Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Why I Don't Eat What I Don't Eat - Part 1

(I want to note that I'm not a nutritionist or an expert of any sort. My dietary choices have come about through lots of reading, research, and talking to friends and family who are nutritionists and experts. If you're thinking of making any dietary changes, I'd encourage you to do the same for yourself. My hope is this post might prompt you to start doing your own research but please don't make any changes based solely on my opinions.) 

Spoiler Alert: I'm not vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian. I know some of you that know me are currently confused. Maybe it's sending you into a downward tailspin where you're wondering what else you've been lied to about. Are you, in fact, adopted? Is this real life or some dreamed up cerebral reality like The Matrix? Is Santa even real? I can't really answer any of those other questions for you. But I can explain why you might think I'm vegan.

When people invite us over for dinner I always remind them that I'm vegan, which is actually not true at all. I wear leather shoes. I love leather shoes. I love wearing leather shoes. My animal-friendly choices pertain only to my eating habits. So technically I'm someone that eats a plant-based diet. And I like local honey. So not even close to a vegan. But that's confusing to most people. So I say vegan. Then Seth will chime in with, "Well, you eat meat." And here we go. So now I have to explain to our unsuspecting well-meaning potential host that, yes, I do in fact eat meat. I eat wild-caught fish (not farmed). I eat organic grass-fed, hormone free beef (not grain-fed). I eat organic-fed free range chickens and local free range eggs. I eat organic grain and grass fed, hormone free, nitrate free pork. Are you getting the picture? That's a really long and unnecessary response to, "Would you guys like to come over for dinner Friday night." It's really easier to just say vegan. Let them feed a me a dairy-free salad. I will eat it and I will like it.

Seth bringing home the bacon...errr...wild-caught mahi!

And while the truth is that I eat appropriately fed, hormone and antibiotic free meats, I don't really. Not often. Because they're frickin' expensive. And hard to find on this island. (Although Gourmet Gallery has been upping its game lately folks. Me-approved turkey sausage and turkey breast has arrived in a freezer case near you!) So I've had to decided if I'd rather eat more meat of a quality I don't approve of or less meat overall. You can judge by the previous paragraph which direction I've taken.

That's $10.95/lb. ladies and gentleman! We make it last a few meals.

I'd like to say my choices were made because I couldn't allow myself to eat that big juicy adorable hamburger, I mean cow, but that's not the case. True, if I was ever left in the wild to fend for myself with only fruit trees and a cow I probably wouldn't ever slaughter Old Bessie myself. I can admit it. I also have no desire to perform surgery on someone's clavicle but I certainly didn't have any problem allowing someone to perform surgery on mine. Twice. So I don't mind that someone else is humanely slaughtering my hamburger for me. I do have a problem with the terrible feed lots that livestock grow up on. I'm glad my choices mean I'm not contributing to them. But my drive is fueled mainly by what's in the meat, not how cute it is when it's alive.

He's cute, but I'd eat him. As long as he was raised on a GMO-free diet.

My goal is to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Seriously, research them. They're no good. Livestock that grew up on feedlots ate them. When I eat the little bits and pieces of that livestock, I eat the GMOs too. Because foods with GMOs aren't labeled I don't know if I'll ever be able to avoid all of them. My meat choices are just one big step toward avoiding a lot of them.

But the good guys are out there too, the farmers that refuse to raise cattle (and pigs and chickens) that way. They have to charge more for their meat because if they're not feeding the animals cheap GMO grains, the feed costs more. It costs more to have pasture with organic grasses for the cows to live and graze on. Those farmers also don't get the government incentives that come with feeding the cows genetically modified corn and soy. But cows aren't supposed to eat corn and soy. They're supposed to eat alfalfa and clover and good green grasses. So I support those good guy farmers with my dollars. Even if it's just a few dollars. I buy the amount of meat my budget affords and that is the amount of beef/chicken/pork/bison/fish/turkey that I eat.

And you thought this only happened in insurance commercials. Wrong. It also happens in Virginia.

And I eat a lot of beans and a lot of grains. Yellow split peas have insane amounts of protein. So do lentils. Both cook up in less than 30 minutes. Brown rice is good, but so is jasmine rice boiled with cumin. We always have quinoa and bulgar around. There are always frozen black beans in the freezer. Garbanzo beans too. Eating without meat means you have to be either very creative or very boring. I've learned to use a lot more spices and flavor combos. I've learned to properly cook dried beans (it's a combo of overnight soaking and boiling the next day, plus a bay leaf). Right now I'm reading about the benefits of soaking grains as well, but I'm not quite ready to go there. Maybe in a few weeks...or years.

I didn't get here overnight. It was a process. It's still a process. I knew where I wanted to end up, only eating organic properly-fed meats, and I started taking steps in that direction. Eventually I'll get around to writing part two of this manifesto. Why I don't eat dairy. But for now this is all my brain can put into not quite grammatically correct sentences.  I hope it's helpful. Especially for those of you who are planning to invite me to dinner sometime soon.


  1. I love this - great explanation of what you eat and why. I saw you mentioned something about humane, so if that's part of the reason be careful about equating organic & humane - they aren't the same. There is very limited labeling for humane. Not 100% sure if that's a concern for you or not, but thought I'd add that. :)

    1. Grass fed or free range are the closest I can find in the freezer section to "humane." In the end, all I know is that they're just more humane than feedlots but who knows how much more. After hurricane season (and the potential of long power outages thawing our freezer) we're going to try and order beef directly from a farm in Florida that we know treats their cattle in a humane way. I also found a local chicken source and to hear him talk about all the work he does to care for those chickens I'm surprised he's even willing to slaughter them!

  2. this is a great post! i'm in the beginning stages of this process now. i've started looking into "locally grown" grass-fed, free-range, and organic. surprisingly, we do have a decent amount of options where i live. it IS more expensive, but hey you get what you pay for, right? there is so much i don't know yet, and i'm just getting started. but i'm taking baby steps.