In February 2012 I decided to try a month of eating a plant-based diet. More than a year has gone by, and I am more committed to this than ever. But I have been silent lately. I think I have been feeling like whatever I am doing is not enough. And an effort to balance something that is so important to me, with understanding that I cannot influence anyone else truly.
Despite being silent lately, I do have ideas and plans. I’ve discovered what I really want to do in life. I want to use my art: design and illustration to help make people aware of the impact we are causing to the earth by our food choices. I know that this is the most important thing I will ever do. I want my children to know that I tried to help when they are faced with a future very different from what we hoped.
Sorry to sound so ominous, but sometimes the truth and the facts of the harm we are doing to the earth is so muffled with the cravings of sushi and the opening of new restaurants completely focused on meat, that it is hard to fathom.
Only when we are too far to recover, will we be forced to take the steps needed. I’m not saying this lightly. Our planet simply cannot sustain our appetites. Our oceans are turning acidic. A huge amount (18-30% depending on study) of green house gases are caused by the animals we are raising for food. These are choices. I can recite more facts- but everyone just tunes out. Or says how much they like bacon.
And that is why, I hope that I can illustrate these concepts in a way that will be more interesting and compelling in some way. I believe in this. What started out as an experiment, has become something much more.
I appreciate all of you who have continued to read my thoughts, especially if you do not agree. Thank you.
What a terribly sad week this has been. There was a shooting at our local mall that killed two people (and the shooter), and then following right on it’s heels- a school shooting in Conneticut that killed 20 innocent children, and 6 brave teachers trying in vain to protect them. I’m buying gifts, going to work, loving my children, but I can’t stop thinking about all the families who have been affected by these tragedies.
I’m afraid this will lead to people wanting to rush out and buy more guns out of fear and to try to protect themselves. I’m sorry to say, that won’t work. If someone wants to kill you, I promise you can be killed. It is possible that sometimes you can use a weapon in self-defense, but how many of us are prepared at any moment of the day against someone with a plan, automatic weapons and body armor? Do we want to live in fear, armed and constantly on guard?
These young children really touched a nerve in me. I don’t want us all to move on and forget that their lives were brutally taken from them because we allow automatic and semi-automatic weapons to be purchased by just about anybody. Yes, there are problems with mental illness that need to be addressed, but without the weapons, that shooter could not have killed so many, so quickly. His mother bought the guns to protect herself, and they were used against her.
I want those Sandy Hook families to know that their children’s deaths meant something to this nation. That we care enough to change what we are doing.
I know I can’t change anything by myself, but if we all keep pressure on making an amendment to the constitution that will PROTECT our citizens, we can do what other countries have done, and make it more difficult for this type of massacre to happen again.
I haven’t been to church in many years. My mother is Jewish, and I couldn’t accept that if you don’t believe in Jesus you would not be saved, since this would condemn half my family to hell. And if I believed only the Jews were the chosen ones, then what about the good, kind Muslims and Hindus I had met? I believe that all religions are actually worshipping the same God. And that in the name of religion, or people claiming to be doing God’s will, atrocities have been committed. These horrific events that happen are not God’s will. I can’t fathom this cruelty, and I just hope that those who have suffered have found light.
Let’s bring love, compassion and peace into the future- not more hate, violence and guns.
Though my soul may set in darkness,
it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly
to be fearful of the night. — Sarah Williams
I’m going to write some thoughts on each of the main reasons why people would avoid eating meat: animals, the environment, our health.
There are other reasons, surely, but these are most common.
The animals are the touchiest of the topics. They bring out the vitriol in the comments on online articles, and in person. I don’t think you have to be an animal lover, or a vegetarian to have compassion for other living creatures. Whether a cow is destined to be turned into hamburger or compelled to make milk, it seems like at the very minimum we could reduce their suffering in making these sacrifices.
I doubt there is an argument that I haven’t read (or heard) about why we should eat meat that can outweigh the indisputable environmental impact we are causing just so we can eat more meat than is even healthy for us. I haven’t even been able to convince some of my closest family members to look at real footage from factory farms. I think we all know it is bad, but we don’t really want to know how awful because that will make our lives more difficult.
