Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Your dog or you

I live on the northern coast of California. So far north, I jokingly call it "southern Oregon".
Before moving here a few years ago, being a southern California girl,(SoCal for short) I had no idea how different the coastline would be from what I was used to.

Apparently, the large number of sea stacks offshore are responsible for causing the waves to break and bounce in ways that create extremely dangerous and unpredictable currents in these super cold waters. It's just not safe to go swimming in the Pacific above San Francisco.

The reason for the mini geology lesson in this post is unfortunately a tragic one.  This past weekend, here on the North Coast, three members of a family lost their lives.
A mom, dad, and 16 year old son drowned in an attempt to save the life of their family dog, who got swept away in the treacherous ocean waters while playfully trying to retrieve a stick. Their dog was ultimately able to swim to safety.  You can read the story here and here.

I was sharing this with a relative out of the area and their response was one of sadness and disbelief.
In addition to that though was their amazement that someone would be so foolish as to put their own life at risk to save an animal.   I tried to explain that many people view their animal companions as part of the family, but the very idea that someone would do this was still incomprehensible to them.

This got me thinking.  I wondered if this presumption about animals and their worth(or lack of it) was fed more so by religious belief or cultural background?  The black community as a whole is not known for fighting for the cause of animal rights.  Some might say that blacks have been fighting too long and too hard for their(our) own civil rights to worry about dogs and cats are treated.

But I'm curious. If you're a non-vegan person of color and/or religious, would you risk your life to save your family pet?  Why or why not?
I especially want to hear from those who are not vegan, because right or wrong, I assume that we who are vegan and/or vegetarian for ethical reasons would indeed risk our own safety for the animals in our care.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A New Evangelical Manifesto, a book review and a confession

Manifesto: A written public declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.

"If you've never changed your mind about something, you may be dead.."
-Richard Cizik. 

My beliefs have evolved quite a bit over the years.  Ideas or philosophies that I once accepted without question, have been seriously unpacked, deconstructed, reassembled, and expressed in whole new ways.

For instance, I was once a (wait for it..) registered Republican. Now, I suspect that my more conservative readers may have just gasped, assuming that I've now fallen off a moral and philosophical cliff and into the "left-wing abyss."   My more moderate or liberal readers, especially those who know me in person, may be equally mortified learning of my recent conservative past.   While it's true that I am no longer a Republican, neither am I a Democrat.  Both political parties feel too extreme for  me.  I'm an Independent.

Since my gradual changes over the years, I've become more open to different ways of looking at issues than I might have been in the past. 

One of the advantages of this is discovering some awesome books that really challenge my old ways of thinking and present ideas that I believe have helped me to become more compassionate in how I live out my faith.  I must say though, that I am in no way implying that those who hold to one political side or the other are not compassionate, just that this is what I have experienced in my own life

So with all of that, it's been really cool to come across great books like the one I recently had the opportunity to read and review.  It's an anthology entitled A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good, edited by David P. Gushee. 

A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common GoodDavid is one of the founding members of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP), which mission states:
".. exists to advance human well-being as an expression of our love for Jesus Christ, which is itself a grateful response to his love for us and for a good but suffering world."

I love anthologies. To hear several voices in one volume on a plethora of related topics makes my brain happy.  And this book does not disappoint.

I was only familiar with one of the authors when I began (Brian McLaren), but have now become intrigued with everyone who contributed.  Of course I have my favorites.

The topics dealt with range from alternative ways politically active evangelicals can work towards common ground solutions to less abortion(a departure from the "winner take all" attitude of many from the religious/conservative Right),to reexamining the death penalty, the world's poor, human trafficking, peacemaking, gender issues, and so much more.
Here is the chapter list:

Introduction. David P. Gushee

Section I: A New Kind of Evangelical Christianity…
1. The Church in America Today (Brian McLaren)
2. Where the Church Went Wrong (Steven Martin)
3. A Disenchanted Text: Where Evangelicals Went Wrong with The Bible (Cheryl Bridges Johns)
4. My Journey Toward the “New Evangelicalism” (Richard Cizik)
5. A Theology That “Works” (Paul Markham)
6. God’s Vision for the Church—Kingdom Discipleship (Glen Harold Stassen)
7. Kingdom Community (Steven Martin)

Section II: Leading to Holistic Love of Marginalized Neighbors, such as…
8. Those Trafficked and Commodified (Jennifer Crumpton)
9. Those Suffering Preventable Diseases (Andi Thomas Sullivan)
10. Our Muslim Neighbors (Rick Love)
11. People of All Races (Lisa Sharon Harper )
12. Women (Jennifer Crumpton)
13. Children (Laura Rector)
14. The Dying (Scott Claybrook)
15. The Global Poor (Adam Phillips)

Section III: …And Redemptive Approaches in Public Life
16: Ending the Death Penalty (Timothy W. Floyd)
17: Making Peace (Paul Alexander)
18: Abolishing Nuclear Weapons (Tyler Wigg-Stevenson)
19: Overcoming Global Warming (Jim Ball)
20: Reducing Abortion (Charlie Camosy)
21: Resisting Consumerism (Jennifer Crumpton )
22: Standing Fast Against Torture (David P. Gushee)

I mentioned that I had my favorites.  I want to highlight a couple of them. 
The first is one of the founders of the NEP, Richard Cizik.
His essay entitled My Journey Towards the "New Evangelicalism," caused me to take the longest bunny trail from reading the book than any of the others.  When I read how Richard was encouraged to resign(or fired) from his position as Vice President for Governmental Relations of the National Association of Evangelicals, that was just too intriguing for me not to investigate further.  He got into some trouble for sharing his evolving views on an NPR radio program called "Fresh Air".  It's worth it to ditch my blog for a few minutes to take a listen, trust me.  Here is the first interview from 2008 and when they had him back on in 2010.

