Thursday, April 27, 2006

Food For Thought ...

Pat, my fellow blogger pal, wrote a fab post entitled "Pat's New Dietary Shit." Pat's going to cut back on his animal intake. Good man.

Yesterday, I made my first-ever recipe out of one of Dr. Neal Barnard's books. He's the president of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine whom I've mentioned before, and he advocates a vegan lifestyle.

Part of my reason for doing the cleanse (aside from simply seeing if I could do it) was to jumpstart my healthy eating plan.

I confess to mixed results on that front. My pre-cleanse eating habits were rather sane, so it's not like I've been trying to shift from a total-crap diet to sticks and twigs, but I do really want to cut out meat and dairy. Cutting out meat and dairy immediately eliminates a lot of foods: Sausage pizza, cheeseburgers, (God help me) Reuben sandwiches and mom's lasagne ... I'm allowing for a transition period.

Shifting from omnivore to herbivore, however, requires active thought. Like last night, when I needed to go to the grocery store, and thought, "Oh, I should pick up some yogurt." And then I thought, "No. Not unless it's soy yogurt, and your grocery store doesn't sell soy yogurt." And frankly, soy yogurt doesn't sound very appealing anyway. I do soy milk. I do soy burgers. I do soy protein bars. And edamame rocks. But soy yogurt? Hmm. Well, maybe. I'll try anything once.

When I was on the cleanse, I realized just how much food is a part of our lives. It's almost always available. The first day of the cleanse, the chick at the bank drive-thru tucked a couple Tootsie Rolls in my envelope of cash. I put them in my car's console. Couldn't eat them. Of course, I've eaten them since going back on food.

Likewise, now that I'm trying to cut meat and dairy out of my diet, I'm realizing just how much of it we eat. Mom was always good about serving salad and a vegetable with dinner, but the main event was always something meaty. Steak was our default entree. When I got sick of steak, mom would grill chicken for me. I'm sitting here trying to think of any vegetarian entree she might have served and I'm coming up with nothing. Whopping surprise, Beth. We used to buy a side of beef at a time. We had an entire upright freezer in the basement ever-stocked with neatly wrapped packages of butchered cow.

I tried the vegetarian thing in high school for a while (no meat, but eggs and cheese were OK). I gave up the cause for one of my mom's hot ham and cheese sandwiches. No, seriously, they're that good. She minces onion and mashes it into butter along with some garlic and spreads that on really good rolls and piles up the off-the-bone ham from a butcher in Wisconsin (that supplied the freezer in the basement with the cow) and Velveeta cheese and wraps 'em in foil and puts 'em in the oven. Oh. My. God. Yeah, I liked The Smiths, and Morrissey says meat is murder, but well, faced with a ham and cheese sandwich, I didn't care.

These days, my dietary choices are driven less by animal cruelty (though Chicago just banned foie gras - Mayor Daley says we should deal with real problems, and I gotta say, the man has a point, though it's sad, what those ducks and geese are put through just so people can pay too much money to eat their livers) and more by an ever-increasing understanding of how our systems deal with (or, more to the point, don't deal with) animal products. Not to mention the hormones animals are fed and some of the gross shit that's in our milk supply.

Still, there are some foods I just don't want to give up. John's cheesy grits with andouille and shrimp on Memorial Day? Hell, that's the best part of English Teacher Dave's annual cookout. So I'm signing up to be 85 percent vegan, good most of the time, but allowed to make select exceptions. Every year, mom asks me what I want for my birthday dinner, and every year, I want her lasagne. I won't ask her to amend the recipe with soy cheese and texturized vegetable protein. Some things are sacred.


Anonymous Ethan said...

I think the tough question is going to be how much of your life you want to sacrifice for ostensibly ultra-healthy eating.

Jesus fed the masses with fish, after all, so even he wasn't a Vegan (or if he was, he didn't foist it off on everyone else). Anyway, you'll find your personal balance in due time.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget all the books, diet gurus, and vegan extremists. Best healthy eating advice... "Everything in moderation".

9:48 AM  

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