Rant: Why I’m Vegetarian

Dear Meat-eating friends and family, 

My secret is, that since becoming vegetarian, I haven’t really talked about it openly with anyone outside of my household. Having been vegetarian before, I know what challenges I’m likely to be met with: Individuals who view my decision to not eat meat as a personal affront on their decision TO eat meat; Insulting jokes at my expense told to my face and behind my back; Insults about my food; Challenges about my habits (Oh yeah? But I bet you wear leather!); People eagerly watching me to make a ‘slip’ (“Oh! You said you’re vegetarian but YOU’RE EATING YOGURT! Hypocrite!”)

It’s exhausting to be met with this barrage of scrutiny and criticism. In my own house, I’m lucky to have the loving support of my husband who wants to make sure that when he does cook, that I have an option that will make me happy, and my kids are curious but non-judgmental.

When it comes to the outside world knowing about some of what I do, in this very small, VERY rural, conservative area, it’s hard to openly ‘be me.’ The other day, though, I took a step outward. Boy, did the consequences of that decision come quickly and furiously!

At my mother-in-law’s house, hubby slapped a couple of steaks and chicken breasts onto the grill. I popped on one of my veggie burgers. My nephew went to turn the food over several minutes later, saw my veggie patty and snorted “What is this? Dog food?”

“That’s my home-made veggie patty,” I explained.

He snorted and made a couple more derisive comments. I ignored them and moved on.

June and July 2011 122A few moments later, my son asked what we were having for dinner. We told him steaks and chicken breast. “I don’t want meat,” he declared. He’s always been very borderline vegetarian anyway and has never cared much for meat beyond, to my dismay, McDonald’s hamburgers and bacon. When I jokingly told him in front of everyone that he’s “vegetarian like me!” (my way of light-heartedly coming out), all the in-laws swooped in to do their social conditioning thing (“Oh no, meat’s healthy, he’s growing so fast he needs meat,” etc.) Then, someone did the whole “Oh, you’re vegetarian, but I bet you wear leather!” bit.

Outwardly, I just smiled and nodded. Inside there was an angry sailor swearing at them, shaking his fist and threatening to blow them away with a cannon.

Here’s the thing I feel I need to scream out to everyone who makes an ignorant joke about what it means to be vegetarian or vegan: I’m vegetarian because there is enough damn suffering in this world.

I honestly don’t see how anyone who takes a look a the facts can continue to buy into a system that is destroying our planet. In terms of the environment, in terms of health, meat-eating is killing us. All you have to do is a little looking around online and there are scads of statistics that prove this fact.

Also, as someone who follows many of the tenets of Buddhism, it really has become impossible for me to ‘live mindfully’ and continue to buy into a system that perpetuates suffering on so many different levels. It’s not just about the animals. It’s the environment, it’s my health, and it’s the fact that we know now how to live without meat and be perfectly healthy … so why cling to the status quo? Because it’s what we know? Because it’s comfortable? To what end???

It angers me that people have time to look through junk on YouTube, Tumblr, FaceBook, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest, but they “don’t have time” to take a fraction of their free time to look through some facts that directly affect them. It’s like they don’t want to know that PETA isn’t the only organization that knows that animal farming is hurting our environment and our health. Any governmental, non-profit oriented, neutral sources you look at all say the same thing: Animal farming pollutes land, water and contributes to the destruction of many acres of forest a day. Farming animals for the consumption of meat is not sustainable on any level. Impact of this pollution on humans is not known. That’s not the same as “nonexistent,” yet the public very much wants to just toss that to the side and pretend that all is well. For Dog Sweater 094

“We can’t research everything,” we say. “We can’t sit here and read articles and look at stuff about what’s happening to the planet. What am I supposed to do, research EVERYTHING?” (I know these excuses because I’ve used them too).

No, but you do sit there and go through your Buzzfeed, don’t you? You look up babies eating lemons for the first time, and people who have no business recording themselves dancing doing just that, and we are happy to point and laugh at them, relieved that who is in the video is not ourselves.

Why remain ignorantly blissful? What is the point of that?

I’m not saying take away all your free time to do serious thinking. Certainly and without doubt, we all need some time to tune out and shut down. I do, too. That being said, with a little effort made, you can easily find out how much rain forest is cut down every year to make room for cattle raised for beef. You can find out how much pollution (it’s not only a little, by the way) is created by waste created by these animals, the machinery needed to keep them going, from the slaughtering, and from packing and shipping. You can also find out who is offering biased information on these facts, and who is not.

Instead of Googling “Baby eating lemons for the first time,” Google “waste created by animal farming.” I did, and here are a few quick links from varying sources, ranging from the EPA to other “dot-org” sites:

http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0612sp1.htm

http://www.epa.gov/region9/animalwaste/problem.html

http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/ffarms.asp

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5726

I came up with those links in 30 seconds. I read enough of their articles to know that I’m right in what I’m saying. Read. Look. Listen. THINK.

Then come back and tell me you think my choice is silly. Or that my food looks like dog food. Or that you love your meat. Or that you think I’m exaggerating and that I’m a conspiracy-theorist.