In case you don't want to or don't have the time to check out the broadcasts at the moment, I'll give you the shorthand version.  In the first interview, Richard shared how he was working to educate fellow Christians on the impact of climate change, supported civil unions for gays and lesbians, and government funding of contraception to reduce abortions. But the icing on the cake and perhaps the most offensive to his bosses and other conservative leaders, was his admission to voting for then Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 Virginia primary.

The story of the devastating effect his forced resignation had on him and his family is heartbreaking for sure.  But out of that experience was born the NEP, an important voice in the public arena.

The other essay that caused me to happily trail off was by filmmaker Steven Martin.

In his chapter entitled, Where the Church Went Wrong, he shares the premise of the three films he made on the role of the Church during the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany.  While it's true that during the Holocaust, many people of faith rescued and hid Jews at great personal risk.( Corrie Ten Boon comes to mind) And there were even organized resistance movements involving the likes of celebrated martyrs including Sophie Scholl and Deitrich Bonhoeffer.

But what I had no idea of until I read this volume, was that much of the Christian church in Germany at the time leading up to the Nazi takeover,were complicit in the government's making scapegoats out of the Jewish community. And in many cases, actually leading the charge in using theology to "prove" that the Jews were evil and the cause for all that was wrong with their country.
One such individual was Karl Themel, a pastor from Berlin who used his skills in administration and organization to decipher church baptismal records for Nazi advantage.  Themel acquired a special office, with the church's support, and went to work.

   This guy, so convinced he was on the right side of political and spiritual power, actually used what he discovered in church records to find those baptized Christians with Jewish ancestors. Then, turned over this information to the government. Over 2,700 people went to concentration camps as a result.  Pretty evil stuff..

Not a happy-go-lucky chapter. But one of great importance. A warning of the horrors that can arise when the Church is seduced by power instead of obedience to Jesus.

Every chapter has challenging, thought-provoking points to make. But I also found this book to be encouraging. While it does point out many of the Church's mistakes, it also shows a way that Christians can be engaged in a more holistic way with society.  A way that is more loving and nuanced as opposed to simply "black" and white" thinking and what we're against.

As is often the case, the very people I might think need a book like this the most, wouldn't come near it with a ten-foot pole, citing that it's "too liberal" or lacking a true biblical perspective.   
And a few years ago, I might have felt that way as well.   But to those out there with those feelings I say give it a chance. Give these writers a chance. 

And to those who may have turned their backs on Christianity or the Church because it just seemed too bigoted or close-minded, I invite you to investigate what these followers of Jesus have to say about the issues contained here and maybe even discover some common ground.

I suspect that no matter who you are, or what "side" you claim, A New Evangelical Manifesto makes a compelling case, many of them in fact, that will have you pondering for quite a while. I know it did me.

The New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision of the Common Good - part 1, interview with David Gushee on Patheos

The New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision of the Common Good - part 2 interview with Brian McLaren on Patheos

New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
- New Evangelical Manifesto's sponsoring organization

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God of All Creation: A Book Review

It's no secret that I am a believer in Christ, hence the name of my blog.
But the fact that I'm a Christian who values the lives of animals by not wearing or eating them, kind of makes me an anomaly among most of those who share my faith.

So imagine my delight when I came across the opportunity to read and review a book written by a fellow Christian that champions the idea of how precious and special animals and our relationship to them actually is.

God of All Creation: Life Lessons from Pets and Wildlife, by James Robison and James Randall Robison, was a refreshingly pleasant read. 

James tells the story of how he and  his wife Betty fall completely in love with a miniature Dachshund, they named Princess.  The story begins the way many do when one member of the family becomes smitten with an adorable dog or cat, but others in the household are not so supportive.
James's wife Betty when first hearing that he wanted little Princess, had a decidedly negative response.  "I don't want a dog in the house", "we travel too much", "it's too much trouble."   He was disappointed, but then decided to fight "dirty" and use their grand kids to get her to relent.  Once all four of them got a glimpse at Princess, it was over..

What I really enjoyed about this book was how the author was able to express the many parallels to how God views and relates to us and his relationship with Princess.
One instance that particularly tugged at my heartstrings, was when he shared about how sometimes his little companion gets into trouble while exploring outdoors and getting sandburs stuck in her paws. 

I love how he relates his chosen response to her getting into mischief and getting hurt to how he sees God responding to us.

 As I was reflecting on this process, I realized some profound truths. When I can tell that she's in pain, I lovingly invite her into my lap to take of it. People also need a compassionate invitation in order to gain their trust so they will come for help. Princess would never come to me if I shouted, "Stupid dog. Get out of the yard. Quit sniffing around. You're going to get what you deserve. I  told you not to go there!"  That would not make her want to get on my lap, in fact, she would probably run from me!  But this is what many children hear from their moms and dads...  This is also what we too often hear within the family of Christ. Believers can be harsh, judgemental, and unforgiving: "I can't believe you did that! You will reap what you've sown!"

