw have been feeling so much more energetic and at peace with my food choices. I pass cows in the pasture where I live and don’t have to compartmentalize my feelings of sadness for them, because I don’t eat them or their secretions anymore.

I can look at my dog and know that i’m giving him the best life possible, that I respect who he is and the we are equals, he and I. I’m not really the master – thanks to vegan living. Veganism really is a lifestyle of expansion – one of love, self-respect and nurturing all living things. It’s a lifestyle I never expected would make me fall in love with my dog all over again.

Selling Melons for Money

February 13, 2008

photo_4528_20071220.jpgBeing frugal by nature, I struggle with the price i’m paying to be faithful to my newfound love of raw living. As I incorporate more nutrient dense foods such a bee pollen, my grocery bill skyrockets. Not only that, but since the US requires pasteurization of many raw items, i’m forced to acknowledge the oil used to bring my raw cashews from who-knows-where – presumably Canada where pasteurization is not mandatory.

I don’t live in a climate where I can wander down the street eating fresh oranges that are hanging onto the sidewalk or avocados that have rolled in to my yard as I did when I lived on Maui. I live in Colorado where the trees that I planted last fall are buried under 10 feet of snow.

It’s easy to rationalize my purchases, arguing that I do not spend money on alcohol since I don’t drink (maybe worth $20/week) and have weened myself from my daily nonfat latte habit (at least another $20/week not to mention additional savings for eliminating tortured cow’s milk from my diet) – but still, I paid $8 for a honeydew melon at Safeway yesterday, and it wasn’t even organic.

Suddenly buying a piece of dirt in a warm climate and growing my own food sounds sort of nice. That way, when the peak oil is upon is (I know, it already is upon us), I can sell my own melons for $8 and have yummy living food for my family. Somehow that came out sounding illegal, but really, it’s worth thinking about.

Choices

February 11, 2008

ocean-garbage.jpgFollowing a college trip to Taiwan, a friend of mine decided on a vegetarian lifestyle after seeing the way animals, even sea creatures were brutally handled and killed by locals to sell. Upon returning to America, she promptly bought a copy of Diet for a New America and was maniacal about the food purchased and consumed. Fast forward 15 years and you will see my friend now jokingly refer to herself as an opportunivore, meaning, if she gets the opportunity to eat meat that smells good, she does it.

While I also strayed for a while from my college vegetarian days, I have returned to that lifestyle, and now work at incorporating a raw vegan diet into my world. It saddens me that with age, my friend has forgotten the reasons for embracing vegetarianism that were so important to us long ago, especially now that we all have children, now that the secret regarding global warming is out, now that the decisions we make each and every day may have disastrous effects on the world we will leave our children.

Being vegetarian is not easy, not to mention being vegan, or god forbid, raw vegan. But I cannot pretend my choices don’t mean that down the road, someone else will pay. Are we so selfish that eating a piece of bacon is worth the suffering of the pig in the contained feedlot, the methane rising into the atmosphere, the energy required to slaughter and process the pork, the fossil fuels used to truck the meat to market, the paper purchased to wrap the food in a neat little take away bag. All because the bacon smelled good.

I’m not a perfect vegan. I eat cheddar cheese goldfish with hummus when i’m ravenous and am laboriously chopping veggies for a raw salad. But i’m not laughing about allowing myself the spontaneity to choose what to eat as it strikes me. Just because I can choose to eat animal flesh doesn’t mean I should. There are a million things available to me that I would not think of consuming, why is it so hard for people to do the same with meat?

At the end of all this global warming, trash heaps mounting, fossil fuels dwindling state is just one person, making a decision many times each day, each hour, each minute, that will forever leave a mark on this planet. What choices will you make today that aren’t the easiest, fastest or yummiest, but will give our children a chance at a world of green lush forests and fresh air. A place where were animals are reverred, not beaten.

Whatever you choose, let’s not pretend it is no big deal. This is a huge deal, and may be the last deal whose ending we get to choose.

In the Raw

February 8, 2008

Of all the things we have done as a family to lessen our impact on the environment, the most important and dramatic has been changing our diet. Initially, I switched our home to a vegetarian diet after watching the meet you meat video and started to incorporate more organic and locally grown produce whenever possible (not entirely easy in the Colorado Rocky Mountains). The change was seemless and while it did not reduce our grocery bill, I felt good about our efforts.

Recently, following a NY Times article reiterating some of the things I knew about the effects of cattle rearing on our planet, I began looking deeper into my food consumption habits. Christmas, of course, was a time of indulgence and I awoke in January feeling as if Santa had actually run me over with his sleigh. Poking around the internet let me to the raw food movement.

