Monday, December 13, 2010

"A meadow in your mouth that explodes on the palette"

Sound a little over the top?
Well, that was the exclamation of a very happy diner at Sutra, a vegetarian restaurant in Seattle, Wa.
And how did I get to hear this? Well believe it or not, there's an awesome new show on the Cooking Channel called The Veg Edge.  I can hardly contain my excitement!
Now I've always been a big fan of cooking shows.  I was often glued to the tv set as a kid when the Galloping Gourmet was on. I know, I just dated myself. 

The Veg Edge isn't the first veg friendly cooking show to hit the airwaves. We have public television to thank for the long-running  Christina Cooks with Christina Pirello. When I discovered her last year, I read that her show had been on for about 10 years! Why didn't I know this? Man, do I feel cheated.
Then there's another show I just discovered a few weeks ago called Naturally Delicious, hosted by the owner of Southern California restaurant Real Food Daily, Ann Gentry.

But The Veg Edge is different from those other shows.  This is a faced paced vegetarian travel show that shines the spotlight on several culinary geniuses across the US, ranging in their skills from creating  mouth-watering down home dishes to ultra trendy raw food works of art and everything in between.

You know, I've always heard and read that Portland is the vegan heaven.  Now I know the legends are true!
 Must. Go. To. Portland.
So check out The Veg Edge the next time it's on and give the Cooking Channel lots of positive feedback. Who knows, maybe other networks will jump on the bandwagon and create their own veg-friendly shows.  I for one would love it.  It's about time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Back of the Bus and the back porch

It's not often that I dwell on the racial prejudice I experienced in my younger years.  But this morning when I logged on and noticed today's Google doodle, a tribute to Rosa Parks, who in an act of civil disobedience, refused to obey an order by a bus driver to give up her seat to a white passenger, thus sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I was immediately taken back.

Now I'm too young to have endured the kind of legislated bigotry and segregation that those of my parents' generation did, but for the short time our family lived in a small town outside of Chicago, I did endure regular negative attention and prejudice from other kids. Yes as the cliche' goes, kids are cruel. As if middle school isn't already the worst time of a kids' life, add to that being the only black student one year and only one of 3 another.    

I never let on to my parents what I was going through during those years.  I've always been a bit of an introvert by nature. But I doubt if I was much different from most kids my age at the time.  Maybe you felt comfortable telling your parents anything and everything you felt and experienced when you were growing up. Not me.  I just buried it. All of it. Way. Down. Deep.

So what was it like being one of the very few black kids in our area? Well, I think I may have been a bit angry at God for a while. I started to wonder why I wasn't born a blue-eyed blond white girl with straight hair.  I just knew that things would have been so much easier than what I was going through being black.  And I was quite the curiosity for many of my classmates and the neighbor kids.
Ignorant questions would abound. My hair. My skin. "Do you tan?" "You can tan?" "You can burn?"

Hardly more than a day or two would go by when I wasn't being called a nigger. Funny, now we're so much more p.c. We don't actually say or spell it out in polite company. But back then, it was different, at least for me. I wish more than anything that I had fought back.

I did fight back once.  Some kid called me a nigger one too many times and on the w r o n g day.  A few seconds later, I was picking the flesh of the back of his neck from my fingernails.
He never called me that again.
Am I condoning violence?  No. I was a sad, picked on kid with pent up anger and frustration over the racism I experienced on a regular basis.  I do feel some regret now over what I did to that boy. I'm sure there was a better way to respond.

We moved back to California when I was in my teens, and honestly I couldn't have been happier.
But was my entire time in the Midwest totally miserable and a complete waste?  I would have to say no.

In that small town was where I believe I met God for real.   Our next door neighbors were baptists and like good baptists, they wanted to make sure I heard the "Good News".

During the summer of 1976, they hosted a vacation bible school for their church on their big back porch. So several of us kids in the area attended.

I loved it. The bible stories, the teacher, even the other kids. And I loved learning about Jesus.
So, even though my time in that part of the country was difficult from a racial standpoint, I believe that in terms of my spiritual awakening, it appears I was in the right place at the right time.