Now, in all fairness I should let you know that is a book written for an evangelical audience, by an evangelical minister. Some might say televangelist. But, he and his wife Betty's ministry, Life Today, is one that reaches out to poor families and children around the world in amazing ways that include food, water wells, and rescue from sexual slavery.  

But even with it's evangelical bent and some churchspeak, I am thankful that there is a resource I can point to for many of my fellow Jesus followers that both honors their faith and the importance of seeing God's creatures as more special than they may have previously believed. It's such a sweet story. I highly recommend it.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You're gonna do what? Stop eating meat? You are going to STARVE!

So, an online friend shared this video on my Facebook page this morning. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you too. If you're a vegan or vegetarian and have been asked the age old question, "what on Earth do you eat?  Just break out in song and dance and tell 'em this:

I eat 

Callaloo, ackee, sweet potato
Yam, banana and tomato
Cabbage, spinach, avocado
Cho-cho, butter beans and cocoa
Courgettes, millet, plantain
Rice and peas and pumpkin
Mango, dates and guava
Chickpeas and cassava
Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
Onion, fennel and cucumber
Plum, pear and papaya
Aubergine and soya
Lime, lentils and quinoa,
Wholemeal bread and wholemeal flour
Watercress and okra
Tofu and sweet pepper
Couscous and carrots
Broccoli and coconut
Peaches, apples, apricot
Breadfruit, jackfruit, soursop
Pistachios, cashews and almonds
Walnuts, peanuts also pecan
Sesame seeds, sunflower, lemon
Orange, pineapple and melon
Bulgur wheat and garlic
Kiwi, corn and turnip
Pak choi and pomegranate
Hijiki and rocket
Berries, cherries and strawberries
Beetroot, grapefruit and celeries
You see the meat’s not necessary
We tell dem seh..

And then if they haven't fallen asleep because it took you so long, show 'em this:
Yep, he's obviously starving. Someone needs to intervene, right?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Westboro Baptist Family Update

Back in July, I did a post on one of the families of Westboro Baptist Church and their shunning of their daughter because she dared to question their beliefs and practices.

Well, I am excited to share that that daughter Lauren Drain, has written a memoir entitled Banished: Surviving my Years in the Westboro Baptist Church.

The only downside is that it's not coming out until March 2013.  This title is most definitely going to be on my book club list for next year.   Go Lauren!

My First Radio Interview

I love listening to podcasts and radio talk shows. One of my recent favorites is a show called Mixed Race Radio, hosted by my friend Tiffany Rae Reid.

She asked to interview me on her show today and I obliged.  Now, public speaking is one of my least favorite things, but I survived!  lol
Be sure to check out previous episodes on her site on Blogtalk Radio as well.

Listen to internet radio with Mixed Race Radio on Blog Talk Radio

If the grownups didn't see the black girl get bullied, did it really happen?

So, there's something you should know about black people. Especially young black teenage girls who happen to be Olympians.  They're liars.. That's right.  If they say that they were bullied and teased and called a slave, they're just making it up.  Apparently for fun.. At least that's the case if you believe the defensive comments made by those who ran the gym where Gabrielle Douglas (she prefers it over being called Gabby) got her start before heading out to Iowa to train there instead at the age of 14.

Gabrielle appeared on Oprah's Next Chapter recently, and shared what it was like to train in an environment of verbal attacks and isolation she felt was due to her race.  I read this story and was incensed.
The response of the former coaches was one of denial, saying things like "Gabby was never a victim", and "I never once heard her complain about girls being mean.."   Are they serious?

Anyone out there ever been bullied as a kid? So tell me, how many of you just marched right on up to a teacher or coach to tell them your sad tale of being picked on by fellow students, complete with names?  If you did,  how did that go?    Did those bad kids see the error of their ways and just embrace you with all kinds of love and apology?  No?  I didn't think so.

Val, you seem a bit hot over this.  Yes, yes I am.   One of those coaches expressed that Gabrielle's story is sickening.  Really? You know what I think is sickening?  These so-called adults attacking a sixteen year old girl and daring to say her experience of bigotry and pain is not true. I thought she handled the interview with class and dignity. She didn't name names, she didn't say anything publicly about the coaches themselves.
Just who do they think they are?

In a previous post, I shared a bit about my experience of being one of very few blacks in a nearly all white Midwestern middle school.  I never said anything about what I was experiencing either. My parents new nothing of what I was going through until I was an adult, and even then, I didn't go into all the details.  That was a painful time and I lived for Fridays.

Now, most often kids aren't going to bully each other within the eye and earshot of an adult, so I can't understand why these coaches are reacting the way that they are. Young girls can be pretty mean and sneaky.   But, if they did witness what was going on and did nothing to stop it, well maybe this is their guilt talking. That and not wanting their gym to look bad. Too late. Their reaction has taken care of that.

I applaud Gabrielle for being upfront about her experience and how she's risen above it. She seems mature beyond her years. A maturity that appears to be lacking back at the old gym..

What do you think? Am I getting too emotional about this?  Do you think that a young person of color would go out of their way to make up stories of racial slurs and bigotry for the fun of it?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chocolate Slaves

Yes, it's an unfortunate play on words. And I could go into all the atrocities that are being perpetrated right now as I type, for the love of the tasty confection that has been an acceptable world wide addiction for centuries.

