Hippie-Liberal-Tofu-Eating-Commie

Moments ago my friend from over at Kimchi Latkes { This girl’s blog is hella funny – I encourage you to check it out. After you’re done here that is!} posted this comment in response to my post about why I became vegetarian.

“I like hearing how vegetarians came to be vegetarians, everyone seems to come by a different path. Now, I have to tell you, I’m more on the raise-it-yourself-if-you-want-meat end. Does this mean we can still be interweb friends? I agree they are intelligent. But where do you draw the line? Like for example, veal was traditionally a byproduct of dairy. A lot will eat dairy, but not veal, but it is from the same process. I understand though. When the hubby was all set to eat Rooster, I had my doubts. It is interesting to me that most self-reflective, caring people go through this debate. I guess everyone is just trying to make sense of it all. Check out this article, I was obsessed with the topic for days after I read it…”

Here is the link that she included in her post. (remember – after *wink*)

Now that you’re all up to speed

I want to tell you (and everyone else reading this) of course we can still be interweb friends!

This post was precipitated by another blogger Bethany (you can check out that post here) from her blog Barefooting outside the box.

“It seems to me that blogs are either (like you said) all talk about the act of eating a certain way and no recipes, or all recipes and no talk about why. Something for me to keep in mind as I continue to post about my family and our lifestyle!”

Bethany’s comment really inspired me to start thinking about including the reasons why I am a vegetarian in addition to the recipes I’ve been posting lately.

Vegetarianism (and all other isms for that matter) is just drawing arbitrary lines around things that are “okay” and “not okay.”

It doesn’t matter to me where you draw your line as long as we’re all sticking to the basic template of wanting to make responsible, non-harmful choices.

I think the thing that gets tricky about this debate is that people feel really strongly (like – I’ll run you over with my car you hippie-liberal-tofu-eating-commie! Or I’ll forget to water your desk plant while you’re on vacation you soul-sucking-republican-carnivore!) – Yeah, really strongly about where exactly we should draw the line.

I think we’re all doing well as long as we’re all drawing the line somewhere between rationally wanting to just sit on the couch and have food inserted into our mouths without much thought about what we’re putting in there and running out to save the very last of the (insert some endangered thing no one has ever heard of or will ever miss until it is gone) from extinction.

Like you said – most thoughtful, caring people go through this debate. It is important, critical even, that we try (at least a little) to not kill every living thing around us for our pleasure, entertainment, satisfaction or convenience.

And since no one has really proved (beyond a shadow of a doubt – come on guys don’t flood my inbox with tons of articles with titles like – “Meat and potatoes save lives!”) that a vegetarian diet will kill or harm our bodies. Then, it makes sense that we would question our intentions at ending these innocent creature’s lives so we can savor their delicious meaty bits in grandma’s favorite recipe.

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Thou Shall Not Kill

I believe people are inherently good. I believe we don’t want to hurt anyone and generally want to do the “right thing” whenever we can.

I think it starts with a simple message reflecting those positive intentions.

Meat eating is good for you.

Meat eating is natural.

Meat eating is normal.

What rational person doesn’t want to be good, natural and normal? I know I do.

So, as a child… like many children… my parents fed me meat.

Great big juicy turkeys in November, delicious steaks on my birthday and less appealing, but certainly more common ground hamburger meat in every form imaginable.

I lived in the innocence of these beliefs where I didn’t have to think about where (or who) my food came from. There was no guilt at my table and life was sweet.

Then I started learning about animals. Yes, it started with my love for animals.

I first wanted to be a marine biologist! I think growing up in a coastal city put that one into my mind. Next, a zoo-keeper – until Steve died and then I felt too sad to continue on that path.

All the while through these adolescent endeavors I learned more and more about the animals in the world around me.

Like any budding scientist I observed their mating rituals, birthing rites, child-rearing policies and death observances. I noticed something.

Animals were intelligent.

This revelation was something I understood on the surface, but it didn’t go any deeper into my awareness for some time.

