And here we go again. August 10, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, wit and wisdom.
Tags: attacks on vegans, locavores, organic gardening, vegans, vegetarians
Silence Dogood here. I just read a blog post about a farmer and passionate locavore (someone who promotes local, regional, in-season foods). So far, so good, right? But then the guy started attacking vegans for being self-righteous. He pointed out that it takes a lot more fertilizer to grow vegetables than, say, cattle.
Well, of course it does, if you raise your cattle on grass. You put your fields into pasture and let your cattle out in them to wander and graze. The cattle enjoy being out under the blue sky and they enjoy grazing, as they evolved to do, and on the plus side, they give back to the fields as they go along with all-natural fertilizer. As long as you don’t put more cattle on the fields than the ecosystem can support, you have a balanced system, at least until the grass dies back in late autumn. Then it’s time to butcher the cattle or feed them on grain or silage until the following spring.
By contrast, if you’re an organic gardener, as our friend Ben and I are, you don’t really focus on growing plants. You focus on growing soil. The fruits and vegetables you raise are a bonus that you get for creating rich, balanced, wonderful soil. You compost your table scraps, you have an earthworm composter, you’re constantly thinking of ways to enrich and improve the soil in your garden beds. You scour the neighborhood for bags of grass clippings in spring and summer and leaves in fall. You beg your neighbors for their clippings and scraps; you ask your local grocery what they do with their spoiled produce. You shred paper not to conceal your personal data but to feed your worm composter and compost bins.
Yes, this is certainly more work than letting a field go to grass. But that’s not the point. Vegetarians and vegans aren’t trying to save work by not eating meat. They’re trying to save the world by not eating meat. They’re trying to point out that killing our fellow creatures also kills us, because it deadens us to the deaths of others. They’re trying to say that becoming sensitized to what we put in our mouths might make us more compassionate to all life, to each other. It might keep us from starting and perpetuating wars.
There are plenty of other ways to try to save the world, and people who choose to eat meat can do a world of good by taking those paths. I don’t think it’s appropriate or kind to condemn anyone based on their dietary choices. You may eat meat, but teach in a prison. You may eat meat, but visit the dying in hospitals and hospices. You may eat meat, but volunteer at an animal shelter or drive for Meals on Wheels or donate time and money to Habitat for Humanity or the Peace Corps. Who am I to judge you?!
But please, who are you to judge me? Please stop attacking me because I’m a vegan who can’t bear the thought of killing animals just to feed myself when I don’t have to. Let me live with my choice in peace, as I let you live with yours. Let me fertilize my garden, and grow my vegetables, and eat them without being attacked for doing what I see as right. Stop trying to justify your meat-eating by attacking me for not eating meat. If you want to eat meat, eat it. If I refuse to eat meat, so be it. There’s plenty of room in this world for us to coexist.
‘Til next time,
Become vegan, eat junk food! August 2, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: lies about vegans, Marie Claire, sloppy science, vegans
Silence Dogood here. Having been a vegetarian all my adult life, I’ve seen a lot of slings and arrows flung at vegetarians and vegans over the years, and been hit with more than a few myself. I really thought I’d seen/heard it all. but this morning, the Yahoo! home page linked to a post titled “Is the world’s healthiest diet making you sick?” Wondering if some flaw had been discovered in the Mediterranean diet, or if doctors were saying the Japanese penchant for pickled vegetables was giving them stomach cancer, I clicked on the link.
Instead of either the Mediterranean or Japanese diets—arguably the two healthiest diets on earth—it was an article on the vegan diet, and from such a reputable source as Marie Claire, the fashion magazine, no less. Doubtless a step up from The National Enquirer but quite a few down from The Lancet.
I’ve never heard anyone claim that a vegan diet is provably healthier than any other diet on earth. But I have read many nutritionists’ legitimate concerns that teens who give up their burgers because they don’t want to be eating Bambi or Thumper aren’t usually well-schooled in nutrition and can become deficient in any number of vitamins and minerals, not to mention protein, unless they and/or their parents make a study of protein complementarity and really start adding a wide variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans (not to mention nuts, avocadoes, and other healthy sources of oil) to their kids’ meals. Vegans need to make sure they’re getting B12, D3, and omega-3 in supplement form as well, and pre-menopausal women need to take a supplement that includes iron.