If you are hoping your meat was from animals that didn’t suffer terribly, consider that 99% of the meat we buy is from factory farms. The problems with factory farms deserve their own post. Just because something TASTES good, does that overwhelm all other reasons for making hard choices?
Yes, we CAN eat animals, but does that mean causing extreme suffering is acceptable? As humans, we need to show humanity. We have all the power. And they can’t speak.
I never realized before how deeply meat is embedded into our culture. Once you decide to eat less meat, or go vegetarian or vegan, it is kind of a shock to see how difficult it can be to find good meatless choices. We put meat into almost everything sandwiches, soup, pizza, salads and the list just goes on.
Hawaii was one example, but since it is an island, it does have certain limitations. And I don’t see a tofu luaua happening soon. In August we went to Eastern Oregon, the home of Painted Hills beef. In all of the restaurants we ate over those 3 days, there were either no meatless choices, or maybe grilled cheese for the kids. I was able to order my salads without meat, but none of them were originally meatless. Since there was no veggie option, I ordered a hawaiian pizza without the ham causing complete confusion. It is not the kind of place with true cowboys and cattle ranchers lounging around that you want to mention vegetarianism too loudly.
While in California yesterday for a quick business trip, my client suggested Black Bear diner in Napa. It looked very country and homey. Out of ALL the many lunch (and dinner) options on their extensive menu- there was literally only 1 vegetarian option. An iceburg salad that was just not very good.
At the airport in Sacramento, hoping to get something better for dinner, I surveyed the choices in Gate B area. Mexican cafe- chicken or pork were the 2 options listed. You could ask for it without meat, but then it is just rice and beans. Not to mention if you want to avoid cheese too. A grilled vegetable option would have been all that was needed.
The sandwich place and food kiosks all had meat in them. There was one pizza that was veggie- but if you don’t want the cheese? The burgers place did have a veggie burger option. I am suspicious of veggie burgers since they are not all created equally. Some can be delicious, but most are just some frozen store-bought patties that have been sitting around in the freezer forever since no one orders them. There is a big difference between having an actual vegetable option like a portobello sandwich that is equally as good as the other items on the menu, or having some kind of bland default or back up item.
I’m just bringing this up because I would like restaurants and cafes to actually provide good options and choices, and not make it so difficult. Have some delicious vegetarian and vegan options, and people will eat them.
At our office, the little coffee shop offers pastries and sandwiches from local bakeries. The owner orders little vegan pies- usually roasted vegetables. Those seemed to do well and he started also providing a vegan sandwich filled with hummus and roasted eggplant that is truly delicious. Those have become very popular, and probably not only with vegans.
It shouldn’t feel like you are getting the leftover dregs if you don’t eat meat. I’ll continue to support the restaurants that make an effort, and hope that their success catches on. I’ve never been to a vegan restaurant or bar in Portland that wasn’t busy. In cattle country, it would be difficult, but if people don’t even have the option, how can they choose meatless?
This doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Try eating LESS meat. If you still eat red meat, only buy the very best grass-fed beef from local farmers. Be picky. If we stop buying the mass-produced meat, maybe practices can shift. The meat worship- putting bacon in ice cream, donuts, etc is just bizarre.
I’ve been doing a LOT of research. I’m looking at studies about how Americans (and other countries) are doubling their meat intakes- with corresponding rising health issues. I’m reading about the environment being decimated to produce enough grain and water for the animals. There is also the issue of the animal welfare- and how the treatment is so horrific and unhealthy- it is inhumane.
If you are not interested in health, environment, or animals. Do it for your kids. Who may have to be vegetarian by 2050 out of necessity not choice. Who will never have a chance to eat wild fish because we’ve destroyed the oceans with our greed to eat as much meat as we can without regard to the rest of the world or the future.
You don’t have to cut everything out if that seems too difficult, but the move is going to happen this way anyway just based on our limited resources. Can we slow down the process rather than speed it up?
If you are reading this, then you might be curious about veganism, vegetarianism, or why someone might suddenly switch to a different eating style after 42 years. I’m as surprised as anyone else. If this was a religion, I would be “born again”.
I literally feel like I was living in an alternate universe, and was pretty much oblivious to a lot of issues. My eyes have been opened, and I don’t see how I could ever forget.