As I grew into an adult I adopted a little chihuahua dog and helped her grow.

We’d cuddle together on the couch and when I got up to go do something else – she would watch me and even follow me.

I know it doesn’t sound that extra-ordinary, but it showed me personally that animals – in this case dogs, well my dog – wanted to be near to me.

I didn’t understand. Why would she want to be near to me? Really. Her food was in the bowl, she had a little dog bed of her own and more toys than most 1 year-old children.

Why would she want to watch me, follow me, be near to me? What was I offering that she didn’t already have access to without me?

I slowly realized – Animals are not only intelligent. Animals are trusting and capable of developing bonds with the animals around them.

Well, that changed things in my mind. Suddenly, I started reexamining all the animals around me and how they interacted with humans and other animals around them.

My initial feelings were confirmed.

Animals are intelligent, trusting, capable of forming bonds with animals around them and they don’t want to be killed.

Oh come on! I pleaded with myself. Eating animals is healthy! It’s normal and natural. What’s wrong with it? — as I was shoving a mouthful of delectable chicken into my mouth.

And I’d always find myself coming back to the same answer – they don’t want to be killed. They are intelligent and trusting and capable of fear and pain.

Suddenly, guilt was served with every meal.

That still didn’t stop me most of the time.

I’d go on vegetarianism and off vegetarianism. Like some sort of guilt yo-yo diet.

I’d tell myself it is too hard and too weird as my friends and coworkers were always quick to point out.

And most of all – it was unhealthy. Right?

I won’t go into the long description of it, but I found that I did feel physically better when I wasn’t eating meat. That confused me.

So, I read many books and watched tons of informative videos and documentaries to try and uncover the truth.

So far, the truth that I’ve found is that no one really knows what the truth is, but not including animals in your diet won’t kill you or harm you beyond a shadow of a doubt. So, maybe not eating animals was at least as safe as eating them – maybe safer?

Still, my resolve was not complete. I mean a dog is one thing.

People have lived with dogs for as long as anyone can remember and dogs have always been our friends so, it makes sense to not want to eat them.

Farm animals were different right?

Their ‘glazed over’ expression and lack of personalities probably meant they were not that intelligent and probably were okay to kill and eat – right?

So, I started a project  – a chicken raising project.

I got a little group of eggs and a few weeks later little fluff balls burst from inside them.

And I was shocked at what I learned!

These farm animals were intelligent, trusting, capable of fear and pain.

And they wanted to be near to me! Just like my dog!

So – that’s it guys.

I’m not eating you and I’m not eating them because I don’t eat my friends…

And I especially don’t eat strangers. I mean that doesn’t even seem safe!

A Match Made in Heaven

One of the first things I noticed about the Jewish community, that really surprised me was the amount of vegetarian food available for me at all these various pot-lucks, brunches and dinners I was attending.

The reason lay in the Jewish dietary laws – or Kashrut in Hebew.

All food has to be Kosher (or “Fit”) for eating.

These dairy pot-lucks made me want to learn much more about these Kosher dietary laws.

First thing that I learned is that the rules are complicated and many people interpret them very differently.

There is a old joke that goes: Ask two Jews and you’ll get three opinions!

So, please keep that in mind while I’m going over the things I’ve learned. I by no means have all the understanding or answers for thousands of years of tradition or practice – these are just the things I picked up on.

Meat + Milk = Forbidden

That’s right, remember all those delicious cheeseburgers you’ve downed without a frown? Well, they’re not Kosher.

There are also rules for how the animal must be killed in order for it to be certified Kosher.

Also, all dairy products need to have a Kosher seal before being considered Kosher as well. Some cheeses (as you hard-core vegetarians may already know) contain rennet which is the stomach acid of a baby cow. It helps the cheese making process along – there are vegetarian alternatives.

Treat Ham as Spam

Only animals that both ‘chew their cud’ and have ‘cloven hooves’ made be consumed according to Kashrut.