So yes, reading about Rosa today is bittersweet for me. But I am so thankful for the strength God gave her to stand up(or sit as the case may be) for what was right.  And I want to also express my thanks to that neighbor of ours from so long ago, whose name I can't even remember now, for extending the kindness they did by inviting this wounded, bullied girl into their home to meet the Savior.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I'm not an animal rights activist, pt 2

Ok, I realize I ended my last post on this subject a bit on the snarky side. I guess that was my way of responding to all of those sermons I have heard over the years "correcting" those of us who attempt to live a vegetarian lifestyle.

But back to my parting comment. I mentioned that I actually attempted to go vegetarian a couple of years before it became permanent. This was in the late 80's.  During this time, I was nursing my new infant son, about to have another child, and coming across verses of scripture that seemed to paint those eating a vegetarian diet as weak at best or "following doctrines of demons" at worst.  Yikes! What was I going to do with that?

disclaimer: Those of you my beloved friends who are not Christians, feel free to check out for the next few paragraphs if you like. This part of my rant may seem odd to you. But, if you're curious or intrigued at some of the inner turmoil and conflict that exists in the Church on this issue, read on..

So, let's look at the scripture that seems to condemn the way I've chosen to live my life.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the later times some shall depart from the faith, giving head to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils...forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.  I Timothy 4:1-6

Well, there you have it Simone, see right there proof that your vegetarian/vegan ways are less than godly and bordering on demonic. Just "pray over it" and you're good.  You can eat anything you want.
 I have to say when I was first confronted with that verse, that's what I started to believe too.  Now, I used the King James Version on purpose here. This is the translation I was most familiar with at the time.  And this is where it gets sticky for us Christian veggie people.

I've since learned that the word used for "meat" in this passage is the Greek word broma, which can be translated as simply food or flesh, depending on the context of the passage.  
Commentators often interpret the word here to mean flesh due to the the rest of the passage which has to do with marriage.  During this time in Church history, gnostic teachings often plagued the Church with a dualistic belief system that suggested that all that was natural or earthly(including the physical body, marriage, sexual relations) was evil and that only the spiritual was holy or good.  
This is what the Apostle Paul was dealing with here.  But it's interesting that if you go back to Romans chapter 14, he seems to have a more accepting view of vegetarians. 

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.  For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.  Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.
Romans 14:1-3

Wow, this is quite a different vibe from the previous passage! In fact, in a more modern translation, the word weak used to describe believers who abstain from flesh is replaced with sensitive conscience.
One reason many early converts to the Christian faith may have had a problem with the idea of eating meat was because they were mostly Jews and the idea of consuming the distinctly non-kosher food of the gentiles (which was at times offered to their idol gods before consumption) was unthinkable.  On the other hand, the new converts who were gentiles may have abstained due to a desire to renounce their old life and all that reminded them of it.
There appears to be no condemnation of vegetarianism in this passage, but an admonition to everyone within the Church to accept one another and refrain from judging each other on the basis of their diet.
I do find it interesting though that just like I've never heard a sermon defending the bug eating I alluded to earlier, I've also never heard from the pulpit the compassion and acceptance towards the vegetable eaters that is commanded.

So what does this have to do with you Simone? Well, it may be possible to justify meat eating from a biblical perspective.  But like many things, that doesn't always mean  that it is the best thing for me to do today, in my world.   Maybe for me the most loving, compassionate thing I can do for God's creatures who often live in such deplorable conditions of suffering and torture, is to not contribute to that suffering and simply refuse to eat them.  But my refusal is not for the animals sake alone.  How much  grain, corn, and soybeans  are actually grown for human consumption?  How much is grown to fatten up animals quickly, which are then slaughtered, which are then purchased for human consumption?    How many more hungry people could be fed in Third World countries with the food that's now being  fed to livestock?

Now I realize that my purchase of plant food today may not contribute to feeding a hungry baby tomorrow. I know the issue is complicated and I don't mean to over simplify.   But if enough of us in the global North decided to make that choice, maybe we could make a small difference.
Maybe the global hunger issue is just too big for you to wrap your mind around. The idea of people starving on the other side of the world while tragic, is just not something you think much about.