All of us over 30 years old or so grew up in a time and place that is VERY different than it is today. We’ve had a population explosion- over 7 billion people live on this earth- it was 3.6 billion when I was born. We have twice as many people to feed. Many countries are much more developed, and they want the same standard of living that we have. The ice caps are melting- global warming is happening faster than predicted.
We can’t live the same way our parents did, or that we did a few decades ago, and have the same quality of life. It is not sustainable. When I was very young, we didn’t put babies in carseats, young children didn’t wear seat belts. Would anyone suggest we continue that practice despite what we have learned, and know how we can save lives?
It is not all about the animals, although they do play into this. I grew up believing that it was okay to eat animals because they were raised for us to use as food. With that reasoning, can you say it is okay to enslave some people because they were raised for that purpose? The process used to convert animals into food is wasteful and cruel, and it is creating an enormous environmental impact.
I think I actually started this journey based on more the health implications of a plant-based diet, and that now is the least important aspect to me.
There is an alternate universe that exists, if you are willing to look at it. It is a hard truth.
I’m passionate about this, but don’t worry, I will not be converting you directly on the playground or elsewhere. I’m not asking anyone to do anything- except to keep an open mind.
It has been awhile since I posted. While I haven’t been scanning my daily meal drawings, I have continued to research and delve into the whole vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.
The line between vegetarian and vegan seems to be huge, and I feel like I sit on the fence on it, but am ready to jump off. If you are vegetarian, there are plenty of food options, people seem much less intimidated to invite you to dinner, you seem a lot less, I don’t know, judgmental or uptight.
I always viewed veganism as being too extreme for me. It turns people off and is just more difficult. I did eat vegan strictly for one month, and have cut back on all dairy and eggs at home.
As I have learned more about the dairy industry, and egg production, I can’t enjoy these products. There are so many options here in Portland, it is pretty easy to find delicious alternatives.
I’ll admit, it is hardest for me on the social side. I feel rude sometimes, or like a difficult guest to stick to my food choices. Especially since all my life I have had no restrictions or food allergies. I know it has caused us to be off the list of guests at times for dinner because it seems really hard for the menu planner.
I would rather bring a salad, and join friends, than be left out of a gathering for our food preferences. I would guess that most vegans don’t expect the main course to be catered to them, and are happy to have a side dish to eat, or bring something to the dinner to share, that they can eat. I don’t know for sure since we don’t know many other vegans- but that is how I feel. I imagine it is the same for the gluten-free folks as well.
One weekend this summer, we had our good friends visit. We’re mostly vegan, they are on the paleo diet. Sounded like it might be a nightmare for mealtimes, but in fact it was fine. We focused on the foods we could share- fruit, vegetables, nuts… and for shared meals put the grains, breads, legumes on the side for us. Meat, fish and eggs on the side for them. It was surprisingly easy. If it can work with those two extremes, it can work with anyone.
Although I still feel like being flexible in some situations about dairy or eggs (for example, I see nothing wrong with eating a fresh chicken egg from someone’s backyard chickens), I’m going to stick more closely to my plant-based diet. Hopefully I can share some of the new foods and delicious recipes I’ve discovered with others.
I am really curious and surprised to see how my ideas and feelings have changed in the last 4 months. I am afraid at times I may seem too evangelistic about eating vegan, and I am trying not to sound preachy in any way, because that is not how I feel.
I do feel like my eyes have been opened to another world. but after 40 plus years of eating meat, I definitely don’t feel superior or whatever other attributes are attributed to vegans. In fact, I’m not completely vegan in any way, I am still seeing where I end up on this path. At this point I eat about 75% vegan I would say.
One thing I find very interesting is how, when we are children, we are told that it is okay to kill and eat animals for food. Most kids see a disconnect in how animals are viewed and treated. I read this tweet today from a fellow parent with a 3 year old daughter:
Me: “Now, this is just a story, see. In the real world, we don’t *kill* people.” Daughter: “Right. Just animals.” Me: “Uh… Right.”