So – in order to keep Kosher you can’t pig out on pork either. This also includes bacon, ham and all other products that contain even trace amounts of pork.

That sounds fishy

The rules surrounding fish are even more complex compared to the rules about meat and milk.

All shellfish and other sea creatures are forbidden because in order to be Kosher the sea creature must both have scales and fins.

So – some say not even all fish are Kosher according to these rules.

Bugging Out

No bugs can be consumed – at all – ever.

Well you wouldn’t really think this is a problem. Most people are not chowing down on chocolate covered grasshoppers. Except… have you looked closely at your produce lately?

There are very rigid laws governing the way all produce must be washed to ensure that all bugs have been removed before preparation and consumption.

Don’t believe me – check out this site and you’ll see it gets a little intense.

The Kosher Kitchen

Okay – I’m already a vegetarian. I’m not eating meat, pork, fish or shellfish. I’m also willing to wash all the vegetables really well before I eat them too to ensure no bugs are on them – so I’m keeping Kosher right? Mmm probably not.

Kosher requirements extend not only to food, but to inanimate objects as well.

So, what does that really mean? Well, for starters any plates, utensils or other cookware that EVER touched meat are meat. Also, any plates, utensils or other cookware that EVER touched dairy are dairy. Furthermore, if your plate touched dairy and meat – it isn’t kosher and any kosher food that touches it becomes tainted. Seriously.

This extends to your appliances as well. Your stove, microwave and even dishwasher can become spirtually unclean by not following Kosher laws.

Some things are easier to fix than others. First, you can have a rabbi come out and Kosher your kitchen.  Also, keeping two complete sets of dishes and cookware (or even separate kitchens) can help simplify cooking  if you’re a meat eating Jew.

Then there are lots of little rules – like having a pan that fits over your sink to wash meat dishes in so your sink doesn’t become tainted with meat – if you don’t have a dishwasher that is. If you do have a dishwasher then you’ll need to start running it empty in between loads of meat and dairy dishes to keep your dishwasher Kosher.

But, how about eating out? Or traveling? Or microwaving foods at the office?

That’s where things get even more interesting and complicated. Plus, you have to take into account that nearly everyone has an opinion on the “right way” and the “wrong way” to follow the rules.

I have friends who keep Kosher at home, but don’t worry about eating over at a friend’s house or at restaurants as long as they keep vegetarian. There are some people who won’t eat at any place that isn’t strictly Kosher – depends on the person.

A match made in heaven?

While vegetarianism certainly helps simplify keeping Kosher – I’m not sure it is a perfect fit for me. I keep wondering if I’ll ever be able to give up eating at my parent’s house or restaurants. Plus, environmentalism is so important to me and some of the Kosher rules seems a little wasteful from that standpoint – two separate kitchens or sets of dishes and cookware? Running dishwasher in-between loads? Double wrapping frozen meals with aluminum foil to heat in a non-kosher oven? All that water to wash produce? I don’t know if I can get behind those (and other) things.

However, I do respect the discipline it requires and reverence it instills into daily life.

I’ll need to evaluate my priorities before deciding to take the Kosher plunge and be content with keeping ‘kinda Kosher’ until then.

Chicken on my Stovetop!

My silly chicken girl, Sepia, knows nothing about what most people think of a chicken on a stove-top!

I brought her inside last night because she had removed her Hen Saver (aka Chicken Backpack) and it needed to be put back on. She thought this was a perfect opportunity to try perching on the stove-top!

What’s a Hen Saver you ask?

Well they are the self proclaimed leader in chicken saddles.

I suppose the most common follow-up question is – Why would a chicken need a saddle?

Well, to put it delicately (for all those PG13 people out there) our two roosters give our girls lots of affection. So, our girls need a little protection from their talons.

Plus, I love their backpacks! They look so cute running around in the yard with them on.

Here is another photo of Sepia on the stovetop. She is getting annoyed that I’m not feeding her something yummy!

A chicken in every pot? It is a good thing Sepia lives in a vegetarian house!

