Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 32

It has been 32 days since we started our experiment. In that time period I have now eaten meat three times. I have to say it has been a bit weird being off the diet. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and long weekend. I will tell you know about my experience with meat again.

Unlike Alex, I had a harder time initially with the turkey. I only had one piece, a small one at that. Part of me was worried about upsetting my stomach after a month off the meat (I can say now that this was not a problem) but a significant part of me felt it was wrong. I looked at the heaping tray of turkey and it felt off limits to me. I took my piece and passed it along, then got some mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and lefsa (a Norweigan/Minnesotan tradition, check it out, it's good stuff). I spent a great deal of time focusing on my other options, hiding the turkey under a roll. I think my first bite of the turkey was accidental. A few strands, fibers of the meat separated from my piece and made it to my potatoes, on the very bite I was about to take. I had taken off the edge. I decided I should go for it after that and ate the whole piece in two or three bites with my potatoes. I have to say it wasn't as good as I remembered it, and I actually felt wrong after eating it and maybe slightly upset in the stomach, though it was probably placebo. Needless to say, it wasn't an experience of relief or bliss to reunite with the food group. The rest of Thanksgiving was great though.

The next night, Alex and I went out with the intent of eating meat together (and having fun, too). We ended up strolling the streets of downtown Minneapolis (what a great city!) a bit with Tabitha and Tim before deciding upon the Hard Rock Cafe, as none of us could remember ever eating there. Let me say, the menu had maybe 2 veg options - a veggie burger and a salad. It was nice to not be so limited, though it made the decision making process much longer. I knew I wanted chicken, since I've missed it the most. I settled on the chicken club sandwich (so it had bacon too, which may be harder to give up than I led on.. it was quite tasty). I dug right into the sandwich when it came. I think it was easier because I hid behind the bread and didn't think about what was underneath it. Once I got going it felt pretty normal. I will agree with Alex's sentiment and say that it didn't taste any better than before, even after the hiatus. Just like it always has. Actually, I really could have done without that sandwich. It was good enough, but not necessary. The veggie burger would have been better.

Finally, my third encounter with meat was the following night, out for my Dad's birthday dinner. We went to Boca Chica in St. Paul, apparently voted the best Mexican in the Twin Cities. I have to concur. It was incredible. The smell alone was amazing. There was a mariachi band. Everything you could want. I got chicken mole enchiladas. Now I remember why I missed the chicken. My ethnic food. The enchiladas were incredible. I have to say they wouldn't have been quite as good without the chicken (though the beans, rice, and cheese are still probably the best parts).

So I guess my transition was gradual. I went from avoiding turkey at Thanksgiving and feeling guilty about it, to ignoring my guilt, digging in, and not enjoying it too much, to seeking it out and absolutely loving it. However, the next day at the airport before my flight I went to D'Amico & Sons. Instinctively I searched out the vegetarian options, of which there were two. I ordered the Caprese panini, which was tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil pesto all grilled up. However they were "out of the Caprese panini." Now I don't know about you, but I hate it when you order an item at a restaurant that has multiple parts that need to be assembled and they say we are out of the entire item. I imagine they had tomato (because I got it on another sandwich), and in reality it was just one thing they were out of. Tell me that. You can't be out of something that isn't premade. It was the same at the Mexican place - my Dad ordered a sundae and she replied "we are out of sundae." Upon prodding she said they were only out of ice cream. Say that. We can't make item "X" because we are out of ingredient "Y." Anyway, pointless pet peeve aside, I ended up getting a cold vegetarian sandwich with red peppers, tomato, and goat cheese. It was alright, but I couldn't finish it.

Where am I going with all of this. Since having meat on Saturday I haven't had any since. I haven't wanted any since. I have a plethora of vegetarian food left over (I tend to buy 2 weeks of groceries every time I go to the store, which is once a week, hence the surplus...). Last night I made fried rice with a "chicken" tofu steak. It was delicious. I haven't craved meat either. I don't need it as much. Going to the extreme of cutting it out for a month proved to me I don't need it in my diet. It didn't make me want to swear it off completely, at least not right now. But it did show me that there is plenty out there that doesn't involve it. And from my three meat experiences I think I have learned that really, what I miss, is chicken in Mexican, Chinese, Thai, and Indian food. I don't get that stuff very often, but when I do, it will be chicken (with the occasional rice, bean, and cheese burrito). Beyond that, its veggie burgers, and the occasional other meat. I think that's good for now. If nothing else, I proved that I can do it. I wasn't dying of cravings for meat at the end of it, and when I had it again, in general it wasn't amazing, and could have done without it (again minus the chicken mole enchiladas...mmmmmm..).

So I guess that's it. No overarching conclusions. It is possible to go vegetarian, no matter how much you love meat. I guess that's the conclusion. I love meat, and couldn't even imagine not eating it before we started this. The weeks leading up to it I dreaded what I was getting myself into, savoring meat every time I had it. Now, after it's done, I can tell you all that you can do it too. Give it a try, you may just find you don't need it nearly as much as you thought you did.

Thanks for reading, everybody. This blog made the experience that much richer. To involve all of you in our journey made it special. Thanks for the comments and the poll votes, and reading our thoughts that we often proclaimed with ultimate certainty and truth (even though I can assure you we admit we aren't right about everything we said; they are just ideas, thoughts to contemplate). Saying goodbye to the blog is honestly harder than anything about our experiment. Thanks again, and Alex and I are toying with the idea of starting up a general interest blog, so if you have enjoyed our musings, keep your ear to the ground and you may just hear about our next 30-day experiment, or just about what some girl did after a sprinkler drenched her on her way to class.

Adios amigos.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Rub

Welcome back from Thanksgiving break everybody. I am told my readers are getting quite restless without new material. I am sorry for keeping you in suspense, especially since this is the most interesting point in the experiment in some ways. Yes, Devin and I are eating meat again. It is stranger to write about here than to actually do, but nevertheless, strange is how I feel.

I did quite a bit of traveling to get to my first meat meal over the long weekend. But in the first half hour of my time on the road, I heard yet another timely radio broadcast. The senior political analyst for Michigan Public Radio was covering a place called Sasha Farm (www.sashafarm.org) where Turkeys and other animals go for refuge. Actually, the animals are usually brought there by people. It was an interesting piece for a political segment of a radio program. The host gave the basic info about how and why the farm operates, caring for animals who escape slaughterhouses or get captured by the police after running around the city causing trouble or fail to win the big race and almost get turned into glue. He discussed with one woman how she is a vegetarian and will be feeding turkeys on thanksgiving rather than feeding ON them. She eats a tofu loaf instead. After the basic facts were covered and interview was done, the monologue began. The tone shifted. Apparently it has been a fairly moving experience to see all those animals living happily for their own sake, never to be eaten. He went into the PETA-style factory farm lament for a bit and made an interesting observation. He said that in the modern world we human so rarely have to "meet our meat." Now that is both true, and suspiciously similar to our blog's address. I don't want say we thought of the obvious pun first, but we beat him to it by at least three weeks. He makes a good point thought. We don't even realize we eat animals anymore if we are honest. Chicken is breaded in the wild for all we know. It would be interesting to visit a place where animals that were once destined to be food are cared for and treated with extra care. Check out the farmers' blog at www.sashafarm.org/blog. You can also find the radio program there.

Then again, I am not jealous of that woman's tofu loaf. I enjoyed my turkey, and all the meat I have eaten since. So here is the scoop: I ate a modest helping of turkey for thanksgiving. It was quite uneventful. It was a lot like...well, like eating meat...not very different at all. Felt quite routine and normal. Even after all this time avoiding meat and talking about it at great length, I put it in my mouth and didn't feel strange. It also tasted as good or bad as ever. I was hoping meat would be amazing after being denied it for so long, but it was the same. My thoughts on meat remain changed by the last weeks, and my cupboards still have my vegetarian fare in them, but the physical process of eating meat is not dramatic in any way. What IS a little surprising, is how much meat I managed to eat since Thursday. Not an obscene amount, but easily about twice a day without even trying. Being on the road, in airports and generally on vacation made my diet abnormal, but still, meat found me quite quickly and I am glad I did not have to fight it. That gives me pause. I almost feel guilty for not fighting it. I am glad that I remain aware of the fact that I ate meat daily since Thanksgiving day. I would not have noticed before. But I feel like I should have done more. Sure, I got the veggie soup and salad for lunch on friday and ate Quorn chik'n nuggets for dinner last night, but still, shouldn't I be more hesitant to welcome meat back into my life rather than having it twice a day?

I am being too hard on myself, probably just because I am talking to you guys. I need to be careful though. My regained freedom needs to be responsibly restrained if this whole deal is going to stick. I am doing alright so far. No shame yet. No meat by obligation was a small, fun challenge. Less meat by choice will be a whole new game. And therein lies the rub.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Definition Please

Coming to the end of this little experiment tomorrow, I am having a lot of thoughts about what this all means to me. What change has this really promoted in my life. Was it worth it. What were my goals going into this and have they been satisfied. Why don't people use question marks when they state questions like this. I hope to answer these for myself here? (I have to work on my use of punctuation...)