Clump O TreesMy question to those who accept things as they are is this: If you know that what is happening in our world is causing these issues, why are you choosing to make choices that perpetuate this cycle? What is the point of THAT?

If you believe that you alone can’t make a difference by simply making a change in your diet, consider the fact that half of the vegetarian foods that we know and enjoy now, were relatively unknown when I was vegetarian just 15 years ago. Those people who thought they were striking out as vegetarians and vegans alone weren’t lonely for long. There’s a reason for that: Not eating meat is starting to make more sense.

And by the way, my being vegetarian isn’t my statement against YOU. It’s my statement against a culture that continually tells us to numb our brains, dull our senses, kill our bodies, our planet, and our animals. It’s my statement against a system that brain-washes us to sustain our bodies and our lifestyles in an unsustainable way. It’s not just about not being cruel to animals. It’s about our planet and how we, as humans, choose to live our lives in the short time we have on it.

If nothing else, watch this video. It illustrates wonderfully the idea that everything, everyone, is connected. It shows us that our choices matter, how we spend our time makes a difference, where we put our dollars makes a big difference, and what we THINK ABOUT makes a difference too.

I found this video on BuzzFeed, among the drivel about how adorable my pet cat is:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/the-most-powerful-ads-of-the-world-wildlife-fund?sub=2470282_1428319

Home-made Veggie Burger: Hurray!

Second home-made veggie burger attempt: Success!

My "Perfect Veggie Burger" with some home-made chutney. © Miyo Wratten 2013

My “Perfect Veggie Burger” with some home-made chutney. © Miyo Wratten 2013

This was another Pinterest find, and in its description it promised crunch without mushiness. I tried this recipe out yesterday, and the recipe delivers on its promise. So thrilled!

In my first home-made veggie burger attempt (whose recipe came from the Whole Foods web site), my complaint was exactly that it was too mushy, almost slimy, and that the flavor was just off.

In this new recipe, which I found on Oh She Glows, it has everything one could ask for in a veggie burger: Crunch, flavor, firmness, definitely filling, healthy, AND it’s versatile. You can cook it any way you wish: bake, fry in a skillet, or grill.

Even better, you can partially cook these burgers in the oven, then toss them into your favorite receptacle for freezing, and keep them in the freezer for a quick, convenient, delicious and filling meal on a busy day.

Ready to mix! © Miyo Wratten 2013

Ready to mix! © Miyo Wratten 2013

What I loved best about this veggie burger was that it’s full of healthful ingredients: nuts (this recipe calls for almonds and sunflower seeds), vegetables (grated carrots, onions, and  black beans), lots of spices for tons of flavor (chili powder, cumin, garlic and fresh herbs of your choice), and a good dose of healthful grains (oat flour, ground flax seeds). The author (Angela) mentions her preferred method of preparing the burgers is in the skillet, and I have to agree. In the skillet, the texture becomes nice and crisp on the outside and the rest of the burger gets a bit of a better chew. That being said, I did try it on the grill as well (I ate these things literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner … and yes, they’re THAT good) and it was really delicious!

I’ve got the rest of the burgers – partially cooked (baked off in the oven for 15 minutes) – and ready to be fried or warmed up and cooked through in the oven some busy day that I’m sure to have coming up. I’ve got some leftover ingredients too, so I’ll make another batch of this and freeze it, too. Bye-bye grocery store, highly-processed soy-based veggie burgers!

Almonds and sunflower seeds added flavor and crunch to this unique burger. © Miyo Wratten 2013

Almonds and sunflower seeds added flavor and crunch to this unique burger. © Miyo Wratten 2013

Here’s the recipe: Angela’s Perfect Veggie Burger

When you’re done checking out and printing out the recipe, be sure to read her story. She’s truly an inspiration, and her honesty is amazing. I know you’ll love her web site as much as I have gotten to.

Pinterest Find: Home-made Veggie Burger

Ahead of the Fourth of July cookout, I tried out a recipe I found online for a home-made veggie burger. The recipe came from Whole Foods, which we don’t have the privilege of having in my area, but I’ve heard good things about.

My first home-made veggie burger. It was a big 'meh.' Copyright Miyo Wratten 2013

My first home-made veggie burger. It was a big ‘meh.’ Copyright Miyo Wratten 2013

Summer and burgers kind of go hand-in-hand, and as much as I’m not a fan of the ‘meatless meat’ dishes, I have to say that there is something so classic about burgers and this time of year in North America. It’s such an ingrained part of our culture, I’m having a hard time getting away from the idea of needing some kind of burger at some point. Also, I like to avoid the mass-produced, frozen patties that are stuffed full of highly processed soy protein, calories, and are mass-produced. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a couple of them hanging out in the freezer for one of those days when I just don’t have time to stand around and cook. They do, however, tend to sit there for quite some time because quite frankly, they scare me.

The flax seed used in the recipe. I ground mine in a coffee bean grinder as I couldn't find any that was already ground.

The flax seed used in the recipe. I ground mine in a coffee bean grinder as I couldn’t find any that was already ground.

