Friday, January 29, 2010

Random food gift experience #1: Trader Joe's Seashells.

Technically, this should be #2, but #1 might take longer to write about, and it’s Friday, and I never said I was consistent, so there. I always thought I’d be the one to present people with nonvegan foods that were inadvertently given to me, but recently the reverse has happened.

On Tuesday, a coworker showed up at my door with a box of chocolates. Trader Joe’s 70% Cacao Belgian Dark Chocolate Seashells, to be precise. Now this dude has given me treats before—homemade trail mix at Christmas, and some kind of blondie-toffee bar that I gave to Red because it wasn’t vegan. My choice to be vegan is, I think, somewhat of a puzzlement to him, but he is very respectful about it and seems to enjoy the challenge of figuring out what I eat.

As it turns out, someone had given his mother the chocolates, and she doesn’t like dark chocolate. She gave them to him, but he’s trying to watch what he eats, so he understandably wanted them gone. We had established months ago that I can, in fact, eat chocolate, and that dark chocolate is my cacao product of choice. He ever-so-thoughtfully brightened my Tuesday morning with a box of dark chocolate deliciousness. As you can imagine, I thanked him profusely.

My printer, complete with the Evil Monkey.

But are they vegan? I wondered after he left. Dark chocolate almost always is, but I’ve been conditioned to check first. Trader Joe’s had slapped the kosher and gluten-free logos on the front of the box, but no magic V. I checked their list—not there either. I scrutinized the ingredients—no dairy of any kind. What gives, Trader Joe’s? The best I can figure is that since the chocolates are made on equipment shared with milk, Trader Joe’s won’t label them as vegan. Makes sense. If someone has a hellacious dairy allergy, they might want to stay away from these puppies.

And they are delicious, too. My coworker tried one once I opened the box, and now he’s kicking himself for giving them away. I’ve been limiting myself to one a day, though this is by no means a guarantee that I haven’t also enjoyed other chocolate during the day. They have some kind of fudgy dark chocolate filling, so they are more like truffles. Aren’t they cute?

Now, if you'll excuse me, my one-a-day truffle is calling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Veganism = Crazy good sex.

You heard it here first! An animal-friendly life can lead to better, more frequent orgasms. Before we get too deep into this, however, let me dash your hopes by declaring that we will not be discussing my sex life. *sadface*

Self, that worthy publication, has included in its latest issue several women’s secrets for hitting the jackpot. At the very top of the list, behold the following:

“Since going vegan, I’ve felt healthier and more energetic, which has translated into stronger orgasms.” —Chloe, 33, New York City
Sing it, sister! Way to get your motor runnin’ with tofu and veggies. Self follows up Chloe’s assertion by confirming that, yes, healthy lifestyle choices can lead to better sex. Nicely done, Self.

Full disclosure: I’m not praising Self to high heaven. I subscribe because I bought some stuff from Amazon last year and they kicked in a free subscription. Since I like the workouts and fitness tips, I re-upped my subscription for something like $9. Then that whole airbrushing-hot-Kelly-Clarkson-into-skinny-Kelly-Clarkson debacle happened, and I decided I wouldn’t be subscribing anymore because I don’t need my healthy-living magazines to be perpetuating such dysfunctional nonsense. I can go to Vogue for that, thankyouverymuch. (I don’t, because I’m afraid of Anna Wintour.)

I’m glad that Self readers are getting the message that vegans are not a humorless, clammy bunch staring morosely into our miso soup. Vegans are here, we’re hot, and we’ll rock your socks off in the sack!

Dirty socks ripped from West Seattle Funblog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eating them in order to save them?

I’m about a week late on this one, but hipster cavemen distracted me. Long story short, a Rhode Island organization called SVF is dedicated to preserving heritage animal breeds. This is a great goal and one that I initially applauded, because we’re losing so much biodiversity at such a tremendous rate. Cryopreserving animal embryos is a little intrusive for my abolitionist taste, but I was determined to finish the article before suspending judgment. After all, Tennessee fainting goats are pretty cool and I would hate to see them disappear, if only for my own selfish goat-admiring reasons. Definitely read the full story; I always recommend reading New York Times articles since they’re usually interesting and well-written even when the topic is totally batshit. However, given that it ran in the Dining & Wine section, I should have known. Always, Burnout—you should know by now that if it’s in the Dining & Wine section, chances are it’s going to piss you off.