As I have been saying in the past couple of posts, I hope to limit myself to chicken and fish after this is over. I can cut out red meat, that's fine. I won't miss bacon (though it smells incredible...) or ham. Turkey, duck, rabbit, guinea pig - those can be left alone (who eats guinea pig you ask? Ecuadorians. Freaks, I know. But they love it). Is that enough? On top of cutting my types of meat down from all to just two, I also think I will simply consume meat less. If I just substitute any opportunity for a hamburger with a veggie burger, is that enough? Probably not, though it is definitely a step in the right direction. If nothing else it would be a result. Going into this with only the goal of promoting some change in my dietary lifestyle, that would satisfy the goal. Tonight at dinner, looking at my brother's hamburger, pink in the middle, greasy yellow American cheese melted on top.. I actually cringed a bit. It looked gross to me. That's pretty significant. And means if nothing else I think I will opt for veggie burgers from now on. But more on that later.

So my question, implied by my title, is what is the definition of a vegetarian. For me it has always been someone who is strict, someone who doesn't eat meat, and maybe even someone who freaks out if they found out their vegetables were cut with a knife that was used last week to cut some chicken (wackos...err I mean no judging here). Regardless, a vegetarian is someone who NEVER eats meat, right? Well, if that's the definition, then according to an article I read, that comprises about 3% of US adults. However, if the definition includes someone who rarely eats meat, avoids it at almost all costs but may eat it if the situation calls for it, someone who wouldn't cook with it in their homes, but may eat it every once in a while - that definition includes about 10% of US adults, again according to the same article. Is that enough? Am I striving for 100% strict vegetarianism, and anything less is unsatisfactory? Or can their be small victories, steps in the right direction, or even inclusion of those not strictly vegetarian, but preferring that diet. Where is the line?

If I eat meat once a month - it just comes up, at a function or dinner I can't get around, there are no other options on the menu, or I slip up and eat it - am I considered a vegetarian? I think many people would say, yeah, probably. I mean, for 29 days out of the month you follow that diet, regardless of how "strict" you are overall, on any given day you are unlikely to even consider eating meat. Yes, that person is a vegetarian. But what about every 2 weeks. Ok, maybe a bit more frequent, but still 13 out of 14 days you are vegetarian, that's like 94%, pretty good. What about once a week? Twice a week? Where is the line.

I like to think that the most important thing is to be aware. Aware of where your food comes from, how it got to your plate, what it entailed for the animal or farmer, the butcher or mill worker, the packager and shipper. Who's life did your food affect. That's number one on my list. I want to be aware. Our food choices have system-wide implications, and I want to be aware. Beyond that I think any effort to change is valiant. Even if it means occasionally getting a veggie burger over a beef patty. That's still change. Or if it means swearing off meat for good; that's change. So maybe I shouldn't worry about definitions and be content cutting down my meat consumption and limiting my sources. Maybe that's good enough for now.

Tonight at Fuddrucker's with my family, my brother and Dad got regular burgers, while I convinced my Mom (an avid reader of the blog! hehe) to get a veggie burger with me (I had one yesterday in the airport too, also from Fuddrucker's). She liked it a lot. As did I of course. My brother tried it and said it was weird and gross. That's ok, maybe someday. At least he tried it, even though I gave him a hard time (thats what brothers do). Even if my Mom trying a veggie burger with me is the only change that comes from this blog, other than change for Alex and me, that's pretty cool.

Both Alex and I plan on eating turkey tomorrow. It will be weird after so long. I can't even imagine at this point how that will feel. Something that was so normal a month ago seems so.... wrong, now. Tomorrow is Alex's turn to blog, but due to the monumentous occasion of eating meat, ending the experiment, I think it's safe to say we will both be writing about that experience. I hope he gets a chance to write at some point tomorrow, even if no one is reading, but if not then await posts from both of us on Friday. Thank you all for reading as always. Comments are appreciated as this winds down.

Finally... Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! And while we all sit down and think about just how truly blessed we all are tomorrow, let us also think about where all of our food comes from. Its not enough to be thankful for the food we have if we do not consider where it came from. We are all lucky to have a place to be tomorrow, and a warm meal and great company. Let us think of those who are not so fortunate, while we contemplate our blessings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Small Things

Have you ever stopped to enjoy the simple things in life? Those things out there that were considered wondrous long ago but somehow lost their glory. I know our friend Devin will sometimes spend hours marveling at trains. Not the machines themselves, but the routes they travel and the fact they are there to be ridden at all. As for me, I find cups to be beautiful things. Liquid can be quite unruly when it is not contained. How do you keep it off of your pants and passing into your mouth in an orderly fashion? I will tell you how it is done...with cups my friend! Cups! They are so simple, yet so powerful. Straws are good too, but they are rarely found without cups.

I also enjoy democracy. It just feels good to share your opinion with the world. You know you are right about everything, you just need to get your message out there. So when you find a way to do it, there is much satisfaction. I had an opportunity to make my voice heard the other day, and it felt even better than I thought it would. I filled out a survey from my student senate about how I want my school to change or stay the same. One question in particular was interesting to me. The question was whether or not I would like to see more vegetarian and organic options in the dining halls and other food vending areas. I normally would have marked the response indicating something like indifference, but without hesitating I marked the option indicating extreme interest instead. I was already rather impressed with what I could eat in the dining halls being a vegetarian, but there could always have been more. It was exciting to convert this experiment into voting power. Sweet, sweet voting power.

Devin and I are not the only ones doing these sorts of experiments you know. We are not clever at all. I have heard tell of some other, possibly more interesting experiments going on out there. One woman is carrying her garbage/waste around with her for a month. That will teach her to waste less I bet. (Don't worry, I am told she was allowed to use and flush toilets) The intensity of her experiment is a few notches above my own, and for that I commend her. Another man tried to go a week without using the internet. That sounds less intense, but I bet it caused more frustration overall than I have had total this last month. You might want to scoff as well, but I don't see you doing it. (In fact, you seem to be on the internet right now) On the other hand, there is a man who is trying to live entirely on the internet, relying on virtual communities to stay sane for a week. I don't know why he would do that except for kicks. I don't know of anyone who holds the virtual realm in higher esteem than the real realm, so he is not proving anything as far as I am concerned. But he is still doing a time-bound lifestyle change, so we have something in common. These little experiments are useful I think. Well, for myself I KNOW they are useful. I have learned many things, thought in very different ways and felt lasting changes instilled in me. These are the types of things we all want in our lives. I am telling you all it takes is an idea and a small amount of determination. We would ALL be wasting less if we would just carry a plastic bag around for one month. Or a week. Probably even a day.

I have recently enjoyed a few restaurant outings and social events that challenged my ability to stay meatless. I think their frequency picked up here at the end for me. But they are hardly worth mentioning because I am getting so good at them these days. I might even miss the legitimate reason to order the funky new 'boring' item instead of my usual meat items. I have so many more left to explore.

I am supposed to write again on Thanksgiving day. The day this all ends. Devin and I should probably both write about our first time back with meat, but whether or not any writing happens at all is yet to be seen. I mean, it is a holiday. I hope you all have better things to do than read this blog on a holiday. You read this at work, right? When your boss isn't around. Yeah, thats what I thought. A special thanks to those who read this in their precious personal time. But to everyone, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alec Baldwin Does It

The wrong reason to do something. Not that I have anything against Alex Baldwin, 30 Rock is a hilarious show. But I don't take my social cues, dietary restrictions, or much of anything from him. But he is a vegetarian, and in my new "Vegetarian Starter Kit" (a 25 page pamphlet that Pamela Anderson sent me upon personal request on her answering machine. In case you want, she asked me not to give out her number, but it's 1-888-834-3663. Why she has a toll free number, don't ask me) Alec gives me an inspiring message:

"Every time we sit down to eat, we make a choice: Please choose vegetarianism. Do it for... animals. Do it for the environment and do it for your health."

Nice words Mr. Baldwin. In fact the whole first two pages are filled with other celebs that are also vegetarians, and I think PETA wants you to see their faces more than they think you will be convinced by their words. Celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Tobey Maguire, Casey Affleck, Natalie Portman, Common, Russel Simmons, Joaquin Phoenix, Clint Eastwood, and the Dalai Lama. Compelling reasons to go vegetarian, aren't they. Oh, I forgot to include their short messages about why they are vegetarian? I'll write it next time, but I think the names speak for themselves.

I know celebrities are cool, but they are just the wrong people to listen to for dietary choices. No one loves a preachy celeb as much as I do, but lets leave them to tell us about fashion choices, global warming, and AIDS. Well at least fashion choices. Or.. what movies to see, they can have that.

Jokes aside, this guide is alright. On the next pages it has info about how to get the protein, iron, and vitamin B12 you miss out on from cutting meat. There is information about the ills of dairy and some good substitutes. A story on raising vegan kids, and a doctor's opinion on weight loss from vegetarianism. Then PETA acts a bit more like PETA and runs a series called "Meet Your Meat." Hey! They stole our pun... Anyway, they show pictures of chickens and cows and pigs and fish being exploited and miss treated. Paul McCartney makes a pitch for the environment (the best reason by far!....err I mean they are all good.) and then there are more tips on switching. The final pages include some recipes that look pretty yummy. All in all its actual pretty helpful even though it is so skimpy. I will definitely hang onto it for the future when I decide to go 100% vegetarian. Well, maybe. Comment and let me know if I should! Hehe, we are getting pretty shameless asking for comments. But we just want to know you are reading!