But I digress. Getting back to the article, Marie Claire had managed to dig up a certified nutritionist who announced that lots of people became vegans so they could eat junk food! Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never encountered a single human being who felt it was necessary to justify eating junk food, much less make a drastic dietary change in order to do so. Picture it:
“French fries are made from potatoes, and potatoes are vegetables!”
“Eating this huge blob of cotton candy has not harmed other life forms… oh, wait, what about cotton?!”
“I keep reading that popcorn is good for you, so that’s why I’m gorging on this gigantic bucket of movie popcorn loaded with rancid, chemical-laced oil and washing it down with a giant soda!”
“I feel great about wolfing down an entire loaf of white balloon bread slathered with peanut butter and jelly!”
No, people, no. Nobody—despite the cards and cartoons, despite everything we read or hear—thinks this way. There is junk food that’s hidden, like sports drinks and power or breakfast bars, not to mention children’s cereals like Lucky Charms. And there’s junk food that’s overt, the chips, the sodas, the candy, the desserts, the deep-fried everything. But eating or not eating them has nothing to do with being a vegan. Either you choose to eat them, whatever your dietary persuasion, or you don’t.
For a supposedly reputable nutritionist to say that vegans choose to become vegans in order to justify eating junk food is disgraceful. But I suppose it’s no more than one can expect from a fashion magazine that promotes wearing fur.
‘Til next time,
The vegetarian’s dilemma. July 13, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: conformity, happiness, individuality, Match.com, meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians
Silence Dogood here. I just read that a Match.com survey of 4,000 people revealed that 30% of meat-eaters wouldn’t date a vegetarian or vegan, as opposed to just 4% of vegetarians who wouldn’t date a meat-eater. This brought back memories of my mother’s horror when I became a vegetarian: She was sure I’d never get a date again.
I guess I was lucky. I dated a hugely committed vegetarian when I was still a meat-eater, and it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. Everyone since has eaten meat while I was a vegetarian, and they didn’t seem to have a problem with that. My ex-husband, who ate meat while we were married, became a passionate vegetarian after our divorce. And our friend Ben, who eats meat when we dine out, has been very contented with my vegetarian home cooking and has made a real effort to man up to my new vegan cuisine.
The only thing that surprises me is that the percentages on both sides aren’t considerably higher. Bonding over food is one of our strongest ways to connect with others and to assert and reinforce our group identity. And meat is the food of the elite, the strong, the manly. The wealthy can afford to have their personal chefs prepare the seafood-based diets that keep them thin; for the rest of us, a steak is the ultimate luxury, and fried chicken or barbecue or a pepperoni pizza or burger the ultimate comfort food. My mother was right to be worried. Whatever sets you apart from your group isolates you, and we humans are inherently social beings. We want to belong, and if belonging means conforming, most of us try hard to fit in.
Then there are the rest of us, the ones who want to wear clothes that are flattering to us rather than the current styles; the ones who couldn’t care less about celebrities and mindless shopping; the ones who’ve never smoked a cigarette or taken drugs, and who don’t drink beer because we don’t like the taste and aren’t willing to cultivate it just to fit in. The ones who are bored to tears by sports and sitcoms and reality TV and refuse to waste their precious time watching them just to be part of the crowd. The ones who want to make their own decisions rather than being manipulated and told what to do.
Match.com, and my mother, are here to tell us that there’s a high social price for going our own way. But I’m living proof that it ain’t necessarily so. And there’s one thing I can say for sure: Avoiding the pressure to pretend to be someone you’re not makes for a wonderful, enjoyable life.
As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”
‘Til next time,
A vegan who eats meat. February 19, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: flexitarians, fruitarians, locavores, macrobiotics, omnivores, raw foods, vegans, vegetarians
1 comment so far
“I’m a vegan who eats meat.”