Ok, how about something a little closer to home right here in America?
One of the most dangerous jobs in this country is that of a slaughterhouse worker.  It has been said that since the large meat-packing  companies only view the animals they "process" as machines that that mentality simply carries over to how the humans doing the work are treated as well.  Most are people of color from low income communities. The many who are undocumented workers, due to fear of deportation, are vulnerable and not so quick to voice opposition to unfair treatment.   
Do we want to continue giving our hard earned money to this cruel system? One that tortures animals and exploits humans?  I know I don't. Not if I want to take the commandments of my Lord seriously. And that is why I became an activist.

  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.
Mark 12:30-31

note: If this post has piqued your interest to learn more about vegetarianism and animal rights from a Christian perspective, here are a couple of books that I've found to be quite eye-opening on the subject.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy
Is God a Vegetarian? Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Can we just change the subject?

I know it's been a couple of months since my last post. Life's busy and at times I get distracted.
Rest assured that I am working on part 2 of my last post on my brand of animal rights "activism".
But here is another issue that I feel is related in some way.  Let me know what you think.

So, there's something you should know about me. I hate confrontation. I mean really.  In fact, I avoid it like the plague.
It’s so much easier to have nice, non-threatening conversations that never become tense or uncomfortable.
But I still manage to have plenty of disagreements and debates, only they take place in my head and always hours or days after my human companions have left the scene.

One topic that seems to always be at the heart of these discussions(ok, arguments) is the treatment and consumption of animals.  Among my friends(both inside and outside the Church) and family, I’m the minority in terms of my diet and lifestyle, which is primarily vegan.

When it comes up, I’m often met with comments such as “wow, that must be so hard, I could never do that.” Or, “sounds great for you, but I could never give up meat and/or cheese.”  And of course my personal favorite, the classic, “but where do you get your protein?" (or iron? calcium? fill in the blank) 

It always amazes me when those who probably never gave much thought to dietary theories before, suddenly become nutritional experts when encountered  with someone who chooses not to consume animals or their secretions.(ie. dairy products and eggs)
But I digress.

I became inspired to write this post after years of conversations with those I care about that always seemed to fall flat when certain words appeared in the same sentence. You know, words like animals, suffering, torture, death. 
But it was one recent conversation in particular that especially touched my heart.

I have a dear friend, a fellow Christian who passionately opposes hunting.  I believe like she does that these poor animals are Gods' creatures and we have no business taking their lives without good reason. (like self-defense)

But during one of our discussions on this issue, I casually mentioned that animals in the factory farm system suffer a great deal more before their deaths than those that live in the wild.  At least they get to live a life of freedom until they meet the end of a hunters bullet. That went over well..  Then, when my friend talked of her love of cheese, I gently commented that the dairy industry in fact fuels the veal industry, and is a cruel system throughout.

That bit of information was too much for her to handle and she responded with "can we just change the subject?"
I admit I was frustrated. Here was someone that clearly has a love for animals and yet was not ready to acknowledge that her appetite may be contributing to more animal cruelty and suffering than the hunters she so righteously condemned.  

But as I mentioned earlier, this was not the only time a friend of mine that shares my faith appeared to be sticking virtual fingers in their ears when faced with the ugly realities of industrial farming.
But I'm not judging. I was a vegetarian for 17 years before I allowed myself to see and hear the truth of what the agricultural industry wanted (with good reason) to keep hidden from public view.

It's a hard pill to swallow. And lets face it. Cheese and meat taste good. (from what I remember)
And they have dare I say it, an addictive quality to them.  More about that in a future post.
So I can understand my good friends' discomfort with what I was trying to get across to her, in what I thought was a gentle, non-threatening way.  I guess when a person is in such a state of denial, any information that bursts the happy bubble they've created in their minds  to better deal with the reality they'd rather not see, comes across as simply too much to handle, and therefore an affront to what they hold dear.

See why I hate confrontation?  It's no fun and it can make people feel bad. People I love.
But the truth is the truth and even though it's difficult to face, I feel compelled to share it however I can.
Usually, it's when I'm asked a direct question about the reasons I eat the way that I do.
I will often preface my answer with "do you really want to know?  Then when I receive the ok, I tell them why.
But I find that I still soften the blow quite a bit.  Remember my friends' reaction above?