Anyway, a few more days until the big day. I am excited to eat the turkey (a turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken - a John Madden creation. Every vegetarian's worst nightmare. I can just imagine an Alicia Silverstone-Madden Thanksgiving). Then I think I'll try just doing chicken and fish. We'll see how that goes. Don't think I'll blog about it so you'll have to aks me in person.

Has anyone tried a veggie burger yet?

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Remember when Devin claimed to have cheated, but was actually lying? Well, his story about mycoprotein was so intriguing to me that I had to go check it out. While I was at the grocery store I stopped by the frozen vegetarian section and looked for some fake meat made out of fungus. Sure enough, there was the little Quorn section, down on the bottom. I grabbed some of the nuggets on Devin’s recommendation and also a box of breasts. Mmmm…fungus breasts. I have to say Devin was right, that stuff is amazing. Such convincing faux chicken I have never eaten before. I cooked it in some Italian dressing and put it on a salad of ‘baby greens’, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, croutons, shaved parmesan, sunflower seeds and tomatoes. Tabitha could it eat it too because there is no soy in it! She made a barbecue cheddar fungus sandwich. I tried a bite, and it was quite good as well.

This is only the most recent of my meat substitute experiences, which are rapidly accumulating to an impressive family of vegetarian meals. I met my aunt and cousin in Lansing the other night where I was treated to a delightful Italian dinner. I ordered the eggplant parmesan. I have previously been afraid of eggplant because it so big and dark and purple. It looks like the grumpy bouncer at the vegetable club, but also probably bitter and toxic. Turns out it is none of those things. At least when it is sliced thin and fried in breading and cheese. I thought I was eating regular chicken parmesan. Amazing. Then last night I was going to the ballet with four girls (I am a pimp) and we got some dinner at a bar. My fellow vegetarian Grace was with and we were a little nervous that they would not have anything for us. What we ended up doing was getting the chicken portabella sandwich without the chicken. That was even better than when I ate portabella’s plain.

Between eggplant, faux chicken and portabellas I feel well equipped to eat vegetarian. I have realized that even when I can eat meat again, I will probably be a little less excited about it. I will be relieved to be able to accept meat samples in stores and not pass by delicious burger and steak opportunities, but I will probably look for the alternatives in restaurants before relying on the typical meat option, and I will buy less meat for my home. Tabitha told me at lunch today that the Quorn breasts revive her hope in vegetarianism as somebody who is allergic to soy. So it seems this vegetarian thing is finally working out. I am glad to see such profound results before the time is up. Four weeks has been enough time to force me into a new paradigm. Success.

This morning at church, before I realized one could purchase breasts formed from fungus, we encountered quite the humorous and timely Bible passage. The sermon was on value systems and how they often get confused. How trouble arises when we confuse our personal preferences or cultural constructs for absolute truths, especially when dealing with other people. The passage we focused on was from Romans 14. The funny part was Romans 14:2 “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Weak faith? Thanks a lot Paul, way to judge me right off the bat. I guess I can never be a vegetarian again.

Posted by Alex B at 3:31PM 6 comments….Just kidding, this is not the end of the entry. Although, note the number 6 there, I would like to see that for real someday.

Seriously though, Paul was not judging vegetarians. The passage ends like this:

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit […] Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

There is a lot of back-story to these things since they were written to some people who were clearly having big debates about food, but I think you pull out the relevant themes without all the background info. So what started out as funny ended up being rather profound and surprisingly relevant to what we have discussed here in our blog over the last few weeks. Not only themes of be accepting of other diets and personal food morals, but also the idea that what you eat has bigger ramifications. You can “destroy the work of God” not only by bickering and hating people who eat meat or don’t eat meat, but also by eating so thoughtlessly that you participate in the destruction of creation. What you eat is your choice, but an important one.

So enjoy what you eat today, whether it be real breasts or fungus sculpted into breasts, and Devin and I will not be judging you.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


So we are just about four days away from the official end of our month long vegetarian experiment (however the blog will live on! well at least we'll write about Thanksgiving and a few days later... and because we figure there will be such a high demand for the continuation of our musings on food and life, there's a chance we'll shift locations and topics and keep blogging). When I think back on the last three weeks, I don't even realize that I didn't eat meat any of those days. It's so normal not to eat meat at this point. It's weird to think about eating it again. That doesn't mean I don't want it. Just yesterday in the GSU with my friend Juan we were walking into the food purchasing area when someone walked by me with mandarin and orange chicken from Panda Express... I have to say I felt physically weak after seeing and smelling it. It really caught me off guard. It was like something I hadn't thought about in weeks (the cravings and missing of meat stopped pretty soon after we started this) suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks (which evidently weighs the same as a ton of feathers! who knew?!). I was knocked back and my knees buckled a bit, and I exclaimed in agony. People around me asked me if I was ok. One kid ran to my aid and I think one student actually ran off to call someone for help. I had fallen completely to the ground, so I picked myself up off the disgusting floor in front of the burger place, gave a slight, quick, embarrassed wave to the crowd that I was ok (every single person in a 50 person radius was staring at me) and then slunk into the food area, very embarrassed. I proceeded to the pizza line, ashamed, and discouraged that this was the only line open to me, as all other options featured meat prominently. When we walked back to our seats I felt the eyes on me, and heard one kid say "what is wrong with him? why did he fall? hasn't he ever seen meat before??" I gave him a smirk but he just looked down. You ever get the feeling that when you enter a room everyone's talking about you? Try feeling that way a hundred times. I got out of there as fast as I could, and tried to resume my day.

Now those of you who read my notes from Ecuador, especially the one from the Jungle, know that I like to embellish a bit and stretch the truth... None of the above story is true, except the fact that I did actually feel physically affected by smelling the meat. Beyond that there was no embarrassment. Sorry for any confusion or concern for my well being.

Nonetheless, I miss chicken. I understand how hard that must have been for Alex smelling those three types of meats sizzling together in a dance fusion of oil and heat.

Even though I miss my favorite bird, I do have to say that when it comes time to choose from a menu, I actually do see the meat options and think that they are wrong, or completely off limits. At a restaurant last night with a friend I picked through the very small menu to find two options for me - and I actually didn't mind being limited at all. I could either get an apple-brie sandwich (consequently what my friend ordered.. never heard of an apple sangwich - she said it was good though) or a black bean burger with cheddar. Guess what I got! I love black beans, err, I mean "beetles in purplesauce." The burger was de-licious. And I think that I would, after this experiment, still order that burger over a real one. I actually prefer it. It's better for you too. But its just delicious regardless. I think I can give up red meat even after this. I don't miss it at all.

In the past few blog posts Alex and I have been challenging you the readers to make a change in your life, even if temporary, for empathy or the greater good or whatever. This challenge I propose will be much less ambitious, and thus probably more practical. Next time you go to a burger place (only for those who are not already vegetarians of our readers) find the veggie burger option and get it. I guarantee you won't be disappointed (guarantee not binding, and by that I mean I don't guarantee it, but strongly think you won't be disappointed). You will hopefully find what I've found, that they are actually preferable to a real burger. If you love it so much why don't you marry it? - is what I'll say to you when you discover how great they are. Then to me you'll say "grow up, what are you 5?" I'll probably feel bad and admit to having the maturity level of a 5 year old. But, if you do love them, make the switch, and get them every time. Just think about the difference something that small can make! I established in the very first post of this blog that 1 pound of beef uses more water than showering for 4 months! If you substitute just your burgers for veggie burgers each time, you would save SO much water - enough to up the frequency of your showers from once every four months to a bit more frequent (seriously, you stink.. this is for the good of everyone, and not for environmental reasons). If you do try this, please let me know what you think, either post a comment here about your experience, or write me a message. I will be curious to see how it goes for y'all. I await your comments!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Two Meals

Today I had two very different meal experiences. I am sure they would not have been all that different if not for me being a vegetarian. Special, but not all that different. I say it's about time I had some thoroughly unique days through all of this. And they have come to me not a day too soon, since there is less than one week left to this. These two interesting meals were total opposites as well, so it is beautiful in a literary sense that they would meet in the same day.

For lunch today my housemate Kyle, who is an avid cuisine explorer, invited me to to get some Thai food at a small local Thai place. I remember a few weeks ago somebody told me I should check out Thai places while vegetarian because thay have lots of good stuff for me. I thought at the time that they were just lying to plug their favorite ethnic cuisine, but I have been corrected. I was nervous heading into the restaurant, expecting mostly chicken dishes, but the menu blew me away. Really, the whole thing was vegetarian if you wanted it to be. They had special vegetarian section on the back, but it was so unnecessary because every item on the menu was broken down into five sub-categories: chicken, beef, pork, tofu and vegetable. That's right, any menu item could have contained tofu if I had wanted. And the egg-drop soup had tofu in it without me even having to ask. Amazing. I felt like I was being catered to with my special needs, but it was just how the place always is apparently. So I got some vegetable fried rice. Good stuff.