Silence Dogood here. Browsing some cookbook reviews on Amazon yesterday, I came on one that began with the sentence I quote above. What the bleep?! Was the person being sarcastic? Had they given up dairy and eggs, and thus considered themselves to be “vegan” while still chowing down on burgers and steak? Or were they just, like most of us, confused?
I decided to take a stab at clarifying the dietary definitions bombarding us these days, with new ones seemingly cropping up daily. Here’s my list:
Omnivores. Humanity’s natural state—a state we share with bears, dogs, monkeys and apes, pigs, chickens, rats, and many others—in which we’ll eat anything as long as we can get our hands on it and it’s edible.
Locavores. Those who eat foods they can source locally or regionally. Locavores can be omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, or any of the other categories that follow.
Flexitarians. People who are vegetarian, except when they want to eat meat. (“I’m a vegetarian who eats meat.”) In other words, omnivores who eat less meat than other omnivores.
Piscatarians. People who eat fish and seafood but not meat. From the Latin pisces, fish.
Vegetarians. People who don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or derivatives that involve taking life, including meat stocks and broths, gelatin products, products made from animal rennet, fertile eggs, caviar, and etc. Vegetarians will eat dairy and/or infertile hens’ eggs.
Vegans. In addition to the prohibitions followed by vegetarians, vegans don’t eat dairy, eggs, honey, and anything made with yeast. They also won’t wear leather, fur, and, I assume, silk. Needless to say, there is no such thing as “a vegan who eats meat.”
Raw foodists. As the name implies, these folks won’t eat anything that’s been cooked. I assume they’re vegans, but for all I know, they may be wolfing down sashimi, steak tartare and wichitti grubs with the best of them.
Fruitarians. These gentle, super-vegan souls refuse to eat anything that is still growing, including leaves, stems and roots. They’ll only eat seeds, nuts and fruits that would have dropped from the plant anyway. This means that tomatoes, corn, grapes, apples, peanuts and sunflower seeds are fair game, but carrots, onions, potatoes, spinach, asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce and the like are strictly verboten.
Macrobiotics. I’ve saved this one for last because it’s so much more complicated than the others. In some ways, it’s closest to a healthy vegan diet, but it appears to be like that solely for health rather than moral reasons, since, though it bans meat and shellfish, white-fleshed fish is allowed.
A vegan, after all, could subsist on peanut butter and jelly, potato chips, and chocolate, and be perfectly entitled to call themselves vegan, as long as it wasn’t milk chocolate and the chips hadn’t been fried in lard. People who follow macrobiotics are on a different path, one based in pre-industrial Japanese eating habits.
To be macrobiotic, you must embrace a truly health-conscious diet, including whole grains, beans, green leafy vegetables, winter squash, sea vegetables, and traditionally made soy foods like miso and tofu. The emphasis is on eating seasonally and moderately, eating fresh, whole foods, and choosing organic, local food sources.
All this makes sense. Where macrobiotics differs from other diets is its focus on matching food to climate. It divides the world into temperate (four-season) and tropical (two-season) climates, and advises its adherents to eat the foods produced in the climate where they live. Here in our part of scenic PA, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, eggplant, bananas, cashews, coconut, pistachios, mangos, figs, citrus, pineapple, artichokes, zucchini, and asparagus, not to mention most herbs and spices, coffee, black and green tea, herb teas, chocolate, and frozen foods, among many others, are banned. Which means that even though your garden here in PA is bursting with asparagus, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, you’re not supposed to eat them. The reverse would be true if you lived in a tropical climate. What you should eat if you’re a native of India, Guatemala or Mississippi who moves to Vermont, I have no idea.
Has this helped, or simply confused the issue even further? If I’m missing any categories, please fill me in!