But, I won't. I'm going to let blogger and founder of the organization Appetite for Justice, Lauren Ornelas do it for me.
Her words are clear, strong and to the point.  Please read and learn. Then make your voice heard as well as voting with your dollar.


Want(need) to know more?  Watch this:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

You'd be healed if you just had enough faith..

Unless you've spent time in the church world, the title of this post may seem a bit odd to you. Of course, it may also seem odd if you in fact are a christian, but were never subjected to such a flippant declaration.   I've been a christian since the summer of 1976, when as a kid I made the decision to follow Jesus while we were living in the Midwest. I shared the story briefly here

Over the years, I've been involved in different types of churches. Big churches, small churches, Baptist, Pentecostal, Word of Faith

One belief that was popular in much of my past church experience is the idea that God still does miracles and heals today just like He did in the stories we read in the Bible.  Now, I have do doubt about that actually.  I do believe it. But I also believe that every situation is different and God does (or doesn't) what He's going to do however He wants and in His own time.   

Yes, I believe faith is important. There are examples in the New Testament of Jesus healing those who simply displayed faith in His power.

But what about those who suffer and don't seem to ever get better? They pray. Others pray for them. Sometimes for days, weeks, months, and years.  What about them?

I have a dear friend who has suffered for many years with a debilitating illness.  I found her story so compelling and at the same time inspiring to me.  Her name is Kellie.  Please read her story here.

Kellie is also in my blogroll under the title RSDGirl. I highly recommend you check her out regularly. 
And if you are someone who lives with chronic pain or suffering, I believe you'll find her to be an inspiration to you as well.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Well, you're just a smug urbanite who feels superior to people who consume milk..

smug: contently confident of one's ability, superiority, or correctness;complacent.

 A couple of weeks ago we attended the garden party at the home of a dear friend who has just completed her cancer treatment.  They caught it early enough and she is going to be ok.  I am forever thankful to God for that.
The theme of my friend's celebration was to bring dishes created from produce from our own gardens if possible.   Well, I'm not much of a gardener(not at all actually) and have been told that I have a black thumb. No pun intended.

But, I do have some collard trees that my dad planted for me a while back and they are just massive.

So, I made a raw collard greens dish:

But I must admit, the other dish I made that seemed to be the most appreciated, also got me in the most trouble.  My Almond Feta stuffed Zucchini Blossoms:

Trouble you say? How could something as friendly and tasty as flowers stuffed with vegan feta cheese get anyone into trouble?  And there's the key phrase, vegan feta cheese.

My dear friend whose party this was graciously shared the squash photo on her urban farming Facebook page. I am thankful and humbled that it received a largely positive response.
But apparently not everyone felt so positive about my dish.

When it was stated by my friend that my cheese was vegan, someone felt the need to chime in with  his "learned" opinion.  Just for fun, let's call him Dairydude.
So Dairydude  says " vegan feta??? That sounds like some sort of genetically modified soy concoction synthesized for the purpose of allowing smug urbanites to feel superior to people who consume milk."

Wow, that was a mouthful. And a pretty big assumption on his part. Did I set Dairydude straight?
In a matter of speaking.  I did nicely defend the fact that I was raised by a farmer's daughter and there's not much smug about me.  I talked about how many people have issues with digestion of dairy products and it is a welcome substitute for those people to have nondairy options for their favorite foods.   I came this close to pulling the race card by stating that most blacks and asians don't digest dairy very well either and was he implying that blacks and asians who can't digest dairy as smug also?   But I didn't, as I realized that that kind of response would be over the top and more than a little obnoxious.   The last thing I wanted was to come off like a jerk on my friends' page. lol

But, this blog is my own turf. Sure, I don't intend to be purposely offensive or obnoxious, but I would be less than honest if I didn't continue my thoughts on the issue of milk consumption and Dairydude's comment.

So, let's take a hard look at what the consumption of dairy entails. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do read and watch all the info I can on this and other issues of animal product consumption.
Dairydude stated that the idea of eating a dairy substitute was somehow smug and I would suspect probably elitist in his opinion.   Really?

I don't doubt that there are some smug vegans or non dairy eating folks out there, but I don't believe they're the majority.  There are other compelling reasons not to consume products made from the milk of cows.

Ok warning. If you are one of those who call yourself cheese addicted, I'm about to ruin your day. If you are a vegetarian who believes that cows are not harmed by your consumption of dairy products because "at least I'm not killing them for their meat",(a position I used to hold) you may be tempted to put your fingers in  your ears and scream la la la la!  Sorry about that.

So what's wrong with dairy? I'm glad you asked.
Like all lactating animals, the female has to be pregnant in order to produce milk for her baby. Momma gives birth, momma nurses baby. After a while, baby is weened, everyone's happy.

Now, lets examine at what the story looks like for a dairy cow..

So that humans can have a continuous supply of milk, dairy cows must endure a yearly cycle of being forcibly impregnated.(On what the industry refers to as the "rape rack")  Once they give birth to their calf, they are separated because the milk is needed for humans to purchase.  If the calf is male(which half are), he goes immediately to auction to be sold and slaughtered.  Or if used for veal, to spend about 4 months in crates before being slaughtered.

Female calves face the same fate as their mothers and are set up for milk production as well.