Between lunch and dinner I had a small adventure involving a tattoo parlor, genital piercings and some organic, vegan body wash. But that story is really not all that interesting.

For dinner some friends invited Tabitha and me over to make us dinner. I forgot that they might need to be reminded/told for the first time that I don't eat meat. Oops. The girl buying the food and planning the meal is an exceptionally thoughtful person and one of her thoughts today was "Hmmm, two boys will be eating this meal, I should get EXTRA meat, even though I normally don't make meaty things." Very thoughtful indeed, but even more ironic. So while I watched them wrap enormous chicken breasts in slices of ham and fry up bacon to chop into a vegetable dish, I looked forward to some improvised burritos and squash. My meal was great in the end, but it was pretty hard to watch three, count'em THREE, delicious meats be woven into a meal in front of me and not even have a taste. I made sure to clarify I was not ungrateful for the meal they prepared for me, because I felt pretty bad.

Ooo, one last story. My friend Tyler told me he was in an even more difficult situation (not for him because he is not a vegetarian, but for me if I had been in his place). He was doing yard work for an old couple. Like, really old. And they called him in for lunch. Very sweet of them. So as he sat down at the small table in the strange new house with two total strangers, the old woman wobbled over to the table and handed him a plate of ham sandwiches and asked if he would prefer chicken or beef soup. Oh man. If I had been there, I may have had to secretly eat some meat just to avoid being a pain in their butts. Especially since I am told she was hard of hearing and would probably have needed me to yell my rejection of her hospotality across the table quite loudly. I guess I just won't rake any old ladies' yards this next week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I think one of the most beneficial aspects of this little experiment we've designed is not the reduced impact each of us will have over the course of it, but rather the empathy we will gain. I am reminded of the common phrase, that if you really want to understand someone, you must walk a mile in his or her shoes. (A slightly lesser known, yet equally effective expression that elaborates on the first is "If you don't stop to consider how turkeys think about the world, how will you ever walk a mile in another man's shoes?" - credited to a certain blogger you and I know). I don't think whoever came up with this expression was advocating the stealing of other people's shoes and subsequent mile walks. All that would really give you is a perspective on how comfortable his shoes were, and maybe athlete's foot. But it represents the idea of getting into someone's head, or really understanding their situation, where they came from, to know why they feel the way they do. We are all products of our upbringings. Events that happened in my childhood affect me, just as they affect you, the reader (however they are different events, unless we lived identical childhoods, which is possible, in which case we don't need to swap shoes, it'll save us some trouble).

Empathy is what we all need a bit more of in this country and in our lives. Now before I continue I want to be clear and admit that I know many of you already value empathy, and I may not be saying anything new or revolutionary, and I certainly don't feel like I am tackling a topic with such breadth and complexity as Alex has in his recent posts (which I commend him on. Oh, you liked them too? That's nice to hear. Hey, I know someone who'd like to hear that too! This is a shameless plug for comments...). However, empathy is essential. I will also take this opportunity for another shameless plug for a website with no ties to me whatsoever, I just happened to stumble upon it, I swear......... www.empathysymbol.com. That's the first real website I have mentioned.

So where am I going with this? I think many people fear vegetarianism, and think that the only people who do it are crazy animal huggers (there are laws against that you know..) or left-wing eco-nazis or people from some other fringe movement. We relegate them to minority status, which they have intrinsically by being vastly outnumbered by meat eaters (~3% in this country), but we treat them like they are misguided for their decision. Well I am not saying that you have to live as a vegetarian to understand their plight, I think I have gained some insight I wouldn't have had otherwise. And I think some of the best experiences I have had with this whole process is not the foods I eat or the lack of meat, but the conversations I have had with other vegetarians. Telling my story and sharing it with them, then hearing their personal story of their personal choice. Many people choose the life of a vegetarian for reasons far different than I would ever have, like animal rights issues (not that I think animals don't have rights, but I am far less concerned with that than I am with Mama Earth.) But instead of casting these people aside and making fun of them for caring about animals, taunting them (I am reminded of a bill our wonderful governor in the great state of Minnesota signed that would have done something to promote animal cruelty, in which he stated that he planned to sign it while enjoying a nice steak and fish dinner... that's cruel), or in general not listening to their cries, we need to understand their reasoning, even if we don't agree with it.

Like I just stated, I don't feel moved by the animal rights movement. I wear a leather jacket, still eat eggs and drink milk, and plan on eating chicken in the future. But I respect that different life experiences have lead some of my fellow men or women to fight the injustices that they see. If I don't respect that, at least on some level, how can I expect them, or anyone else for that matter, to respect me when I stand up for an injustice I see? Would they not be justified in calling me a crazy nut job who shares the viewpoint of just 3% of the population? Why are you wasting your time, they could say to me, it's never going to make a difference. In fact, the environmental movement gets a lot of that. Well, the civil rights movement started in the minority as well, as we are only about 13% African-American in this country; the women's rights movement in the minority (yes I know half of people are women, but you get the idea); the call to end slavery in the minority; the fight for gays rights still remains in the minority, however fast it may be growing. Respect for the minority opinion is something that we hold true as Americans. Our government, our constitution, was deemed revolutionary for the very reason that the minority party has a say. It's something we take for granted in this country, but many other nations do not have that built in respect for the little guy. And we have this system because of a respect for empathy. The founding fathers knew that it sucks to be in the minority and have your opinions be squashed. They also realized that the minority opinion still represents a large part of the country, and in a representative government one should strive for 100% representation. Lastly, they realized that things may shift, and when that other party takes the majority away from you, you sure as heck hope they treat you well. But if you didn't treat them well, they have no motivation to do anything but return the "favor."

My point is - I think we need a bit of empathy. In all aspects of our lives. But in respect to vegetarianism, I think we need to understand that there are those who find reason for making such a drastic and counter-to-the-norm decision, and even if we do not understand fully what their reasoning is, or do not share their viewpoint, we need to respect it, and maybe add a few more options on the menu, make alternative choices in the supermarket a bit more accessible, and in general not type these people as fringe. Who knows, the day may come (and I hope it does for my Mama's sake, Mama Earth that is) when we ALL eat less meat and want more options and support systems for making the transition. Or at least the day may come when you decide that you are ready for the change. Wouldn't you feel worse about making the change to something you once denounced?

I like that this experience will become part of my life as a story. I will be so thankful to be able to recount this experience, and tell people I gave up meat for a month. They may not be too impressed, they may have done it before or may say they don't think it would be too hard. But I can still say I did it. I know what its like. I hope that we can all find little ways to challenge ourselves to see through someone else's eyes. It doesn't have to be a grandeur experiment with a blog. But I hope that I, and you the reader too, can find ways to challenge our norms, break out of the shells of our lives, and experience what someone else has. I think after that we'd all have a bit more respect for each other.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Fall Story

Writing something every other day that you know other people will read changes the way you think. Since I can write about anything I want to, I find myself trying to turn everything interesting I ever see or hear into something to blog about. For instance, I was biking to school the other morning and I was struck by the way the sun was lighting up all the colorful leaves. I think the leaves staggered their changing times this fall so that the color has lasted an unusually long time. I have also noticed that the colors you see change drastically depending on what sort of lighting there is at that time of day, or with those particular weather conditions. The result has been a very long time full of a very wide variety of colors, and in conclusion I am overwhelmed with it all. In a good way. So as I biked to school through the bright yellows, reds and pinks(?) I looked at the thick frost on the grass and distinct shafts of light in the frozen air cut by bare branches and thought how I definitely need to write about the aesthetics of fall in next blog entry. Alas, such things have little to nothing to do with vegetarianism, so they will never make it to you the reader. *sigh*

But not everything I hear and see is totally irrelevant, or quite as whimsical. In church this last Sunday we had the humorous author Donald Miller speak. He was highly amusing, and I recommend reading and listening to him. (Yes, I actually read a portion of one of his books, as rare as that may be) What he spoke about, to be brief, was the concept of your life being your story. While I will not go into the details, as glorious as they are, he ended up challenging us all to live our lives in a way that would be worth telling about later. To conduct ourselves the way a hero in a movie would conduct themselves and put our very lives on the line for something that mattered. He quoted a book by some famous story guru who asserts that our society is losing the concept of a good story as a result of blurring lines of morality in our society. This was the perfect setup for me to frame this vegetarian experiment in a lofty context and praise Devin and myself.

This seems like a silly game to give up meat for somewhat intangible reasons, and only temporarily at that. The benefits of it are too abstract for most people to think anything more of it than that it is weird. But then again, we do have a reason for doing it. We have chosen our objectives, articulated our aspirations and gone about achieving them. We named our villains (waste, unsustainability, greed, complacency…) and we have our plan of action to confront them. Devin and I are writing a short story with our lives this fall. Quite literally with this blog, but also in the bigger picture of our lives. When we look back on the fall of 2007 in years to come, we will have a story to tell. Not only a story of what we did during these four weeks, but a back-story to the values and habits we will carry with us because of this experience. We could have kept living the exact same lives we were before, simply being aware of what was happening in the world around us. But when we make the move from comfortable awareness to uncomfortable action, we do something worthwhile that will pay off in ways we can’t even plan on.