I think most of us would rather not know all the gory details of how many of our personal choices and appetites are really not so personal after all.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'm not an animal rights activist

I became a vegetarian 20 years ago in the Spring of 1990.
I made that decision (for the second time) after years of study on the health benefits of a meatless diet.
I say for the second time, because I flirted with vegetarianism a couple of years before that.  But after giving birth to my kids and coming across bible verses that appeared to contradict the vegetarian idea, I temporarily went back to eating animals.

Once I did more study,(biblically and nutritionally) I came to the definitive conclusion that removing animal flesh from my diet was indeed the healthiest way to live.   But ethics rarely entered into the equation.  Sure, when I learned how veal calves were raised, in my mind that was just too much and could not condone such cruelty. Even though I can't say that I have any memory of ever even consuming veal.
But I never knew what else lurked behind the closed doors of the meat and dairy industries.

When the subject would come up of my at the time strange diet, I would politely answer people's questions about health and such and then almost as a reassurance (whether to the other party or myself, I'm not sure) that while my diet may be different "I'm not an animal rights activist or anything."

I think back on those conversations now after 3 years of being vegan and ask myself. Why wasn't I one?
I believe like many in today's society, that I had this negative image of what an animal rights activist was.  An "extreme", militant, angry individual that lived only to make others feel guilty for wearing fur and eating the typical American diet. Translation: lots of meat.

I didn't ridicule them, I just didn't want to be associated with those people.  I was rational.  I was a vegetarian. Because as far as for health and disease prevention, it was best way to eat.

Well, fast forward a few years and I guess some might indeed think of  me as one of those people.
Am I protesting out in front of medical (animal experimentation) labs?  Have I joined PETA(People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)  in such campaigns as going naked and doing anything to get attention to the plight of animal abuse?  No. Those are far from activities that I would feel comfortable taking part in.

No, I'm the mellow, some might say more devious version of an animal rights activist.  If we go out to dinner and you order a steak I'm not going to judge you.(at least not to your face! ha ha)   When you wax on about how delicious your last meal of wild salmon was, I'll politely listen without so much as a peep.
 And while I don't allow meat in my home, I will not  try to stop a friend from eating it in any other setting.

But I know what I know, and I'm more than happy to share that knowledge with anyone that will listen, or read as the case my be.. What I've seen, simply cannot be unseen.

So how am I an activist? How do I do my part to fight against the injustices of animal abuse and torture?
My weapon of choice is the knife.  And the iron skillet. The muffin pan. The food processor.  The blender. And anything else I can get my hands on in my kitchen to entice to those willing to open their minds(and taste buds) to the idea that delicious culinary delights are indeed possible with the use of the abundance of plant foods that God has provided on this Earth.

Now I can imagine what many of  my fellow Christians are saying right now. "Excuse me, but the scriptures say that we can eat meat. It's our duty. We've been given dominion! Remember Peter's vision? Don't you read your Bible?"

Yes, I've read the verses that seem to give us cart blanche' to "rise, kill and eat".
I've also read the parts of scripture where God's people were given permission to consume certain beetles.
Now, why have I never in all my years as a Christian heard that sermon?  Why don't we hear pastors drool expectantly for their after church BBQ featuring a big, fat, juicy BUG along side the potato salad?

To be continued..

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's your funeral..

"It's your funeral."   Yes, it was something to that affect my husband said as I tried my best to justify the need  to write such a blog with such a title.
Why open myself up to possible attacks and ridicule due to my many seemingly contradictory beliefs and ideas?
I guess I just delight in bucking against the stereotypes, always looking for the exception.

But will this blog be exclusively about controversy and uncomfortable topics?  No. I do hope to share quite a bit about the beauty I see in the world, my faith, friends, and family.  The roses among the thorns so to speak.

And I can't have a vegan blog that doesn't include talk of food, yes amazing food.  I may even share a recipe from time to time.  Not convinced that vegans are anything but deprived souls who martyr themselves for the sake of the animals by giving up anything that has taste?  Well, just wait and see.