Roosters warm the cockles of my heart

In our suburban backyard we have a flock of chickens.

Yes, chickens.

Araucana chickens to be more specific. They are most noted for their pretty blue eggs and funky feather tufts that sprout from either side of their head.

I hatched this little flock in my suburban house last  September and have been enjoying their company ever since!

Here is pirate watching over the yard for any potential dangers.

Here he is again – annoyed I’m photographing him.

Here is another of Baba Yaga – my other rooster. Check out his tufts!

Araucana eggs are notorious not only for their unusual blue shell coloring. They are also said to be very hard to hatch.

I received 10 hatching eggs: 4 never started developing and SIX hatched!

I was super impressed with myself and loved them all so much. However, as the weeks when on I knew I had three roosters.

Now anyone who knows anything about chickens knows that roosters are a little like the Immortals from the TV series The Highlander – There can be only one!

I carefully watched them as they grew fretting about their every little scuffle and finally decided to re-home the most trouble-making of the three.

After he left to join his new flock – my other two rooster boys calmed right down.

They seemed to join forces to keep the girls in line and have developed a wonderful – if strange relationship of shared responsibilities.

My dominate rooster – Baba tends to take care of all the protection aspects of things. Sounding alarms, pushing girls back into line etc.

While my submissive rooster – Pirate seems only interested in breeding with the girls and is fine with Baba doing almost 100% of the crowing and bossing around.

I do worry about them one day deciding they want their own space – but they are 10 months old now and seem super content with each other.

In fact – when the girls are all busy in the nesting boxes the boys will run around the yard together. Just the two of them.

Hunting and crowing side by side not even a foot apart the whole time – even when running. Makes me smile.

Plant Prejudice

I remember being a little girl and learning about weeds.

I knew that weeds were horribly pesky plants.

I knew they made my mother sneeze and my father run for the poison spray bottle.

I hated weeds with as much familial passion as I could muster.

How dare they agitate my mother’s allergies or anger my father!

Until, one day I was informed by a friend that dandelions were weeds.

 

I remembered spending many hours stretched out in the grass among my family’s enemy without the need for poison or a tissue.

I loved everything about dandelions. Their softness, the fully white puffs-balls that topped their slender green stems.

How could dandelions be one of those dreaded weeds?

Could this be possible?

I was so confused.

How could this be true?

So, I asked my mother a question I never thought to ask before.

What is a weed?

Her response: Oh, it is an undesirable plant.

An undesirable plant? Weeds were… just plants?

I had somehow thought in my child’s mind that weeds must be different somehow – evil somehow. The more I thought about it I realized.

Weeds were plants not much different the chrysanthemums and roses I knew so well but these plants were different – they were undesirable.

I didn’t know exactly what that meant – but I knew one thing; undesirable meant we didn’t want them in our yard.

We were plant prejudice. There was no real reason that dandelions and clover couldn’t get along with the roses and chrysanthemums of the yard, we just didn’t want them to.

I loved those dandelions despite their weedy status. I blew their seeds all around my yard (and the neighbor’s too) to help them in their fight against their unfair treatment.

I privately thank weeds for the part they played in my development.

I no longer believe something is evil or harmful just because someone I know (or even trust) says it is. I question things and made decisions for myself.

As a result – my yard is full of dandelions and clover.

Long live the pesky weeds!

Summer Love: Sandals

A friend of mine recently turned me on to my new summer sandal selection:

OKA b. – Shoes that love your feet.

These beautiful sandals were founded with the idea that fashion and comfort should not be mutually exclusive. Imagine that!

They set about accomplishing this by utilizing the principals of Reflexology. For anyone who hasn’t heard of that term; Reflexology is an alternative medicine practice that employs the use of applying pressure to certain points of the body to promote health.

They incorporated this philosophy into their design by installing ‘massage beads’ into the ergonomic foot-bed of the sandal.

These shoes are seriously comfortable.

To me there is something singularly special about getting a foot massage from professional and fun looking foot-ware!