How is that for self-praise and exaggerated glorification? Not bad. But there is some truth to it all as well. Indeed, the story we are writing here is not an epic. It’s quite tame actually. But at least we are writing, and we can be proud of that. So when you congratulate us on doing something cool, but chuckle and say you could never do it, ask yourself why that is. Is it because you don’t know why you should, or because you do know why but you are too comfortable to change? And I am not just talking about meat now. How often do we know what is required of us, but put it aside to be dealt with later, or by somebody else? Probably every day in some small way or another. But we are capable of accomplishing great things and bringing about real change when we decide the comfortable life of the observer is not for us. As Donald Miller put it on Sunday, if you were to die today, what dreams would die with you? What would the world lose because you are gone? I am trying to build a respectable answer to that question, and maybe I this will all be a small part of it someday.

(You can hear exactly what Donald Miller said if you go to iTunes and search for the Mars Hill Bible Church Podcast)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Cheated

At least it tasted like I did. I'm sorry if the title scared any of you, for I did not actually cheat on my vegetarian diet, but boy did it seem like it. Let me tell you why. A few days ago, my vegetarian friend Alex (different Alex, sorry Alex.. which Alex am I talking about now? You'll never know!) asked me what I had been eating. She asked if I would cook a recipe if she gave it to me, because she rightly assumed that I have been eating a lot of carbs. I realized just how bad it was with that comment. My pasta and chicken has become pasta. My rice and chicken has become rice. My chicken has become nothing.

Fearing another night of rice and vegetables, I decided to take a trip to Shaw's to find me some good fake meat. Last night I was reading a website I found (I will plug it later, don't worry) and they had links to all these different imitation meat products - chicken nuggets, hamburgers, hot dogs, bacon! It was all there. So, alas, I was inspired to find some good substitutions and avoid carb overload.

I found my imitation of choice - some fake chicken nuggets. However, I was confused. On the package it said "Meatless and Soy Free!" No meat. No soy?? What is it? (Oh I think they've found that air can be a good source of protein... I bet its just breaded bags of air with chicken fragrances. Sweet.) I read the back, perplexed. I had to figure out what is actually in it. Turns out it wasn't air, but rather something called Mycoprotein. For those of you who speak Latin (which is all of you, I don't know why I am bothering to translate) you know that Myco means fungi. Like Mycorhizae, the fungi in symbiotic relationship with most roots. Duh, now it makes sense. So basically these weren't chicken nuggets at all - they were fungi-nuggets. I was skeptical - and my roommates recoiled in horror.

So I fried up the suspiciously chicken looking nuggets in my George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine. In seconds they were ready! (I really recommend the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine. Though I don't know why they call it the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine? It doesn't grill fat - it grills food. They should call it the George Foreman Lean Mean Food Grilling Machine. Just a thought)(Read the tee-ems). I cut one in half and it looked suspiciously like chicken. It tasted suspiciously like chicken (I am suspiciously still suspicious). Maybe its just because I haven't had chicken in 2 and a half weeks, but I really seemed like I ate chicken tonight. At least, you can see why it felt like I had meat tonight.

I suggest that everyone who is vegetarian go out and get these. And I suggest that everyone who isn't vegetarian but agrees that meat is harmful; get these. You won't know the difference. The brand name is Quorn. Look 'em up.

On to the website I was reading last night. The site is www.tryveg.com, and it seems to have some good info and resources if you are considering going vegetarian. I have read just a little bit, but it has been helpful. The article I read last night was on kids going vegetarian. The article said that 3% of adults are vegetarian. That's suspiciously low (or surprisingly, whatever). I guess that's why so few veg options show up on most menus in restaurants. It also said that 2% of kids are vegetarian, up from 1%. Thats almost double! (It is you moron, where'd you learn math?) Now, being homeschooled, I learned a great deal, and if I wanted to go vegetarian it would have been easy because I was at home all day and could just say, Mom, no meat! (I wasn't homeschooled...) At public schools, it's gotta be tough. I know if you didn't eat meat at my high school, you would have been eating a LOT of cheese. Mostly in pizza form, or stuffed breadstick form, or pizza boat form, or pizza roll form, or pretzel and cheese, or grilled cheese. Sounds like a balanced diet to me, but some kids may want more. I think meat is important for growing kids. I know you can do without it when you are a young, growing person if you have the right tools, preferably someone cooking for you who knows what they are doing. But in general, I think meat is good for kids growing up. Maybe not in the quantities that some enjoy it, but still on a regular basis. It's not that I want meat to be banished forever from the plates of billions worldwide.

I would love it if we could figure out a way to make meat less wasteful. Make meat "sustainable." That will be the day. Instead of slapping a USDA Organic sticker on foods to make people feel better, I think it'd be great if we could focus on sustainability, and slap USDA Sustainable stickers on the best foods out there. I know sustainability is not an easy thing to calculate, and I understand why that hasn't happened. But if we have more of a system-wide outlook - what does the cow or chicken eat, where does the grain and corn come from, how much water does it take to grow that, what kind of pesticides, if any, are being used, how much is the farmer being paid for the meat, is his land being raped of its resources and be unable to produce in five years, how much fossil fuels are used to grow the food and then to transport that meat from the farm to the butcher to the packaging plant to the freezer section to your house. Wow that's a lot to consider. But it can be done. We are pretty smart, as a species. We can figure it out. We just need some resolve. One day I'd like to find a pack of boneless chicken breast in the freezer section that says more than just Organic or even Cage-Free or Free-Range (which I have been hearing in some circles is a load of crap anyway... more on that later), but Sustainable as well. Then we can resume our normal diets without guilt. Who knows if this is possible, but maybe we should try. Until then, I cheated (just kidding, the title is irrelevant at this point. But it fit in the beginning I swear). USDA Sustainable.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I haven’t eaten meat in over two weeks, but I still consider myself a meat-eater. I just don’t feel it in my meatless gut that I don’t do the meat thing. I still hold some of my old notions of vegetarians, even though I have something in common with them now, namely vegetarianism. I wonder why I don’t fully relate? I suspect I am actually different from a genuine vegetarian. I saw something in a TV show that made me think about this. I was watching an episode of The Office (Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC) where all the characters attend an Indian holiday celebration called Diwali. At the party Angela, who is generally the unhappy and annoying character, is walking through the buffet line of Indian food and asks the server if there are any vegetarian dishes with a disgusted tone in her voice that indicates she is assuming the answer will be no. While the man responds “It is all vegetarian” she is already rolling her eyes and saying “I will just eat some bread” and walking away with some dry Nan and a sad evening ahead of her. It makes me laugh because it is Angela, and she is always up to something crazy, and then I smile afterwards because I think to myself “Yeah, vegetarians are so mean like that.” But now that I think harder about it, I don’t really remember the people in my life who are vegetarians. Not that I forget them, I just don’t keep close tabs on other people’s diets. So I don’t have the chance to see if they are pricks about the whole thing when they go through buffet lines.

So why is it engrained in me that vegetarians are overbearing jerks about their special dietary needs? Maybe it is TV shows and jokes that perpetuate the idea. But on the other hand, maybe it is something I have genuinely felt before in mild doses. If you are having a cookout and somebody doesn’t eat the meat, you feel like you failed them. I am sure they didn’t want to offend you by not eating the meat, they may have even brought their own veggieburger to enjoy, but why wasn’t your food good enough for them? Are you living an inferior lifestyle? Do you suck at grilling? Is it your apron? It was a mistake to get the one with the cow carcass on it, wasn’t it? You feel these things subtly, deep down as a host, but not because the vegetarian asserted any of those things about you. You jumped to those conclusions on your own. I think everyone who ever goes against average societal trends incites these feelings in others. Why did they have to go and be all different? Why is my way not good enough for them anymore?

I think I understand why people think this experiment of mine is strange now. It may not be because they have stock in Big Meat or run a struggling slaughterhouse out of their cellar. Maybe its just because they don’t like seeing someone turn their back on something they themselves still partake in. I find I can soften the bad news by making it sound like something very personal that doesn’t apply to them. Then I slowly sneak the truth on them: of all the vegetarians they have ever met I am the one who in most concerned with their personal choices as well as my own. At that point they fall back on other assumptions that distance it from them again. “So, you expect to lose much weight?” No, I will probably gain some with all these carbs. “Aaahhh…but you will save some money at least, that’s nice.” No, this organic hippy protein stuff is expensive. “Oh…so how about them Lions?” They suck, they are unpredictable at best.

If anyone feels the slightest bit inferior after reading all these pompous blog posts of ours, no need. Yes, we think you are part of a problem. But so are we, and we love your cooking and your hideous apron even if we sometimes forget to tell you. Some people out there have earned our collective resentment, surely. We all know that one person who thinks we all eat maggoty vomit compared to what they eat, but they are few and far between. I actually don’t know anyone like that off hand, but I just had to say that in case any of you do.

Well, looks like we all learned something today. If you are a pretentious snob you need to knock that off, and if you heap guilt on yourself for things people are not even accusing you of you should that stop too.