‘Til next time,
Vital statistics. April 22, 2010Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Edible Landscaping, food gardening, fruit gardening, growing edibles, herbs, locavores, potager, vegans, vegetable gardening, vegetarians
Good news for vegetable gardeners! Our friend Ben was paging through this month’s copy of greenPROFIT/GROWERTALKS magazine when my eye was caught by Ellen Wells’s editorial, “Edible Endeavors.” One paragraph provided some amazingly encouraging statistics for all of us who love to grow edibles. I quote:
“This is… what the Garden Writers Association Foundation found in its 2009 Edibles [sic] Gardening Trends Research Report conducted in November: More than 41 million U.S. households (38%) grew a vegetable garden; 19.5 million households (18%) grew an herb garden; 16.5 million households (15%) grew fruits; 7% (7.7 million households) were new to edibles [sic] gardening; about 33% of experienced gardeners grew more edibles in 2009; and 37% of households reported plans to increase their edible gardens in 2010.”
Wow. How exciting! Finally, gardening with edibles has arrived, not just among the cognoscenti but across America. No wonder Michelle Obama is planting an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn and venerable nurseries like White Flower Farm and Logee’s are offering an amazing selection of edibles, from tomatoes to olives to coffee trees and vanilla orchids to passionfruit and citrus. But our friend Ben thinks this trend has taken its own sweet time. After all, the last time growing edibles was trendy was in the Victory Garden era of World War II.
Then, with the boom years of the Fifties, growing your own food fell into disrepute. The idea seemed to be that you should grow ornamentals in your landscape and get your fruits and vegetables from the grocery, that growing your own was somehow shabby, not respectable, even trashy. And unfortunately, this perception endured for decades.
The youthful Ben would wander through my beloved Grandma Simms’s backyard with its vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and even a peach tree, as if visiting Paradise, it seemed so exotic. Certainly, no vegetable dared show its head in our home’s Colonial landscape, and when a German family moved into the neighborhood and began growing corn in their front lawn, they became instant outcasts and were the talk of the whole area. Shocking!!!
Fortunately, influential voices were raised in favor of edibles throughout the “all flowers, all the time” era. There was a big revival of interest in growing edibles in the 1970s, fueled by Organic Gardening magazine, by the popularity of Helen and Scott Nearing’s homesteading classic, Living the Good Life, and its sequels, and by the Back to the Land movement.
Ruth Stout’s books on mulch gardening, The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book and How to Have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back, proclaimed that vegetable gardening didn’t even have to be the backbreaking endeavor brought to mind by truck gardens of the era. John and Betsy Jeavons insisted that yes, it did, with the publication of the first edition of How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine, introducing Americans to the concepts of double-digging, Biodynamics, and French Intensive gardening. But the complexity and one-upmanship inherent in Jeavons’s sytem was countered by Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution, which introduced readers to the Zen of gardening and reinforced that it didn’t have to be hard.
A generation largely raised on frozen and canned vegetables, TV dinners, and other “convenience foods” had had enough. But they were viewed as Hippies and radicals, an idealistic and foolish fringe. Flower gardening still reigned supreme.
The one “respectable” voice championing food gardening in the ’70s was that of Jim Crockett, whose pioneering PBS gardening show, “The Victory Garden,” took its very name from those vegetable gardens of old. Crockett grew ornamentals, including houseplants and greenhouse plants, as well as edibles, on the show. But his cheerful approach and easy-to-follow month-by-month format won the show and the books spun off from it a legion of admirers, even in the suburbs. The Stepford Wives and their Toro-riding husbands were still in charge of the landscape, but there were definitely cracks in the veneer.
By the ’80s, it looked like corporate culture was going to be the death knell of vegetable gardening. In the era of Yuppies and “upward mobility”—emphasis on mobility, move every two years at your company’s command and to hell with what that does to family stability, children’s sense of security, and sense of place—who’d want to do anything to the faceless, cookie-cutter house and property you’d bought in the new place? Not only would you not be there long enough to enjoy it, but it might reduce the property value when it was time to resell!