So, what would compel a scientific facility to specialize in freezing animal embryos against extinction? Are you envisioning a high-tech Noah’s Ark, a potential peaceable kingdom just waiting to be transplanted and carried to term? Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t say I’m surprised: “[T]he foundation’s four-legged barnyard nerds are ideally suited to meet the demands of evolving culinary and farming trends. ‘People are demanding choice at a time when commercial livestock are being bred for consistency,’ [SVF executive director Peter] Borden said.” In short, these animals are valuable not for themselves, but because they might possibly be deemed worthy of slaughter and consumption by discriminating diners. “Ultimately, food is the reason heritage breeds are important,” he adds.

SVF’s chief scientific advisor doesn’t sidestep around it, either, calling it a “safety valve program” and suggesting, “[i]f there was a disaster, if something like the potato famine of livestock ever hit, these frozen embryos would be made available, and in one generation we would be back in business.” Or you know, people could stop eating meat because we don’t fucking need it anyway and everyone whining about how being a locavore means "Oh, I can eat animals as long as they weren’t raised on mean, nasty factory farms" can just cowboy up and eat their veggies. Snark aside, that doomsday scenario is not as impossible as it sounds. As we’ve inbred and genetically altered animals for our desires—bigger, fatter, more disease-resistant—they’ve paradoxically become weaker and lost that hybrid vigor. Many can’t breed naturally or groom themselves as they normally would, and one good virus could conceivably wipe out millions of animals. Heritage breeds, previously ignored by humans for their lack of consistency, are now being prized because we haven’t had the opportunity to similarly fuck them up. Sorry for what’s in store for you, fainting goats and Hog Island sheep, but Borden says it best: “We have to eat these animals to save them.”

Clearly, I beg to differ.

This Tennessee fainting goat is clearly way cooler than we are. I mean, can your horns do that? Photo by Mike Mergen for the New York Times.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Paleo-what?

I thought I was hip to diet trends—after all, I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about food. Low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, Mediterranean, Japanese, no white foods, don’t eat after six, vegan until dinner (bwahahahaha), you name it. Yet the New York Times, that venerable institution, has enlightened me. Are you ready? Then behold, my darlings, the paleo-diet.

Once you’re done spluttering “What the fuck?” at these suave young urbanites who take pride in their meat lockers, blood donations, and days-long fasts (all designed to approximate the living conditions of early humans), let me know, because then we can have some fun. Believe me, I’m all for eating whole foods and not adulterating our diets with chemicals and preservatives and all that crap. But unless you’re actually planning to die at 30 as our ancestors did, this seems like a huge waste of energy. Never mind. They’re not interested in escaping modern life, just eating like they have.

Now, I realize that I’m basing my rebuttal on the Times piece. Perhaps my unwillingness to go deeper than the first few Google hits (one of which proudly links to an article entitled “The Na├»ve Vegetarian,” which I’m sure is a masterwork of scholarship unto itself) bespeaks an intellectual laziness, but the Times article is a feature, after all, not a conclusive examination of the modern caveman. (Curse you, Geico, for all the caveman pop-culture nonsense thou hast wrought.) So really, perhaps this will tend more towards an indictment of the silly, silly people the Times decided to profile. Well, then, so be it.

