why i don’t eat animals

Cover of "Eating Animals"

Cover of Eating Animals

For my long trip this past week, I knew I would need something to keep me entertained in the car. I love to read, but doing it in a vehicle usually ends in tears (or at least nausea) for me. I decided to give audio books a try, and so I downloaded “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer (of “Everything Is Illuminated” fame) to my iPod.

“Eating Animals” is the story of Foer’s decision to delve into what exactly is it we’re eating when we pick up a pork chop or chicken nugget and pop it into our mouths, something that became important to him with the birth of his son. Though Foer is vegetarian, it’s not a book that tries to convince you that’s the only way to eat; instead, Foer discusses the horrors (and really, it’s awfully horrific) of factory farmed animals’ lives and deaths.

Before reading (or rather, listening to) this book, I was already a vegetarian. My reasons were mainly those of health: having psoriasis puts me at a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and, quite frankly, eating meat just made me feel bad and often triggered flares or mini-flares. It just wasn’t worth it to eat animals anymore.

After listening to this book, my decision to go veg is now also influenced for reasons of animal welfare, if not necessarily animal rights. The atrocities Foer mentions are unnecessary but an unsurprising by-product of a system (factory farming) that sees animals as dollar signs and workers as expendable.

I just don’t see the need to pay into that system, to give my farming proxy, as Foer put it, to some big corporation shoving antibiotics and God knows what else into these animals, keeping them as sick as possible because that maximizes profits.

So, now, my goal is to make sure none of my dollars go to factory farms: not for eggs or for dairy. In fact, I’m going to minimize my use of those two groups by either doing without or using substitutes. (If anyone knows of any good ones, please send them my way! I haven’t had much luck with dairy substitutes.)

Now, I’ve just got to convince the Professor to stop eating factory farmed meat and go with locally raised animals, and we’ll be all set. And if I could get people to stop accidentally feeding me animal products (I’m looking at you, quinoa cooked in beef bouillon) or telling me lobster/fish/poultry isn’t meat (duh, of course it is; those are all animals), then I’ll really be good to go.

So, if you’re interested in food, animal welfare or rights, public health, increases in autoimmune disorders, vegetarianism or you just eat meat, this is a must-read.

new turkey(less) day plans

Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008

Image via Wikipedia

My vegetarian journey is going pretty well. Meat (of any kind: pork, beef, poultry, seafood; some people keep making me things with seafood in it because it’s not meat, apparently) is definitely one of my triggers; every time I accidentally eat some (there are animal products in tons of things I never would have thought of), I feel pretty terrible the next day.

Now, since the mister and I are going to my in-laws for (American) Thanksgiving, I’ve been trying to find some vegetarian options, so I would have mountains of mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce for dinner that night. Once again, the New York Times has pulled through for me. On their health blog, Well, they’ve created a new feature: Well’s Vegetarian Thanksgiving. Every day until Thanksgiving Day, they’re adding another vegetarian recipe perfect for the holiday. Right now, I’m loving the maple roasted Brussels sprouts, the Thanksgiving roasted root veggies and the skillet macaroni and cheese, and so many more.

So, now I’m psyched again for a tasty Thanksgiving, even if it’s not the traditional one I remember. Thanks, New York Times!

what’s for dinner

So, I decided to try the Mexican chopped salad with crunchy tortilla strips Jen of Jen Loves Kev posted on her blog awhile back.

It. Was. AWESOME.

There is a ton of chopping and prep work involved, so it’s not a meal to take on if your hands are hurting. But the outcome is delicious. I used fresh sweet white corn that I chopped off the cob, and it really made the salad. I doubled the amount of dressing made, and if there’s any left over, it will make an amazing marinade later in the week. Tim put some chicken he’d made up earlier in the week and some goat cheese crumbles and he said it tasted really yummy as a non-vegetarian salad that way.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Tortilla strips

1 t canola oil

3 6-inch tortillas (I used whole wheat ones, and they were delish)

chili powder

salt

Salad dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

2 t cumin

2 t coriander

1 t sugar

1 t salt

1/3 cup lime juice

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

pinch cayenne pepper (I just used more chili powder)

Salad

Romaine & spinach (I just used spinach)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 avocado, sliced (I used two because I love avocado)

3 celery stalks, sliced (I left this out by accident. Oops!)

1 cucumber, diced

1 cup corn (I used about four cobs, minus a handful that I just ate)

1/2 cup cooked pinto beans

1/2 cup cooked black beans

1 red pepper, sliced

1/3 cup red onion, sliced (I didn’t feel like cutting red onion, so I cut up the rest of the green ones.)

Prep

1. To make the tortilla strips: Preheat oven to 350*. Brush the tortillas with the canola oil. Cut in half, then into 1/4-inch strips. (I used a pizza roller for this, and it was super easy.) Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. To make dressing: Heat olive oil, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt and sugar in a saucepan on low heat for two to three minutes. Blend remaining ingredients with oil mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth.

3. Combine everything and toss the salad with the dressing.

And that’s it!

It was super tasty and pretty easy, too. I’m super excited about the leftovers I get to bring to work tomorrow (as you can see).

Nom nom nom, indeed.

I’m noticing now that I’ve made the jump back into being a vegetarian that I’m cooking more — and enjoying cooking, too. I like seeking out recipes that appeal to me, sure, but I’m also on the lookout for those that I could easily turn into a non-vegetarian dish for the mister. It’s an interesting challenge, but I’m definitely liking it.

So, I would love to hear your vegetarian recipes! What have you found works and what doesn’t?

going to the green side

I was thinking about all of the hullabaloo generated by self-avowed carnivore and psoriatic arthritis sufferer Phil Mickelson’s apparent change to a vegetarian diet to control his PsA and the inflammation it brings. Though there seems to be some debate over the validity of this, a few studies I found seem to have found a link between a vegetarian or vegan diet and reduced inflammation, like this one.

It got me thinking. When I was in high school and through part of university, I was a vegetarian — though I did still eat some dairy. This was after I was diagnosed with psoriasis, though the good doc never mentioned anything about it being an immunological disease. But within months after going back to eating meat (including rare steak: yum!), I developed psoriatic arthritis.

Now, I’m not trying to say steak caused my PsA. (Though, wouldn’t it be nice if getting rid of a chronic disease was as easy as saying good-bye to steak?) Still, I decided to give it a try again. Sure, it may not do much of anything for me, but, at this point, I’m willing to give almost anything a try.

To that end, I made a (modified) version of the grilled portobello tacos with salsa verde from Vegetarian Times. I had planned on making the salsa verde, but after a particularly terrible day at work (preceded by two 12-hour days), I decided to pick some up from Trader Joe’s instead. I also used the Trader Joe’s broccoli slaw instead of cabbage and I used whole grain tortillas instead of white flour ones. Oh, and I added a smidge of cheese.

It was awesome.

I should have added more salsa verde, but other than that it was really great. I am glad I still have all the ingredients, so I can make some later in the week, too.

If all my vegetarian endeavours are this tasty, I’ll be golden! Or, um, green.