On Saturday night, since Alex always posts at normal times during the day (and me at ridiculous hours such as this – sorry!) I panicked and thought I had to post Saturday night. In my frantic push for ideas for something to write about, before I realized it was not my day to post, I came up with - nothing. I had exactly NO ideas on what to write about, which made me pretty nervous. Then today, my actual day for posting, I again struggled with finding a topic. I point this out as a good thing, however, not a troubling thing. First let me say that Alex and I make this look easy. We come up with brilliant ideas pretty much every time we post (your comments reassure that), and it’s not as easy as it seems. It takes an inquisitive mind – someone who notices small details about their diet and how it makes them feel, or on the contrary pieces together large broad themes that arise from personal experiences. We gots skills.

But today I am not ashamed to admit I have nothing to write about. And let me tell you why. It means that, since my last post, I have lived essentially two full days as a vegetarian with nothing significant whatsoever happening to me. It has become so incredibly normal for me to not eat meat that I can’t even find anything abnormal or interesting to talk about with regard to it.

Let me give you a few examples of how normal it is. The other night whilst hanging out (whilst is a word, look it up, its definition is on my blog idefinewords.blogspot.com) with a few friends we all suddenly became hungry at a horrible hour – 1 in the morning. However, instead of sucking it up and living with our pangs, we decided to order Papa John’s pizza for delivery (now accepting convenience points! How amazing is that! And the garlic dipping sauce keeps PJ’s in business, hands down). When asked what kind of toppings do I like, meat didn’t even cross my mind. I would have said sausage or pepperoni or really even meat lovers if I were asked this question a couple weeks ago, but that night I said “cheese; I don’t eat meat.” So normal.

Today, while in a burrito place in Portland, Maine (random day trip with roommate and a friend of ours. It was bomb.) (oh and Portland is known for their Mexican food…blame our broken borders if you want, but those illegal aliens (what an absurd term for human beings) flock to the similar climate and culture of Maine) I looked at the menu and immediately went to the vegetarian options. When my roommate said he was getting the chicken quesadilla, I actually said “gross.” Gross?! Me?! About my favorite bird in the world (for eating. Favorite bird in the world for friendship – big bird. Second reference in two posts, sweet)?? I have changed! Let me say though that the sweet potato burrito (albeit not Mexican in the slightest, for as we all know, sweet potatoes originally came from Mr. and Mrs. Sweet’s farm in Idaho) was phenomenal. Absolutely delicious. Didn’t miss the meat once.

What does this all mean? For one thing, it means my creative juices weren’t flowing this evening (flowin’ like molasses in August, which is still pretty slow. Have you even seen molasses flow?) and I couldn’t come up with a better topic (especially after Alex’s incredibly thoughtful and clearly presented discourse on solving just about every world problem ever; or at least attempting it.. bravo, that was a great post, in all seriousness). Following Alex’s incredibly deep post I sit here and make up stories about the origin of sweet potatoes or tell you about my favorite bird. Where do I get off? (Next stop.. Thanks, I get confused.) But it also means that I am a vegetarian. It means that maybe I can do this after T-day (you’ve heard of D-day..this involves more eating and less killing, unless you count the turkey, but you don't do you!). This may be boring for some to read, as I have talked about this before, but I will do one other thing I have done before. I urge you to try something like this. You can do it! And even if you don’t stick with it, you will gain perspective you never had before. And empathy.

I will leave with an anecdote from a party I attended this evening. I was discussing this very experiment with a fellow vegetarian at the party, a friend of a friend, when the subject of the source of food came up. I told her that I had just posted on that (http://meatmeetsgreen.blogspot.com – check it out to see my post! You...you’re already there….? Oh.) I told her that’s what this is all really about for me. Being conscious and aware of where our food comes from. I then began on my rant on bottled water (especially Fiji water. I will destroy you Fiji water). Apparently I ranted a bit loud, and when I said “I hate Fiji water with an intense passion” a girl nearby overheard and came to the defense of this horrid product (and bottled water in general). She grew up on it, she said. “Never before BU had I drank non-bottled water.” Come on, really?? Can’t be possible. Either way she claimed to be able to tell the difference in taste. I challenged her and said in a blind taste test she’d never be able to tell. We went back and forth a bit in a civil manner (during which she admitted to recycling and using public transportation as signs of her positive lifestyle choices for the old environment, and I gave credit where credit was due). But she wouldn’t budge on this water issue. And I realized something. I could spend hours, days, years, eons, seconds (wait..) trying to convince her of the evils of this “free-substance in a bottle!,” but as long as I lived I would never convince her of it (only to convince her posthumously!! Dun dun dun…. No, really, never). There are some things we just can’t convince people of in this world. Finding that distinction, knowing when to forge ahead versus abandon ship, is both hard and crucial. It is this reason that I do not advocate the preaching by vegetarians to non-vegetarians – it will never prove fruitful (or vege-ful.. no fruitful, definitely fruitful.). Since it would be impossible to convince her to never drink bottled water again, we have to work at the source, and make free water more accessible, and encourage recycling when bottled water is necessary. Until then, we will have to put up with the Fiji water drinking, SUV driving, global warming deniers. Until we can make the alternative (and correct choice for the environment) easier for the consumer, then we will have to kick our feet in the dust and “hope” that people will come to their senses. I got a lotta hope, but I want to act too, and see results. Let's do that, too.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Real Reason

…so reads the sticker on the back of my car. Not on the bumper mind you, just the back. I know for a fact that this sticker causes grief for some people. I had a man I did not even know yell at me about it. We never really got around to introductions because it wasn’t exactly a dialogue. He was just using me to vent his anger at the color green and then he apparently had somewhere to be. Now, in all seriousness, I know the sticker is easily read as a political statement, maybe even intentionally so, but I assure you all it has nothing to do with politics. God doesn’t vote. (Ooo, that sounds kinda edgy too, but really, don’t try to deny that one) So why the back-of-car sticker and why bring it up here and now? I am going to tell you, you might have guessed.

What is the meaning of life? It’s one of those ridiculous questions that nobody takes seriously because it so serious and impossible to answer. I liken a philosopher asking that question to a beauty queen saying she wants world peace. You nod in sympathetic affirmation but deep down you are rolling your eyes and thinking “You are so unoriginal and aiming just a little too high, don’t you think?” But I think there is a real answer to this question. (Aren’t you glad you read this blog today?) The answer is the same reason I say that God is Green. What makes human life so different from all other life? Why do we love? Why do we ask philosophical questions? Why do we plant fields of grain and eat bread instead of reaping our wheat from the wild and eating it raw? Because we were put here on earth to do these things and to be this way. If you are familiar with the biblical book of Genesis you may be familiar with this concept. Mankind was put in creation to be the caretakers of creation. Caring for both ourselves as well as all things non-human. A special feature of caring for creation is the responsibility to maximize its potential. Wheat is just better when it is ground into flour and baked into seasoned bread. A tree makes a better home when cut into boards and nailed together. Creation is not only something worth maintaining; it has the potential to be even more, with our help.

“Great, so God put us here to cut down all the trees and turn all the land into farms for bread-making. He doesn’t sound so green to me. Your back-of-car sticker sucks!” says you. This is indeed where many people get a little caught up on the role of humanity. And it is where sustainability and Shalom step in to settle the dispute. Whoa. I just lost a few of you there. Hold up, I am still explaining. Do we plow the field or let it grow wild? Do we make more bricks and roads or do we hike out and find a nice cave somewhere? Do we let the chickens run free or do we grow them on (dis)assembly lines? (You see the relevance to the blog slowly growing) What would a creation caretaker do? How do you harness the potential of creation without destroying it? Ask a gardener or a farmer. Do the plants grow that big on their own? No. Do the flowers arrange themselves so pleasantly on their own? No. But are all the bugs in the garden bad? No. Can your beans grow without bacteria in the roots? No. How many years will a farm survive without rain? How strong does a monoculture grow? Nature relies on a balance of systems that are beyond human control, but it can flourish and be modified within those systems. This is something we humans have slowly been learning for thousands of years. Now I say we need to look beyond the garden and farm. There is an entire planet out there after all.

The earth is like a giant garden, or nature preserve, kept by resident gardeners - the human race. But when our favorite vegetable is wiped out by a disease, we can’t call our neighboring planet for more seed. And when it is unbearably hot out, we won’t have enough shade or water for every plant. What we need to understand is the difference between merely harnessing nature’s potential and maximizing it. It requires perspective and patience to understand that just because you can do something impressive, doesn’t mean you should do it in the long run. Nature is a hearty machine capable of producing endless wonders when coupled with human ingenuity, but it is a machine that relies on the proper functioning of its innate parts. If we find it amusing or pleasurable to pull that machine apart here and there - just this once, it will make us so much money, we promise we will stop if it becomes a problem - we may find one day that it doesn’t work anymore. It is not beautiful any longer. Then what has happened to its potential? Has it been maximized? Are we good gardeners?