Thank God, the ’80s also brought new forces to bear on the fight for edible gardening. Edible landscaping, a concept pioneered by Rosalind Creasy in her books The Complete Guide to Edible Landscaping and Cooking from the Garden, as well as by Robert Kourik and others, showed gardeners that vegetable and fruit growing didn’t have to be an eyesore. Bill Mollison’s Permaculture made its way from Australia to America, reinforcing the idea of planting dual-purpose plants (for example, nut-bearing shade trees) and landscaping for self-sufficiency.
Upscale food-plant-focused seed companies, such as The Cook’s Garden and Shepherd’s Garden Seeds, began offering gourmet varieties that had previously only been available in Europe, Central and South America, and Asia. Composting became a backyard phenomenon. City dwellers began rediscovering the venerable community gardens that had been thriving in their communities for decades. And that enduring blockbuster, Square Foot Gardening, took the fear factor out of vegetable gardening once and for all.
The ’80s also produced the largest rise in awareness of environmental issues, including pollution and what chemical-based farming and gardening were doing to our food and our planet, since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring. Buying organic produce began to move into the mainstream, out of the health food stores and into Whole Foods, Wegman’s, and the like. People began making an effort to eat better and use fewer chemicals. Organic finally went mainstream. But food gardening? Not yet.
Then came the ’90s. Now at last was the era in which chefs and their restaurants, like Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, gained national, even celebrity, attention. The organic vegetable gardens backing many such restaurants were prominently featured in the press, along with the small-scale organic farmers who supplied them with produce.
Potagers and kitchen gardens were hot. Vermiculture, earthworm composting, took the gardening world by storm. Farmers’ Markets came into their own, as more people became hooked on the freshness and variety of the produce and the relief of knowing where their food came from. Heirloom vegetables became the hottest trend in food, and companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and organizations like The Seed Savers Exchange thrived. Martha Stewart and her ilk made food gardening trendy, not trashy.
People also became fascinated with the Amish and the Pueblo cultures of the Southwest, where folks grew and preserved their own food and always had. And books like Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower’s Four-Season Harvest and Leandre Poisson’s Solar Gardening assisted gardeners in temperate climates to produce food even when the temperatures plunged outside. During the ’90s, back-to-basics magazines like Backwoods Home, The Mother Earth News, and Back Home were enjoying a renaissance as they helped people learn basic gardening and cooking skills.
The concept of eating seasonally was gaining ground (pardon the pun). And the threat of Y2K was encouraging more people than ever to learn how to grow and preserve their own food. Other ’90s trends: vegetarianism becoming accepted; edible flowers; broccoli and other sprouts; maitake, shiitake, and other “miracle mushrooms” being added to cooking for health; ”spring mix” and mesclun salads; more exotic cuisines (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Cuban, Ethiopian, Turkish, Moroccan, Spanish tapas, sushi, etc.) going mainstream; “spa cuisine.”
Fruit finally came into its own in the 1990s, too. Books like Lee Reich’s Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention, Roger Yepsen’s Apples, and Lewis Hill’s Fruits and Berries for the Home Garden helped make the seemingly arcane prospect of growing your own fruits and berries plausible.
At last, the first decade of the 21st century. The rise of the CSA (consumer-assisted agriculture, aka seasonal subscription farming) is at hand, where people sign up for a season’s worth of produce, paying in advance, and the farmers provide them with an ever-changing assortment of seasonal organic produce. Veganism and raw foods take the stage. Locavores make a determined effort to eat only foods produced within a 100-mile radius. The Slow Food Movement has inspired people to cook from scratch and avoid fast food.
Even mainstream supermarkets are highlighting local produce. With obesity a national scandal and Monsanto a national disgrace, more people are making the effort to avoid “Frankenfoods” and chemicals and invest in fresh, organic foods, fresh air, and health, for us and for our land and the creatures we share it with.
Our friend Ben would like to see edible landscaping come into its own in the new decade awaiting us. Here at Hawk’s Haven, Silence Dogood and I make a conscious effort to plant fruiting ornamentals like elderberries and pawpaws, choose vines like hardy kiwis and grapes to climb our arbors and trellises, choose nuts like hardy pecans and filberts (hazelnuts) when we need new trees and shrubs, plant roses that provide beauty and nutritious, vitamin-C-rich rose hips like Rosa rugosa, and grow cherries instead of flowering cherries, apples instead of crabapples, pears instead of ‘Bradford’ Callery pears, and the like.