However, they really put their best foot forward by offering an environmentally sustainable shoe.

They allow their customers the option of returning any outdated pairs of sandals for recycling into new fashionable foot adornments.

They’ll have your shoe back on city streets in no time while providing you with a uniquely green way of helping reduce your carbon footprint!

 Their other features include:

  • Non-slip and Non-marking
  • Antimicrobial
  • Odor Resistant
  • Made in the USA

 

They are also 100% Vegan!

Which is absolutely the most positive point about these stellar shoes!

I have a personal commitment to not wearing animals…

This has always been a footwear challenge because I don’t want to give up my femininity either!

 

These sandals allow me to stand by my ethical beliefs while still also looking super cute running around during the summer swelter. Win-win!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These sandals are as hot as the summer pavement – but they won’t burn a hole in your wallet! At $25 – $40 a pair this environmentally conscience shoe is a very fiscally sustainable option!

So – do you think you’ll be wearing a pair of these soon?

Also, what is important to you about your summer fashion styles?

Do you have a must-have summer product?

Let me know!

Soy-lent me?

I’ve been a vegetarian off and on for several years. For the last year I’ve been a strict vegetarian broaching into vegan-ism at times.

I was initially surprised that (for me at least) it isn’t very hard to not eat animals. There are many vegetarian options available today – even at modern chain restaurants. So, I’m never without options.

No, the reason I’ve bounced back to my carnivorous ways each time is that frankly it is just hard to live as a vegetarian around the non-vegetarians I interact with.

As an example of this, today a co-worker of mine brought in a T-shirt that read “Save a Cow, Eat a Vegetarian!” – a joke of course directed at me.
While mildly humorous it reminds me that I’m in enemy territory.

No – no one is going to try an air raid on my lunch break. What I mean is that there is a clear “Vegetarians not welcome” vibe I get from many carnivores.

For example, the company pot-lucks and festivities really don’t include me. We often have b-b-q or grilling happening at our very relaxed office and I’m never even alerted that the grill has been pulled out until I look around the office and realize no one is at their desk!

The feelings of isolation and ridicule have been hard to adjust to not just from my co-workers. I hated to see my mom frown when I refused to eat her home prepared meals. Although, she has since gotten on board with my vegetarianism.

And it was hard for me the first time I got tricked into eating meat during a Thanksgiving gathering – that is a story for another time!

My point is that I’ve found myself in countless vegetarian-unfriendly situations that each time reminded that I’m not welcome.

While it may be hard, being under attack has it’s advantages. Adversity causes comradery. As proof I site all of those veteran clubs that have high attendance long after the war is over – bridge is not that interesting of a game so something else must be keeping them together.

Therefore, I say to all of you; draw strength from the support of each other no matter your choices or lifestyle.

And be nice to the vegetarians, after all – I’m willing to help support you in your lifestyle choices.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Doesn’t that just look sinfully delicious?

My kind co-worker brought in a Pumpkin Cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory this morning and I want to partake in eating it!

What is a poor Challah-girl to do!

You see normally I don’t have this dilemma because my co-workers bring in meat laden dishes to share. However, this is different. This is pumpkin! That’s healthy – right?

To really make a decision I’ll need to do a little more research about what exactly I’ll be fighting against. Sure, it looks good – but is it really? In fact, my instincts tell me it looks like it is trying so hard to be good that it is actually evil! But how to be sure?

I dug a little deeper (one internet search) and pulled the nutrition content from Fat Secret’s Website on this seemingly sweet holiday confection. What did I find? This packs a shocking 680 calories per slice!

Now I know why this dish looks too good to be true. Half my daily requirement of calories in one slice – not to mention 405 of those calories are from fat. Not that I’m a calorie-counter type by any means but man – I know I’d feel just awful a few hours from now after my body dropped into that sugar-crash coma!

I’m always feeling like an outsider for my food choices so I’m interested to see what others have to say about their actions in response to this common situation.

Would you give in? Could you resist the temptation? Would you even want to?