First, you’d probably like to know exactly what one eats on a paleo-diet:

“The caveman lifestyle, in [John] Durant’s interpretation, involves eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits. These urban cavemen also choose exercise routines focused on sprinting and jumping, to replicate how a prehistoric person might have fled from a mastodon.”
Okay, Mr. Hunter-Gatherer. It was probably more like gatherer-hunter, but if you’re not going to cite your sources, then I won’t cite mine. Fleeing from a mastodon sounds like an excellent workout indeed, and I’m always in favor of whatever exercise gets you off the couch and moving your ass. At this point, I was mildly bemused, despite the sadness that gripped my heart at the prospect of no more bread or pasta. Then, my new friend decided to firmly locate himself at the intersection of Privileged White North American Male and Sexist Jackhole: “I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do.” And he wonders why female guests might be turned off by his living-room meat locker?

In case you’re wondering, a woman, Melissa McEwen, is included in the article. She’s the token female among Durant’s cave-clan. Interestingly, she also refers to herself as a hunter-gatherer, despite the fact that both activities are tough to accomplish in New York. Yet she’s far from the most colorful character—‘scuse me, cave-person—profiled. That honor goes to Vladimir Averbukh, who takes his cave-diet to the extreme by eschewing tomatoes—“Cavemen don’t eat nightshades”—and eating his ground beef raw. Raw, people! Even for omnis, isn’t that horribly dangerous (see: digestive tract, NOT SHORT) as well as freakin’ gross? Cavemen, vote him off the island.

Oh, and lest you think that our cave-friends are happy to non-confrontationally bop around in their prehistoric corner of New York, think again: “They regularly grumble about vegans, whom they regard as a misguided, rival tribe.” YES! We did it! We succeeded in annoying a dozen New Yorkers who eat raw meat and argue over the appropriateness of tomatoes! We have threatened their meat lockers and jerky-making lessons and blood donations! My fellow tribe members, gather round. This calls for a celebration. Cruelty-free lasagna and cookies at my place tonight. Victory is ours!

How'd that TV series work out for you, ABC?

Ladies, stop using football as an excuse to collaborate in your own oppression.

So, as happens on many Sundays, there was a football game yesterday. Actually, there were probably several, but I refer specifically to the Ravens-Patriots game. As you may have noticed, you couldn’t pay me enough to care about football. I checked the score only because I work with rabid Ravens fans and needed to know whether they’d be safe to approach this morning. The Ravens won; had they not, I could have reasonably looked forward to a quiet day at work.

Now, we’re all aware that athletic prowess is “masculine” and “macho”; to perform poorly on the field deems a player weak. It feminizes him. “Bitch,” “pussy,” “girl”—these are not terms unfamiliar to members of a losing team. Kelly @ Easy Vegan has explored this far more deeply and eloquently than I can, so I encourage you to visit her blog and learn more about the intersection of oppressions—specifically, the link between misogyny and speciesism.

Obviously, it’s bad enough when men engage in this misogynistic trash-talking. It’s pointless, it’s demeaning to men and women, and it makes you look like an unreconstructed fool who has no interest in getting laid. (“Oooh, baby, your blatant disgust for women gets me soooooo hot.”) (Obvs, I’m privileging the heterosexist paradigm here; I have no doubt that asshole football fans count plenty of gay men among their ranks.)

But what really chapped my ass yesterday were the following Facebook status updates, courtesy of a female friend:

“Can anyone explain to me why no one has told Tom Brady that his tampon has failed him and everyone can see his period stain on his pants?”

“TOM BRADY IS GONNA WEEP LIKE A BITCH TONIGHT! HOLD YOUR VAGINA AND CRY ME A RIVER, BABY!!”

And with that, my jaw hit the keyboard and I had to wander to the freezer for some ice to numb the swelling. Disregarding the fact that the Patriots’ loss couldn’t have been entirely Tom Brady’s fault (since when does a game’s success or failure rest solely on the quarterback, BTW?), her responses gutted me with the force of their self-hatred. Unconscious self-hatred, I’m sure, but there it is.

Can she not see that referring to femininity as less-than, as a curse, harms her far more than it does anyone who could possibly give a shit about football or Tom Brady? Wouldn’t it piss her off if someone disregarded her opinions because she’s “just a girl,” or told her that she must be in a bad mood because she’s “on the rag”? Wouldn’t she call that person out for his (or, let’s be honest, her) unthinking misogyny? How can she celebrate everything that makes her the wondrous being that she is, while at the same time using those very attributes to disparage another? How can she, an educated, intelligent woman, merrily engage in the very behaviors that reinforce her status as a second-class citizen?