We choose herbs for container plantings, grow as many tropical fruits and spices as we can cram in our greenhouse in the winter and on our deck in the summer, and try to grow as much fresh produce as our raised beds and greenhouse can produce. What we’re not able to consume fresh, Silence knows how to preserve for delicious meals in fall, winter, and spring. These days, people don’t even look at us oddly when we say we have a little flock of heritage-breed chickens. They just ask if they can have some eggs.
It looks like almost 40% of Americans are joining us. We hope with all our hearts that soon that number will climb to 100%. Whether you’re growing one potted tomato on a balcony or a potager or a full-scale edible landscape, hooray for you! Go for it and enjoy. We know we do!
(Er, a footnote is needed here. When covering whole decades of garden history, much is bound to be left out, at least when our friend Ben is acting as historian. The revival of herb gardening prompted by the likes of Jim Duke, Varro E. Tyler, Maud Greave, Adelle Simmons, Bertha Reppert, and Rosemary Gladstar, among many others, is just one example. Alan Chadwick’s Biodynamic gardens in California, John Seymour’s homestead arts, and the Foxfire series are others. If you think I’ve left something out that needs to be mentioned, please comment here! It would be great to fill in some of the many blanks.)
To label is human, to shut up, divine. January 28, 2010Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: flexitarians, fruitarians, locavores, omnivores, piscatarians, vaguetarians, vegans, vegetarians
Silence Dogood here. I just read a blog post about “vaguetarians,” and of course it set me off. Maybe it’s because I had to work so hard and give up so much to become a vegetarian. But maybe it’s because I just don’t see the point.
We already have vegetarians, folks who don’t eat meat, fish, fertile eggs, gelatin, lard, caviar, etc. Then we have vegans, folks who don’t eat any of the above or any type of dairy product, egg, yeast bread, or honey. At the farthest extreme, there are fruitarians, who only eat fruits, berries, grains, rose hips, and other produce that would naturally fall off the plant, as opposed to killing plants in order to harvest them. (A fruitarian would eat squash or rice, but not lettuce or onions.) There are also locavores, folks who make a great effort to eat food produced locally, usually on small family-owned organic farms. (You can cross over here and be a vegetarian, vegan, or fruitarian locavore, if you enjoy amassing as many labels as possible.)
Then there are the folks who call themselves vegetarians but eat fish. Last time I checked, fish were in fact animals. Why these people would call themselves vegetarians is beyond me. I myself refer to them as “piscatarians” (as in Pisces).
But beyond the piscatarians, there’s a wide world of people screaming to be labeled. “I’m a vegetarian because I eat mostly vegetables.” (This is an actual quote.) “I’m a vegetarian; I only eat chicken and fish, no red meat or pork.” “I’m a vegetarian except when I eat hot dogs and hamburgers.” I’ve heard all these, many times over. This strikes me as akin to saying “I’m a teetotaler, except I drink beer and the occasional Scotch.” And now we have flexitarians, who’re vegetarians except when they’re not, and vaguetarians, who would sorta kinda like to be vegetarian, or at least have other people think of them in those terms, no matter what they’re eating.
By the time we reach this point, I have to ask, why?!! Why seek out a label for yourself when you basically eat anything and/or everything, just at graduated intervals? Why not skip the label and just eat?
Simply have to have that label? Not a problem, we already have one for you. It’s the oldest and most inherent label around, the eating style that enabled us (and monkeys, parrots, pigs, chickens, dogs, bears, and many others) to survive and thrive, wherever we found ourselves. It’s been raised to an art form by celebrity chefs, and celebrated in local cuisines the world over. So if you must have a label, wear it with pride. When someone asks, “Are you a vegetarian/vegan/locavore/whatever?”, smile and say, “No, I’m an omnivore. I enjoy it all.”
‘Til next time,