My own daughter begged me for a long time not to eat animals, and I put her off because in my mind she was immature and had not evolved her understanding fully enough to realize that there are shades of gray in loving some animals as pets or in some settings, while eating others. I’ve listed the reasons earlier on why I am not eating meat, and it is much more complex than just love for animals. I will say that Clio started me questioning my way of thinking, even though I was raised as a meat eater. Children definitely shape us as much as we shape them. While in the past, we always allowed Clio to have her own vegetarian option, now our whole family has slowly joined her, including Gavin.
Wherever you are in your thoughts, isn’t it interesting that as children, most of us have to be taught that eating animals is okay?
I actually have kept up with the sketches on and off. I got out of the habit of posting, but have had some people tell me they enjoyed the posts. I do plan to start back up again. I think my birthday would be a good time to start- Wednesday, May 23. This month also marks my 3rd year yogiversary. I’m feeling good about it, but have pretty much plateaued with my practice. I plan to do yoga 4 x/week rather than the current 3. My mom is now an avid yogi. She was telling me today how she could never convince anyone to do it, but she loves it so much. It’s true. I had wanted her to try it for awhile, but she wouldn’t. These things have to come from inside.
Now back to the food. The drawings started to get a little boring because I was always eating the same thing. Green smoothies, apples, etc. Even when we went to Hawaii, it was not that exciting- just more pineapple and coconut juice from the source. And by the way, what’s the big deal about shave ice?
Let me preface this description of Hawaiian food by saying I am not complaining about the trip at all, I would happily go to Hawaii again even if all I had to eat was rice the whole time. However, Hawaii is not especially friendly to vegetarians. Think about a luau. Everything is fish, pork, chicken or beef. I ate fish twice while there simply because there were no vegetarian options. And the weird thing is, I didn’t enjoy the fish. I’m not sure if there was something wrong with it (for $27 there better not have been!) or if my tastes have simply changed. It does make it easier to skip meat when you don’t crave it at all.
So, the newest thing I have been doing, is trying to make delicious vegan food. Not just sticking to rice and bean stuff. I discovered SporkOnline during a Groupon deal or something. It is really informative, and they make cooking great vegan food look pretty easy. You can watch a sample dinner for free on their website. I’m also pretty excited about the recipes on Holy Cow. The spinach mushroom curry was so good.
So many people think they cannot give up cheese, or milk, or whatever. I understand! I lived in France for a year and the cheeses were the best part. But, something changed, and now when I taste vegetables and fruits- they taste so much more amazing. When I do have cheese, it really doesn’t taste that good.
Looking forward to starting the sketches again in a few days, and hope to get some new guest artists to send in their sketches.
More drawings are coming soon! I have faithfully recorderd up to Feb 12. Then, I guess I got really busy with work and Chika leaving. I may have to skip 5 days of this month. I am still eating vegan. Except for a few small bites of cheese cake, and a couple bites of pastries that I pretended to think might not contain eggs or butter.
It has been WAY easier than I thought. My cravings for eggs, butter, cheese, and milk have pretty much gone away. Meat does not sound good. There seems to always be a vegan option available so far.
The bad news is, I didn’t lose a miracle 10 pounds like I thought. Jonathan had the same experience with the new scale. For some reason, it registered a high weight initially, but now seems more accurate. I have no doubt that staying on this plan would help me lose weight gradually though.
I don’t view what I am doing as a diet. It limits some food choices, but I can eat whatever I want from the many options I do have available. I am getting a little worried about the amount of soy I have been eating. I discovered yesterday that hemp milk tastes just fine in a latte, so I will try to keep the soy consumption down a bit. Tofu is just such an easy, tasty option. I made an eggless egg salad with it, and a vegan lasagne where the tofu substituted for ricotta.
After this month, I will probably add in eggs from local chickens. I buy them from a place where the chickens are just hanging out, and I don’t have any problem with treatment. Otherwise, I picture chickens with their beaks cut off, crammed together in filthy conditions. Free Range and Cage free can mean that they just have a small yard, or a door open for 5 minutes a day. You can read about it here. The pictures are not pretty- but sometimes the truth is not pretty.
All my life, I have been trying not to think about where the meat came from- cooking my hamburgers until they are so well done, no blood comes out. Only buying meat with no bones or skin. Avoiding any fish with heads still attached. I finally feel my eating is aligned with my feelings about animals, and it feels really good. Do we really just not want to know how our food is produced?