If you are a parent, imagine the feeling of being separated from your child. Go ahead, I'll wait..
Now, imagine carrying your baby in your body for 9 months(or waiting nervously if you're an adoptive parent) and right after giving birth or a few hours later, someone comes and snatches your child away from you.  Go ahead, I'll wait again..

I don't know about you, but I did this exercise myself and it was a devastating thought.
"But, they're just cows Val",  you say. "They don't have feelings like people."  Really?
What about this? (scroll to the 3:11 minute mark)

Cows naturally have a lifespan of about 25 years or more, but those in the dairy industry live about 4 to 6 years and by then are "spent" from their life of constant milk production.  In their weakened state they are then sent off to slaughter.

But, you don't have to take my word for it. How about the words of a fourth generation rancher and feedlot operator?
"If your reason for abstaining from meat has more to do with an emotional attachment to animals than a concern for your health, then understand that dairy cows are truly sick, miserable, abused creatures that are fed a hi-protein diet(often animal based) counterproductive to their health. They are then often drugged with bovine growth hormone and antibiotics, and abused to provide more milk than they have been created by Nature to give, little or none of which goes to their own young." Howard Lyman, author of No More Bull,The Mad Cowboy Targets America's Worst Enemy: Our Diet.

I have to admit, I love Howard. He's lived the life of a cattle rancher. And if anyone knows what they're talking about on this issue, he does. It's often been said that he's most likely sent more cattle to their deaths back in his ranching days than any of the people still in the industry that he's debated over the years or those in the audiences he's spoken to.

I highly recommend checking out his story in the book Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat. 

Now back to Dairydude.  I've made a decision to no longer take part in the suffering, cruelty, and slaughter inherent in milk production and instead find more compassionate alternatives to the foods I love. But somehow that makes me smug. Meanwhile his dismissive attitude toward those who've made a similar choice to my own is supposed to be what? More down to earth?

(Alert, race card about to be  played..)

When white British abolitionists in the 18th and 19th centuries boycotted sugar due to the fact that it was produced by the suffering and misery of black slaves, were they being smug as well?

Now, I'm looking over the definition of smug again. I don't subscribe to the superiority part, but I see nothing wrong with believing with all your heart that you are correct when siding with the oppressed.

And I suspect that Dairydude has a bit of smugness in him as well, since it seemed to me from his comment that he believes consuming real cheese is superior to my vegan version.  But that's ok. Everyone is at a different place in their journey.  I don't feel or believe I'm better than or superior to those who eat dairy.
Maybe just a bit more informed.  But, we all care about different things.  And as important as this issue has become to me and many others, there are just as many people or more who just don't want to think about it.  It's hard, it's painful and who wants to consider that their personal choices are causing harm to others?  It can feel so overwhelming.

But I hope I've given those of you who made it to the end of this wordy post something to consider.
For more info on this and related issues, please check out the links below.

  Oh and if you'd like to know what vegan almond feta tastes like, here's where you can find the basic recipe I work off of.  Vegetarian Times Almond Feta Cheese.

Humane Myth

Mad Cow Boy, site of Howard Lyman

Friday, July 20, 2012

Who wants to eat a fake chicken?

I do want to say before I dive into this topic that I really appreciate all the support and response from my last post on vegans who for whatever reason, stop being vegan.  Even those who question my logic and comparisons challenge me to think. Thank you.

And now on to something a little lighter. 

Fake chicken?  No, I'm not talking about those goofy rubber chickens used in an old school comedy routine.  I'm referring to plant proteins processed in such a way as to have a similar taste and texture of animal meat.
Now, I have encountered online and in person more times than I can count the question of why in the world would vegans or vegetarians want to eat something that reminds them of meat if meat disgusts them so much?  Well, there are A LOT of assumptions behind that question.  First of all, vegans and vegetarians are by no means a monolithic group.  People come to this decision for many different reasons and motivations.  Some for health reasons(in which case you could say they eat a plant-based diet), environmental, and for the desire to no longer participate in the exploitation of animals in any way, be it for food, clothing, entertainment,etc.

One of my absolute favorite vegan authors Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, makes the point that just because vegans decided to stop eating meat doesn't mean we no longer enjoy chewing.  And her quote from an interview with Edible East Bay drives home the point that the word "meat" does not only refer to the flesh of animals. 
 " The word “meat” originally meant “that which was eaten (solid food) to distinguish it from that which was drunk (beverages),” and we still use the word when we refer to such things as “nut meat” or “coconut meat.” I absolutely abhor such words as “fake” and “faux” and “alternative” and “substitute” to talk about plant-based foods. "

I'm starting to think more and more like Colleen. Although I do often slip back in to calling veggie burgers, chik patties, ribz, and the like fake meat. It's going to be a hard habit to break. Old expressions die hard.  :-)

I grew up on soul food. Lots of fruits and vegetables( I was raised by a farmers daughter after all).
But also lots of meat too. Fried chicken, baked chicken, ribs, steak, pork chops, fried fish, you name it, I ate it.
And as a kid I loved it all.  In fact, my dad used to say to me as I filled my plate," make sure that you don't make a meal out of just meat!".  Ha ha, well wasn't that prophetic??