And what about Shalom? I threw out that foreign word back there a ways and never even gave a reason. You may have heard that Shalom is the Hebrew word for Peace. That is a rough translation, or very narrow translation rather. Shalom is more than just a description of how settled or unsettled, violent or non-violent something may be. It is the perfect arrangement of all things in creation as God intended. It is universal flourishing. It is all things in proper relationship with God, the creation around them and even with their own selves. Shalom is our ultimate goal as those charged with the care of creation. So let’s get busy! How do we make this happen? Sadly, we have proven that we can’t do it alone. If you haven’t noticed, we are nowhere near Shalom and we seem to be working in the opposite direction. Now, a courageous person would not give up in the face of such adversity. We still have a task. We have to enter into the discussions of our society that influence the direction it takes, toward Shalom or away from it. And how do we know which way is the right way? We often do not know. It is rarely an easy question. So we must prepare ourselves. To start, we can practice justice and compassion and seek wisdom. Where do you find wisdom? Whew, I don’t have all the answers here, cut me some slack now. But that is one thing I hope to find through this experiment. I don’t expect to see radical changes as a direct result of this temporary diet modification. I simply hope to raise my own awareness, and maybe a few other peoples’ along the way, to hone my own social senses and be ready to weigh my options when the real issues arise.

I may not raise beef cattle, but I know those cows have a place in the creation that I get involved with every time I eat one of them. A place that has been spread thin to cover the realm of human activity in a way that suits us. In fact, ALL the food I eat has been through the same process, and on top of it all, scarce natural resources have been commandeered to make this happen. The next thing I know I find myself complacently taking a first-class seat away from Shalom. How many other first-class tickets do I hold? In which direction will they take me? How can I find out? How can you?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Big Iron

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Doesn’t that meat just look delicious? The sweet, savory tenderloins on the left, next to the chicken legs and turkey breasts, with the bacon in the foreground set beautifully underneath ham, steaks, and ribs. Mmmmmm. I miss meat. I would like to thank a commenter on a recent post for calling us on not including pictures of meat. I hope this makes up for our clear bias against meat. I promise you, Mr. N, that this was not an intended consequence of our blog about going vegetarian. We in no way planned to have any bias in our posts, let alone bias against something as delicious as meat. Again, let me apologize for writing a blog about going vegetarian with such a clear bias towards vegetables. I can’t imagine what lead me to do that. This picture I can only hope will heal the wounds we collectively gashed in our readers hopes and dreams.

(Editor’s Note: The above is saturated with sarcasm, but I am in no way in a feud with Mr. N. At least not after this concession and the photo above. Bias removed, valiant commenter.)

So, Big Iron. One of the things I was told about meat was that it is a good source of iron. Get your iron, they say. If you give up meat, you gotta take iron supplements. Oh, I wouldn’t go vegetarian if I were you, you won’t get enough iron. Iron iron iron. I am sick of it. How true is it?

I decided to put the theory to the test the other day, after being inspired to add a multivitamin to my daily routine. (Trips to CVS always end horribly, with me spending 30 bucks on stuff I didn’t know I needed, when all I wanted was some hair gel.) I got the multivitamin “with iron!” because of this myth (oops I gave away my conclusion… save it Devin, come on… its not a myth, meat is the only source of iron… yessss, saved it.) So the other day my diet consisted of (and I’m not necessarily proud of this, it was a lazy day for me, didn’t feel like cooking cool things.. unless you are impressed, then I intended it and eat this stuff everyday!):

2 PB and J’s


Apple Cinnamon Bar

Bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats (45%)


Pizza Rolls

Yogurt and Granola

I added up the total %DV of iron I got from these glorious foods, and I was sitting pretty at 95%! What a load of crap. It was only 9, and I had another bowl of cereal (45% of iron alone in the cereal) so I was well over my needs. We have all been fed a bunch of lies by Big Iron. You’ve heard of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Drugs, Big Tobacco, Big Candy, and Big Bird, but one culprit that I am proud to expose is Big Iron (who works for Big Meat, but talking about Big Meat sounds weird…). Thousands of people choose not to go vegetarian on a daily basis because they fear not getting enough iron in their diets. Well I am here to tell you that you need not worry. You will be fine.

On a different note, I went to the BU basketball game tonight, our home opener, so they had a “party” with “free food.” Of course it was hot dogs and chips. No love.

So this is the 2 week mark, and I have to say, not much is new from the 1 week mark. I actually like being vegetarian. It seems easier, for some reason. Like I don’t have to worry about meat, even though it’s always a constant thought to make sure I don’t have any. I can’t explain it, but its nice. So, I challenge you, like Alex did a few days ago, to give it a shot. Even if its just for 2 weeks, you may surprise yourself and find you actually like it. Even if you love meat and say to yourself daily “I could NEVER go vegetarian; I love meat too much,” keep in mind that I said that all the time before this experiment. Daily. In fact I was a pretty boring person and all I would say to people is how I could never go vegetarian. Going vegetarian has liberated me and made me an interesting person with more to say than things about meat. And it always gives you something interesting to write about too… right… this is interesting to read yeah? Oh dear…. I have lost all my readers. Sorry for the shorter post, but I have gotten comments (verbal – everyone is afraid to post written comments) about how I need to shorten up my posts anyway, so I guess I apologize for boring you all, and you should be thankful I have nothing more to say. Goodnight, talk to y’all soon.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Look at those colorful vegetables. Look pretty good don’t they? I bet you want to eat them. I know I would if I were you. You would feel pretty healthy if you ate a great big plate that looked like that. Vegetables are special like that. And always good for a laugh when you are feeling blue (have you ever seen a blue vegetable?) Yes, we have had a lot of fun in this blog, joking about beans, dark cults, fungus and imported tropical water – the usual things you think of when you consider vegetarianism. But I want to talk to you about the side of vegetarianism you don’t hear about. It is not all fun and games for some people out there. There are those among us who are allergic to things like nuts and soybeans. Look at the person to your left, they may be one of them, you can never know. It is impossible. For these people, giving up meat means puffy lips, a rosy red face and an itchy inner ear. “Isn’t that what we have botox and blush for?” you may ask. No! Botox and makeup actually do not make your inner ear itch, and besides, to those affected by this serious condition it is anything but a romp through their grandmother’s cosmetics box. Every glass of soy milk, every veggieburger – yes, even the extra-chunky peanut butter – they are all close encounters with death itself. How do these people give up meat? Well, they usually don’t, and nobody is making them, so why are they complaining so much? This is not a serious problem at all. We need to spend less time worrying about things like this and focus our energy on the real problems our society faces, like monkeys who can’t read or children whose hair has gotten way too long. We can’t even see their eyes! Their beautiful young eyes…

On the other hand, people who are allergic to nuts and soy products really need to be careful. My beautiful girlfriend, Tabitha for those of you who don’t know her, despite her allergies, has been quite a trooper and stood by me as my vegetarianism has drove me to hit the nutbag hard these last couple weeks. (Wow, that was one of the funniest things I have ever written and I didn’t even do it on purpose…hit the nutbag hard…Alex, you old rascal, you’ve done it again!) Now, to be honest, I do most of the cooking in this relationship. That was bad news for Tabitha at the onset of this experiment. Where was she going to find food? Especially now that it is cold out and scavenging is getting harder every day. She might have to pull her summer stash out of the tree early this year. So, the other night I was preparing delicious bruschetta veggieburgers and I made one for Tabitha as well. Tabitha knew better than to eat them without checking the label for soy products. Soy was actually the main ingredient, but I, always being eager to see exactly how many peanuts etc. it would take to make her lips puff up like red bananas, encouraged her to just try some and see how it went. She made it through half of the burger just fine when her inner ear began to itch. I suggested it might just be her makeup, but she assured me makeup does not cause inner ear itching. I asked if she had ever put some on her inner ear before, because it didn’t seem fair to rule out my suggestion without firsthand experience on the subject. She still felt like it was the burger’s fault though. Her lips never puffed up, sadly, and she was just fine, thankfully, and I got to eat extra bruschetta burger, yay! Despite the happy ending in this case, the moral of the story stands. I am glad Tabitha is still here today, even if she does have to bring her own piece of chicken over every once in a while.

One concern when originally committing to write this blog was the ability to have captivating, engaging material on a semi-daily basis. Clearly, this has not been a challenge. How did we overcome this obstacle? I have been finding that many things in life are suddenly related to this little experiment. I am probably quite biased and on the lookout for relevant material, but nonetheless, I have many more stories to share. Since I know you are starting to read faster and faster, hoping to see those bold letters of the title beneath this entry every time you scroll through more of my silly yarns, I will only tell one story now and save the rest for later.

Last night, a small vegetarian hope of mine was fulfilled. (vegetarians have smaller hopes, its part of a lower calorie diet) My friend Grace, who I have mentioned as my vegetarian sage (think wise, old, wrinkly woman, not little green plant) has always seemed to hold most of her knowledge just out of my reach. She teases me with tales of how much she knows about maintaining a healthy vegetarian lifestyle, but rarely sends me away with more than a tidbit. However, last night she passed off her bundle of knowledge to me. She had formatted the key points about eating without meat into a colorful and easily understood fact sheet, which I got to take home. Jackpot! Has Grace been softened by the years? Have her miserly ways broken forth into a renaissance of free knowledge? No. She wants her sheet back in the end. One day I will journey back to her feet, where I will leave her colorful fact sheet. Until that day comes though, I will be eating a proper balance of fortified foods.