When I saw the recipe for Red Pepper and Basil White Bean Burgers, which you can get right from the Whole Foods site, it sounded pretty decent. A jar of drained, roasted red peppers is mixed with ground flax seeds, rolled oats, garlic, fresh basil and a can of drained cannellini beans.

Just a note: If you’re like me and find it a little challenging sometimes to find what passes for ‘exotic ingredients,’ you may have a little trouble finding ground flax seed (which is what is called for in the recipe). I simply cleaned out our coffee bean grinder and used that to grind up some whole flax seeds. Easy enough to do.

Perhaps I didn’t cook it quite right, but I’ll be honest and say I was a little disappointed. The flavor was OK, but the texture definitely left something to be desired. To me, it had a bit of a ‘slimy’ or wet feel to it in the mouth, which was off-putting.

If you try it out and find that it turns out great for you, do let me know. It’s entirely possible I’ve done something wrong or handled a step incorrectly.

Otherwise, I’ll probably move on at some point to a different veggie burger recipe and hope for the best.

The Tempeh Challenge

Okay, so I recently trashed tempeh. Then, I went grocery shopping yesterday and went and picked up some more. I not only got more tempeh, I also went and got ‘bacon-style’ tempeh.

My tempeh purchase for the week ...

My tempeh purchase for the week …

If you’ve read my ‘about’ page, you know that this fake meat business just irks me. My biggest issue is the irony of it all. The thing is — we’re vegetarian. If we’re supposed to be at peace with our choice, we wouldn’t or shouldn’t be constantly trying to recreate the foods that we have decided to leave behind.

That being said, dammit, I miss bacon. I also miss things like having an awesome BLT. So, if someone can make the hated tempeh taste like bacon and yet not BE bacon, why wouldn’t I eat it?

As I unpacked my groceries and paused to look at my pack of bacon tempeh and plain tempeh, I wondered what I’m doing wrong to make this stuff taste so awful. Obviously, someone out there likes this stuff. Obviously, there is some redeeming quality to this.

I usually turn my nose up at these kinds of things. I am however missing bacon in a big way, and am also trying to find some redeeming qualities of tempeh.

I usually turn my nose up at these kinds of things. I am however missing bacon in a big way, and am also trying to find some redeeming qualities of tempeh.

So, I decided to undertake the Tempeh Challenge. I’ve started looking up some information here and there on the tricks of the trade when it comes to this stuff. The way I’ve been preparing it hasn’t worked. Even recipes from well-established bloggers using tempeh haven’t wowed me. So, I’m branching out. Thus far, I’ve found a couple of suggestions that seem to make sense, and they draw upon some of the roots and traditions of this soy product. Hopefully, I’ll find in my experiments a few uses for this food that I’ve found distasteful.

Sometime this week, I’ll post about my TLT (tempeh-lettuce-and-tomato) adventure. I’ll start small.

Let’s see where this challenge will take me.

Meatless Monday: Fail

Well, it was just one of those days! I never got around to making a dinner tonight, unfortunately. I had a hair appointment that went way longer than expected, and hubby thankfully took care of feeding the kiddos.

Usually on a night like this, in the past, I would have swung by the Wendy’s or Burger King and gladly scarfed down a burger and fries. I’ll be honest, since going vegetarian, there have been moments when I’ve missed this convenience. That being said, I don’t miss the food, and I don’t miss the idea of where the food comes from or what is in it. Part of me loves the idea of a juicy burger … I’ll admit to a slip here and confess that I took a bite out of my son’s burger a few days ago. I actually almost grimaced. Same burger from a local restaurant here whose food I’ve always LOVED, and there was nothing ‘wrong’ with it … it just … well … it’s meat. Didn’t like it.

Remember, I’m the Reluctant Vegetarian. I love meat … or maybe I used to? Not sure, but it was an odd moment for me.

Anyway, so, rather than spin by the fast-food joints, I ran into Target and grabbed the Archer Farms Zen Trail mix and some Pirate’s Booty. I know, they’re snack foods, but they filled my belly and did the job for now.

I think I’m going to need to come up with some quick-fix meals that aren’t hummus sandwiches (which I LOVE but eat all the time) and aren’t the frozen vegetarian patties (which I try to avoid if possible to keep away from the issue of soy overload).

So, no Meatless Monday recipe or meal today. On that front, it’s a fail. On the other, I didn’t cave and have a burger. That’s a win!

Toddler’s Reason to Not Eat Animals

This child’s reasoning perfectly conveys the reasoning behind my decision to no longer eat meat: “We should take care of animals, not eat them.” How much simpler and more logical can you get than that? Remember when you thought that way, too? Remember the feeling you had when you realized that the meat you ate was once a living thing? I do. And I remember being grossed out by it. I also remember my family quickly rushing to condition me into accepting the idea that killing animals for my own benefit was OK. There’s probably a reason our first reaction to the idea of eating meat — once we realize how it gets to our plate — is disgust. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat. I love fried chicken. I love grilled steak. I just don’t love where it comes from or how it gets there.