So fast forward several years and I am one of those vegans who loves a good grain or soy based meat. (lookie there, It was hard, but I didn't even use the word faux or fake. Colleen would be proud.)  Not every day of course, but often.  And no, I don't have some secret desire to tear into the flesh of animals because of some primal need that's going unfulfilled.   I guess the foods of my childhood are just familiar and I like to enjoy them on occasion. All without having to cause another   living creature the torture and slaughter necessary in order to make it possible to end up on my plate.

So, as a result of my long love affair with vegetable based meats(did it again! I'm so good. lol),  I keep my nose to the ground for new products on the market or soon coming to the market that widen the choices for those like me who enjoy this stuff.   And guess what??  There is a great product that's just been released.  And I didn't have to wait too long to try it.   The closest major city from us is several hours away, so new things tend to take a while to make it up here to us. But not this time.

I know, I know "just get to it Val, what is it?"

It's called Beyond Meat and it looks a little too much like shredded chicken. It's crazy what they can do in food science these days.  But, I didn't think I'd see it anytime soon unless I took a trip down to the Bay area to a Wholefoods Market or something.   So, imagine my surprise one day as I was perusing our local co-op and came upon THIS:
And at $5.89 a pound it's much cheaper than most meat substitutes.  Oops, I slipped up. Well, I can't be perfect all the time, sheesh. A little grace please? lol

It was in the frozen bulk section of the store. So, I got myself a good pound or so and trotted happily home, excited to try it out.

Here's how it looked before I cooked it:
Crazy, huh? A warning to my vegan friends who never liked animal meat anyway or have happily given up eating anything that looked like or reminded them of it; this stuff may gross you out a bit.  It's that convincing.  Even more than the Gardein products I think.  Except the Beyond Meat product is unflavored and doesn't taste like much before you season or cook it.

So, what did I do with it?  I thought I'd throw together a modified version of Chef Chloe's Alfredo recipe.  First, I sauteed the veggies and the Beyond Meat product.
Sorry, the lighting isn't the best over my stove.

Here is the finished product with the Alfredo sauce on it.

Oh, and that's Daiya vegan cheese sprinkled over the top in case you were wondering. Yummy stuff.  In hindsight, I think I got a little too liberal with the sauce.  (or didn't cook enough noodles) I kind of drowned everything to the point that the veggie meat is barely visible. But, it was good. Really good.
I plan on getting more soon.  Well, that is, whenever they get more in stock at the co-op.
When I went back a couple of days after discovering it, that container was scraped empty!  I guess word got out.

Now, a note to my friends who avoid soy. I'm sorry, this product is not for you. If you eat soy, but cannot tolerate wheat or gluten, you're in luck, there is none.  A bonus for a good friend of mine who's not vegan by any means, but is always open to trying good alternative sources of protein, but cannot tolerate wheat.

Here's a great article and video with food columnist Mark Bittman on Beyond Meat.

I also love this quote from him as it makes nothing but sense to me.

"..Really: Would I rather eat cruelly raised, polluting, unhealthful chicken, or a plant product that’s nutritionally similar or superior, good enough to fool me and requires no antibiotics, cutting off of heads or other nasty things? Isn’t it preferable, at least some of the time, to eat plant products mixed with water that have been put through a thingamajiggy that spews out meatlike stuff, instead of eating those same plant products put into a chicken that does its biomechanical thing for the six weeks of its miserable existence, only to have its throat cut in the service of yielding barely distinguishable meat?
Why, in other words, use the poor chicken as a machine to produce meat when you can use a machine to produce “meat” that seems like chicken?"  -Mark Bittman

Sounds good to me Mark..

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Giving up on veganism

So I recently checked in to one of my favorite vegan cooking blogs to discover that the author is no longer vegan. Several life changes brought them to their current path including a new relationship, working around animal products and of course, the love of cheese.  Also, another reason(probably the main one) cited for giving up the vegan life was just coming to a point of being jaded about life on this planet.
There's so much suffering around that apparently it became too overwhelming to think that they could really do anything about it by continuing to refuse the consumption of animal products.

This really got me thinking.  I wonder how the abolitionists of the nineteenth century felt when they saw around them what appeared to be the irreversible suffering of slavery. Or the men and women in the Suffrage movement who fought for women's right to vote?  Or those in the modern civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr and others?  Or Mildred and Richard Loving?   I wonder what my life would be like today if they had given up? 

If they(heroes and agents of God in my opinion) had grown weary of the fight, where would I be today?  Would I still be a slave on some plantation in Georgia somewhere? Maybe.  And I most assuredly wouldn't be voting in the next election or married to my husband of almost 9 years.  And speaking of voting..  
Would we ever have had a black(or biracial) president in the White House right now?  Or possibly a woman in the near future?

I admit, I felt a bit sad when I read that blog post. Especially when I just came off the heels of watching a new documentary that shows family farmers, not big impersonal agribusiness, coming to a point of no longer wanting to participate in the cruelty and suffering that is inherent in animal production.  

But I do understand feeling overwhelmed, so I'm not judging my fellow blogger. I will not unsubscribe from their blog  or Facebook page as some have posted. (after making all kinds of declarations of how selfish they feel the blogger is now)   That's something I have noticed in this vegan world online.

When you "leave the fold" so to speak, there is sometimes quite a backlash. And it can get nasty.   But I think I understand that too.  I mean, if we were living in nineteenth century America and someone who was once a fierce abolitionist, fought tooth and nail for freedom for blacks and then decided that it was just too overwhelming and decided to give up and in fact buy themselves a few people to work their farm and as a bonus satisfy their "night time needs" , I would imagine others in the movement would feel a bit betrayed, including their new slaves.