My deepest Thanks to Grace, and everyone else who I may refer to as an old miser, give squirrel-like properties to, or bear false witness of my interactions with in this blog. That probably includes all of you readers whether you know it or not. (I just find squirliness to be more universal than most, its not a bad thing)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Personal Choice, Collective Responsibility

Being a vegetarian is a personal choice. Hands down. Everyone has their reason, and that's great. Animal rights, the environment, Buddha, whatever it may be. And I encourage everyone to share their reasons with other people. As Ghandi: "be the change you want to see in the world." (The mantra of any environmentalist it seems). What that means to me, in regards to my food choices, is that I really think being a vegetarian is best for the environment. And instead of being preachy to those who choose to eat meat (me in 2 weeks.. get ready to be preached to future self!) I think its best to adopt that change in my own life and be proud of it, to give an example to others. I can share my story and hope that it will promote change in someone else's life (hence the blog, on some level. on most levels this blog is for jokes though. and most of my jokes appear in parentheses, so I apologize for the lack of joke here :-) ). So, since we are approaching the two week mark and Alex and I seem to be in full prediction mode, I will expand on a thought that was put in my mind from my counterpart's previous post.

The two things I will expand on are the source of food, and awareness of meat/food in general.

As opposed to preaching to people, castigating them for not even considering going vegetarian, in general reducing their self-esteem to minuscule levels in order to scare them into changing (never works, trust me...), or urging, imploring, arguing, stamping my feet, etc etc., I will take a different approach. The point of going vegetarian for us was not really about meat, but rather about food. Not about only meat I should say, but rather about the sources of our sustenance (shout out to Mark P, Danielle, other IB kids...). If meat weren't wasteful, I would order a whole chicken sent to my apartment immediately (they do that, right?). What I am getting at is the process of delivering that succulent bird to my plate is wasteful.

Just like Florida apples in Michigan. Let me say a few things about this. I have a few pet peeves, and that is one of them. I wish people were more conscious about where their food comes from. Alex, I would wager that if you looked, you could find Michigan apples in some grocery store or at some stand somewhere (not that you are not looking, I am sure it's harder than finding those Florida apples). It may not be the most convenient to find and buy them, or most cost effective, but when it comes to the environment, you will be thanked (I think the environment sends out gift baskets these days... complete with one can of clean compressed air, a gallon of pure drinking water, and a box of sunshine (don't ask how they do that)). What's worse is most apples that people buy don't even come from Florida, they come from Chile, or worse, NEW ZEALAND! You couldn't pick a further place to get produce from! You are essentially paying for a first class ticket around the world for your red delicious (honestly who likes red delicious anyway.. leave comment if you do so I know who you people are). There are countless examples of this. Milk comes from Wisconsin over New Hampshire (important here in Boston of course). If you look, there is almost undoubtedly a local version of the product you seek, or at least something from a state a bit closer.

The worst is bottled water. I, Devin, right here right now, vow to never buy bottled water again. I can give that up for life and not have to blog about it (can you imagine? One week without bottled water - I gotta say, I don't know if I can do this. I smell bottled water everywhere.. Soy water just doesn't cut it..) (Soy water? In Spanish that means "I am water"). My revelation about this horribly wasteful product came about a month ago at a burrito place (of course. I find I have a majority of my revelations at burrito places...something about the beans). I got my delicious chicken burrito (don't worry, it was awhile ago) and decided I was thirsty, and opted for a bottle of water, only to discover seconds later that I could have gotten 100% free, local water, from the pop (soda) machine. Already upset at the money I lost, I looked at my bottle. The water came from New Jersey somewhere, and was trucked to Atlanta to be bottled, to finally be shipped to Boston for me to not enjoy (still bitter about the money lost). That's absurd. If New Jersey weren't known for their exquisite potable water, I would say this isn't worth it (a joke outside of parentheses?? wait, I'm confused...). So, I urge you all to look for the free water next time you are thirsty - your wallet and planet will thank you (wallets don't send gift baskets).

Above all, one thing I think I will publicly castigate people for (just this one thing, I promise...and maybe eating meat.. wait no, I just said I wouldn't do that! ok just this, read on to see what it is..if i ever closed this parenthesis you'd find out..I have a lot of control here..mwahaha) is not bottled water, but Fiji water. Shipping water from Fiji is the most absurd thing ever. Hands down. I propose a competition. If you can think of anything more absurd than shipping "the purest spring water on Earth!" from Fiji to your local store here in the U.S., post it in a comment. I defy you.

So where am I going will all these angry rants? (When is he going to tie it back to his title?!) Thank you concerned reader. My point is, while I will probably eat meat again in the future (probably=definitely.. its like those criptoquips. Just substitute all instances of probably with definitely, and you'll find the hidden message! Go ahead.), I will forever and always be aware of what it means to order one of the 200 options for meat on the menu. And when I buy produce or milk or any other product for that matter, I will try to be aware of where it comes from.

What I mean is, while vegetarianism is a personal choice, we all have a collective responsiblity to be aware of the products we buy, and what it really means to ship water from Fiji. (ahhhhh, sweet relief, the title finally makes sense!)

Exploration Mandate

In my last entry I told you all about the joys of experimenting with new vegetables. Not the coolest thing I have ever been excited about, you don’t need to be told, I am sure. But I am not the only one who thinks these things. I am not talking about Devin either. I get regular emails from a magazine in the National Geographic family of magazines called The Green Guide. One of their featured articles yesterday was about enjoying the seasonal foods of your local farmers market. I was thrilled to see the first sentence of the entire article was, “Exploring unfamiliar varieties of favorite fruits and vegetables is a delight.” I was glad that I could sympathize with the author. Especially since he mentioned fruits as well as vegetables because it sets me up to share this anecdote I would normally have no reason to write about…

Some of you may be aware that Devin and I spend a disproportionate amount of our time in Minnesota at our favorite grocery store when everyone else has gone to bed. When our friend Danielle is with us she is equally thrilled to browse the exceptional selections of the store with us. One night a few summers ago the three of us decided to buy all the crazy little foreign fruits they sold. Things like Feijoas (pronounced Fie-shwa as far as we are concerned, and always with a breathy inquisitive tone of voice) They really were not that good. I think they are not meant to be eaten plain. This story has no point, so I will tack this semi-relevant rant on for you to give it some depth:

Food is exciting. One theme of this blog is that the food we eat is both a major part of our lives and of our social structures. The ramifications of what you eat are bigger than you likely care to know. Buying imported tropical fruit is not the solution to any of our problems, but pulling yourself out of a pattern of food buying you have held for a long time can make you aware of new things. To roughly recall a statistic I heard last year, the average food item Americans eat has traveled over 1000 miles since it was in its natural state. Floridians have grocery stores full of Michigan apples and Michiganders have grocery stores full of Florida apples. Why don’t we just eat our own apples? I am sure there is some economic principle driving it, but I am pretty sure that principle does not take into account the sustainability of such apple vending practices. Unless you live in Greenland, there is probably a farmer down the highway who would love to feed you his crop. If you DO live in Greenland, I don’t even know where your food comes from or how you heard about this blog. Please leave a comment so I known you are out there.

Speaking of which, Devin revealed something else very important to us in his last entry: your comments. Honestly, the reason Devin and I squabble about who writes better blog entries (*cough*Ido*cough*) is because Devin gets more comments than I do on his entries. We want to know you have been reading so we can feel better about the time we waste writing about shopping for Feijoas. Devin said some other things I felt I needed to address. When this is all done, will I stay vegetarian? Not a chance. Will I think differently about the meat I eat? Heck yes. When something is so deeply engrained into your lifestyle you cannot learn enough statistics about it to understand the role it plays in your life. Maybe Devin and I will have to try to not use any gasoline for a month next time we feel like being weird. Maybe I will really regret suggesting that. I don’t expect others to do these strange things, but if you are curious, I would suggest testing your own self-control and discipline. Can you make a commitment to learn something about yourself and follow through with it? Are you bigger than your habits and your appetites? Even if you conclude you should be eating more meat than you were before, at least you learned something. As for myself, I will watch the sizzling fajitas pass by my table and savor the beautifully deceptive flavors of my veggieburger a while longer.

(This is where the entry officially ends. If you want to hear a short funny story, read on)

Every fall, as it gets colder and the ground begins to freeze at night, the grounds department on campus flushes the sprinkler system and shuts it down for the winter. To do this they disconnect the water supply and crank up the pressure to blast out all remaining water in the pipes. Today, I was unlocking my bike, idly watching my fellow students wander about the paths of the common lawn area, when this sprinkler-flushing process began. One girl was walking with her eyes fixated intently on the ground in front of her when the sprinklers just to her left erupted with a massive and noisy burst of mist, right into her face. She screamed, recoiled, dropped her books and curled up into a ball on the ground, covering her head. It was amazing! It was like someone threw a grenade at her. She quickly got up and made a stiff-legged jog to the nearest building, probably pretty embarrassed. Classic.