I don’t have any answers. (For what it’s worth, said friend is omni and told me off for linking to Ari Solomon’s HuffPo piece on “vegangelicals.”) It’s Monday morning, and I have a fuzzy head and heavy heart.

Ladies, woman up and cut that shit out. It’s not cool, it’s not funny, and it sure as hell isn’t empowering.

Fuck yeah, I do. Ripped from Pure Arts Hawaii.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ed Block Foundation issues statement, says nothing.

I know we’ve all been busy with the holidays and all, but sadly, animal cruelty and the support of same by the status quo never take a holiday. Recently I told you about Michael Vick’s controversial selection for the Ed Block Courage Award; then, I shared the letter I wrote to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation expressing my consternation and the hope that they would question the decision of Vick’s team to reward his behavior. I know I’m not the only one who’s been waiting to see what the Foundation’s response would be.

I wanted to be happy when they finally issued a statement. Then, I read it. It’s short, so I’ll reproduce it for you here:

Since its inception in 1978, the Ed Block Courage Award has been presented to NFL players that were selected solely by their teammates. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation cherishes its relationships with the NFL and each NFL Team. This year the Philadelphia Eagles selected Michael Vick as their 2009 Recipient. Our Foundation has a great deal of respect for the Philadelphia Eagles organization, Head Coach Andy Reid and the Eagles Players. Michael Vick is just one of 32 NFL players that will receive an Ed Block Courage Award for 2009. The focus of the Foundation is and always has been to raise awareness and prevention of child abuse and we are proud to add 32 new Ambassadors of Courage along side of us in our journey to break the cycle of child abuse and reach our goal of a Courage House in every NFL City.
FOR REAL. That’s the best you can do, Ed Block Courage Award Foundation? Did you let an intern write that? Was your PR person on vacation? After all the calls and letters and emails I know you’ve received, this half-assed “But we’re doing it for the chiiiiiiilllldren” is all you can muster?

Whatever I was expecting—and I try not to expect too much in situations like these—clearly I set the bar too high. Thanks for encouraging Baltimore’s downward spiral, Ed Block Courage Award Foundation.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stealth veganism, He-Man style.

Several weeks ago, we here in the Eastern United States got spanked with over a foot of snow. Our humble suburb topped out at 22 inches, which is quite a lot. Our plans for the weekend were understandably curtailed, and so we found ourselves engaging in three major activities to ward off cabin fever: shoveling snow, baking cookies, and watching movies.

Well, you can only shovel so much, and eventually the sugar ran out, which left us with the spoils that Netflix had so proudly delivered pre-snowstorm. Chief among these was the 1987 masterpiece, Masters of the Universe. Having been a He-Man-loving kid, Red was psyched. “Is She-Ra in this?” I asked suspiciously, thus outing my own loyalties. She wasn’t, but something even better was: a gem of a scene in which the Eternian visitors are grossed out by the Earthlings’ habit of eating animal flesh.



If you can’t view the clip, here’s a play-by-play:

Duncan (or Man-at-Arms) and Teela find Gwildor hiding in the bushes outside a fast-food joint. He’s purloined some fried chicken parts and cow ribs. He’s guzzling barbecue sauce when Duncan stares him down and he decides to share. They dig in.

Duncan: Mmm...good food.
Gwildor: Yes! I’ve never tasted anything like it.
Teela: I wonder why they put the food on these little white sticks?
Duncan: Those are rib bones.
Teela (gagging mid-chew, horrified): You mean this used to be an animal?!
Duncan (continuing to eat, undisturbed): Mm-hmm.
Teela (dropping her rib): Ugh! What a barbaric world.

Suffice it to say, that warmed my cold little vegan heart more than blankets and fuzzy socks could. By the power of Grayskull, I salute you, Teela.