Do I hope the blogger becomes vegan again?  By all means yes!   I honestly hope this is a temporary season in their life and at some point the eyes of their heart will open again and believe that they indeed can make a difference.  

Just like the social justice struggles of the past and present, they depend on enough of us to care and never give up.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retro Vegans from the 70's

Ok, call me a nerd, but I think this is cool.  I recently discovered an episode from the BBC tv show  the Open Door, about vegans and their way of life. This is 1976!  How many people even knew what a vegan was back then?  I'm amazed at how current (well, except for the fashion!) the information shared is. There's even a segment where they interview a woman in her veganic garden. Although they didn't call it that back then. Here's the half hour program divided up into three parts. 

Curious about the kids from this show and how they grew up? Well, here's a great interview on the blog The Vegan Option, where they talk to grown-up baby Rosemary from the second video and other born vegan kids too.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Online vegan conference!

I love stuff like this. Online conferences that bring together different authors and professionals in the field of health. I have to say that this is the first one I've ever seen with such a diverse group of experts from the vegan community.

I highly recommend you check out Veganpalooza. I'm looking forward to listening to as many of the speakers as possible, but I admit I do have my favorites.  Like Neal Barnard of  the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author of such fabulous books as The Joy of Vegan Baking and The 30 Day Vegan Challenge, and creator of the Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast.

Another voice I'm looking forward to hearing from for the first time is social justice pioneer Keith McHenry of Food Not Bombs.   I was even pleasantly surprised to see Christian minister Frank Hoffman of all-creatures.org.  But all in all everyone in this lineup has amazing stuff to share and I can't wait to listen to their interviews.  The fun starts tomorrow!

 Follow the link below for more info.

click here!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

God Hates You and my kid too!!

Recently I became outraged. Saddened and outraged. But mostly saddened that a parent could treat a child the way these did. I guess what made it even worse in my mind was that they used their faith in God to justify it.
Now, I'm no where near the perfect parent, so it's not from a high horse or lofty place that I'm coming from.
A while ago, a relative of mine posted a link to a story on Facebook about the Westboro Baptist Church parents that had disowned one of their daughters because she committed what must be to them the unpardonable sin.   She dared to question their beliefs.  She dared to question whether it made sense to live a life that is full of nothing other than spewing hatred towards any and everyone that does not follow the Bible the way that they see fit.

Now, in case you're not familiar with what Westboro stands for, allow me to fill you in a bit.
They are famous for showing up at events around the US and holding up signs that proclaim  such things  as "God Hates Fags" and "You're Going to Hell".   And then there's their picketing of soldiers funerals because they believe that their deaths are God's doing as punishment for America abandoning it's morals.

I'm usually pretty dismissive about this group's shananagins, becoming momentarily disgusted and then moving on, but this situation with one of their children got to me.

How in the name of a loving God can parents treat this child the way that they've treated her? I understand what it means to have a faith in Jesus and to desire to live that out in the most consistent way possible.  But to treat those closest to us, our family, children especially, with such flippant dismissal is abhorrent to me. I could go off on a rebuttal to all of the theological "points" that Lauren's parents made in the video, but that's not the point of this post.  Maybe in another, I will.   But, I guess I just wanted to express my frustration at how some people who claim the same faith as my own, could twist it in such a way and cause such great  harm to their children and those around them.

   Here's a very telling video I came across recently that also made my heart sink when it comes to how Christians are often viewed in our society.

Video by Brian Garcia - http://www.tacolamp.com

Why can't we be more like this?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why Christian Veganism? A guest post.

 Sometimes I come across arguments from fellow Christians that vegetarianism and certainly veganism are indefensible in light of Scripture. And I've also been confronted in print from those who would say that the very nature of my faith, due to some seemingly brutal portrayals of animal treatment in the Bible, is incompatible with an animal protectionist viewpoint. These comments were made by those who might call themselves atheists, agnostic, or simply spiritual, etc.  

 But, it is possible to have a compassionate, nonviolent view of animals that is not at odds with Christian belief.  Today, I want to share with you the words of a friend of mine who not only voices a compelling and provocative argument for veganism from a Christian perspective, but is a fabulous cook as well! :-)

A Kingdom Ethic of Eating by Shlomy Goldman
He Has Compassion On All He Has Made” ~Psalm 145:9b

 When I was four I wanted to be a rabbit doctor. At eight I boycotted veal, and at ten I stopped eating cows and pigs. I didn’t know vegetarianism was even an option, but at sixteen I became friends with a vegan kid who introduced me to the horrors of factory farming—debeaking, tail docking, de-horning and castrating without anesthetic, egg hens crammed in filthy battery cages, their useless male chicks suffocated or ground up alive, cows manipulated to produce so much milk that their udders bleed with infection while their male calves are sent to cruel “veal crates,” intensive confinement of pigs, and gruesome slaughter of billions of animals every year. I couldn’t accept this anymore than I would if these conditions were imposed upon our family dog. In fact, the daily, standard routines imposed upon virtually all animals in our food system would be considered felonies if done to our pet cats and dogs. I also learned about industrial animal agriculture’s egregious consequences on the environment, the global poor, and public health.