The theory behind raw or living foods is that the cooking process destroys the beneficial enzymes that live in the food, and since our bodies have a limited supply of these essential enzymes, we must obtain them from living food. There is a wealth of knowledge about the living food world available but I have found Raw Reform to be inspirational, educational and actually humorous.

Currently I make breakfast and lunch my raw meals, and chose a healthy, whole grain dinner that I am able to fix for the whole family. So far it is working out, however, I have struggled with feeling cold and hungry more than I am accustomed to. I do attribute this to the 30 feet of snow that has fallen in my town this season though, and know that my mind is adjusting to eating less just as much as my body.

It’s a fascinating journey and I hope the way my daughter will look at food as she grows into her own decision making years will be forever changed by the lessons she is learning in our home.

Food Isn’t Love Anymore

September 11, 2007

Gum DropWe spent the weekend with a friend and her children a few months ago and I have been bothered by the culinary selection provided for the kids ever since.

On Sunday morning, my friend’s husband made the adults delicious breakfast burritos with fresh vegetables and tofu sausage, while the kids popped open a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with goopy white frosting. The children (mine included) quickly licked the icing from the buns, and loaded up plastic mugs with Ovaltine, to which they added a small amount of cow milk (on it’s own, bad enough). After ‘breakfast’ the gummy bears came out and were grazed upon until we left for the lake an hour later. I was in such shock, I said nothing, but watched as my 2 year old grew giddy with the notion of unregulated sugar consumption, and not just sugar, but fructose, and worse yet, high fructose corn syrup.

Please understand, my friend LOVES her kids and is mostly vegetarian herself (a self-proclaimed opportunivore if you will). She takes great care of them and provides a beautiful home, a loving partnership with her husband, and a stable, active family life in which they can thrive.

So why are we giving our kids substances that are killing them? How do we choose not to ingest these poisons ourself, but willingly pass them on to our children?

Since the 1970’s High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has replaced sucrose in sweetening most processed items on grocery shelves mostly because it is cheap, and manufacturers can realize a better profit if they use it. Sugar, you see, is an import in our country, and therefore subject to import taxes, whereas corn sits rotting in silos, already subsidized by our government. It makes sense to use the food we produce in our country to sweeten other foods produced in our country. That is vaguely what sustainability is all about, except that fructose does not act the same way in our bodies as sugar, or sucrose, and the pillar of sustainability is in producing a healthy, meaningful life that we want our children to inherit.

I’m not a chemist, in fact, I nearly flunked out of calculus in high school AND college but I can understand the basics of laboratory testing, and with HFCS the results are frightening. You feed rats high amounts of sucrose, and not much happens. You feed them high amounts of fructose and you see obesity, anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy. Male rats fail to develop mature sexual characteristics and females are unable to bear live children. Would you wish even the thought of that on your child?

Perhaps HFCS is ‘the demon of the day’ and no worse for us than sucrose, or trans fats or whatever is popular to hate. If we just eat less and exercise more, our bodies are designed to filter out all the impurities we ingest, right? But still, I’m not willing to take the risk with my daughter, for whom it is my job to protect, keep healthy and teach how to care for herself.

Is the price we are paying for super refined foods worth a few minutes of giddyness? Should our government subsidies dictate what is put in our food at the expense of our health? Ultimately, it’s up to us to decide what to purchase. Nobody is forcing me to eat HFCS, and since I have the choice, i’ll choose not to purchase products containing it. I guess that’s just how much I love my kid.

Diving In

September 6, 2007

Lab TestingAfter reading Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and renting The Future of Food from Netflix, i’ve decided to do some research of my own on genetically modified organisms.

Modifying the genetic structure of an organism essentially means moving the DNA from one structure to another. It’s not black and white, there is alot of randomness in the process (think mutation) and many unknowns. Mostly, what the long term effects will be for human consumption and for eliminating species diversity. I’ve read that genetic modification is like doing heart surgery with a shovel.

While all the research is still being done (or being buried), biotech companies have planted millions of acres of genetically modified crops which could be wiped out by a single fungus, or be found to cause deadly allergic reactions in humans. These seeds cannot be recalled like a cheap toy made in china once the seeds have been blown to neighboring fields or consumed by birds.

Our government is so intertwined with the companies doing the research, patenting the seeds (that’s a whole other issue), and sueing the pants off the small farmer, that we cannot rely on them to protect us. Read the labels of what you are purchasing. GMO’s do NOT have to be labeled in the US so if the ingredient list says ‘corn syrup’ there is a huge chance that the corn used was genetically modified. The only way to protect my family is to stop buying products that don’t specifically say ‘GMO Free’. It’s worth the extra effort to keep E. Coli out of our food. Believe it or not, E. Coli is often used to make many copies of a gene that will eventually be transferred into a plant. Open wide!