 Needless to say, I went vegan. I intuitively understood that there was something deeply wrong with exploiting people, animals, and the environment, and with needlessly killing innocent creatures, simply because I had acquired a taste for them. Six years after going vegan, I became a follower of Jesus, even though Christianity was completely alien to my upbringing and mentality—but that’s another story. Over the years, as I’ve matured in my faith and biblical worldview, my vegan ethic and lifestyle have taken on a new and deeper dimension as I’ve come to understand the mercy and compassion that God has toward His creation…

 That humans, the pinnacle of creation, are uniquely created in the image of God has deep implications, namely that our intended identity is to be like God. An integral way this is fleshed out is in our dominion over creation. Christians in the Creation Care movement have rightfully affirmed that this “dominion” is not one of exploitative subjugation but rather of responsible stewardship, characterized by compassion, mercy, and a loving concern for its flourishing, just as God exercises His dominion over us. Let us not forget, “creation” not only refers to the environment, but also the animal kingdom—sentient beings fully capable of experiencing pleasure and pain. Yet, the unfortunate reality is that our use of animal products is the greatest cause of unspeakable animal suffering and deaths. We grossly pervert God’s creation by denying these creatures the lives He intended them to live.

 Due to the falleness of the age, God has allowed various concessions, such as slavery, divorce, and eating meat. Yet, concessions are not endorsements. The thing about the Bible that resonates with me is its prophetic relevance—its ability to speak to the longings of the human heart, and address the issues of any age, transforming individuals into the image of God, and moving all creation toward the Kingdom of God. In spite of concessions, God has communicated his loftiest ideals that we are to move towards. Prophesying about the Kingdom of Heaven, Isaiah tells us that animals and humans will harmoniously coexist; “they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:6-9).

 Some argue that we should care for animals because they’re just like us, while others presume we have the right to use animals as we see fit because they’re not like us. Both perspectives are flawed. Biologically, we may be like animals, but spiritually we are uniquely created in the image of God, which compels us to rise above our animal nature and live according to our spiritual nature. To suggest we can use animals because we’re above them is self-refuting; it calls us to operate from principles of animal behavior, denying the ethical and moral imperatives rooted in our spiritual nature, the very thing that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. That we are above animals gives all the more reason for us to care for them, to not live as slaves to the food chain and the amoral cycles of a fallen creation, but to resemble God, operating from a higher spiritual nature, one defined by love, one that calls for compassion over killing, for spiritual redemption over natural selection.

 A great barrier in our spiritual development is the disconnect between our beliefs and our daily living. Compassionate eating is a practical spiritual discipline, an empowering opportunity to incarnate biblical values into our daily lives, embracing our role as caretakers of creation and ministers of reconciliation. A move towards a healthy, plant-based diet is not asking people to adopt foreign values and concerns; rather, it’s an invitation to live in accordance with the beliefs and values most people already hold—biblical values such as peace and compassion, justice and mercy. Doing so not only bears witness to God and His Kingdom, but we as individuals are blessed with the inner peace and joy that comes from maintaining consistency between what we believe and how we live.

 The ordinariness of eating is the very reason why it has such extraordinary effects on the world. Because we do it so often, its ripple effects reach so far. In his article Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation, Calvin College philosophy professor, Dr. Matthew Haltmann writes: “The links between what we choose to eat as individuals, and the flourishing or languishing of God’s creation as a whole are much more direct than we often believe.” Aside from its many health benefits, a vegan diet not only saves the lives of countless animals, but it is the most effective thing we can do to reduce our environmental impact. According to the U.N., animal agriculture contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than all forms of transportation combined, in addition to being a leading cause of deforestation, pollution, and natural resource depletion. As it takes exponentially more land, grains, and water to produce animal foods rather than plant foods, a plant-based diet frees up immense amounts of resources for the poor and hungry of the world. People, animals, and the environment are three inter-connected parts of the whole created order. The flourishing or languishing of one inevitably affects the others. Biblically even, we know that the fall and redemption of creation is linked to the fall and redemption of humans. The Bible informs us that the fall of creation resulted from Adam’s fall from God, and that Jesus, the new Adam, reverses the curse, reconciling man to God, and in turn all creation. In Jesus, God has ordained “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col 1:19-20).

 We live between two poles—the Garden of Eden and the Kingdom of God. This is the story we find ourselves in. Christianity is based on the hope that Jesus’ death and resurrection are the catalysts for redemption and reconciliation, paradoxically restoring Eden, by redeeming the fallen creation, to realize the Kingdom. We’re to be ambassadors for Christ by living as citizens of His Kingdom here and now, peeling back the veil between this world and the next, pursuing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, living testimonies of the World to Come. On an individual level, this involves sanctification, a process in which believers are being conformed to the likeness of Christ—the image of God. As the Holy Spirit continues this process in us and renews our minds, Jesus calls us to be active participants in this transformation—“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Rom. 8:19).

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness
Thereof. Oh, God, enlarge within us the
Sense of fellowship with all living
Things, our brethren the animals to
Whom Thou gavest the earth as
Their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that
In the past we have exercised the
High dominion of man with ruthless
Cruelty so that the voice of the earth,
Which should have gone up to Thee in
Song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not
For us alone but for themselves and
For Thee, and that they love the sweetness
Of life even as we, and serve Thee in their
Place better than we in ours.”

~prayer by St. Basil of Caesarea, fourth century church father