Surprise! Another quest for “ethical eating” ends in an omnivorous diet  »

GQ's food writer, Alan Richman, has an eight-page article in the July issue on his recent “ethical eating” odyssey, and is it ever illuminating and not at all like The Omnivore’s Dilemma rehashed!

Sorry, that was a lie. In reality, his conclusions are not very far from Michael Pollan’s, except Richman’s a lot snider getting to them. Underneath his Big Quest persona, he seems kind of angry:

"Today our true believers fervently pursue such principles as ecologically sound, socially just, humane, halal, kosher, nitrite-free, gluten-free, free-range, certified organic, or raw, whatever their cause demands. Yet not even vegans, our ultimate culinary ideologues, can match the commitment of those who dedicate themselves to the land. Farmers are, literally, America’s unwashed nobility."

This sets the tone for the entire article: Richman loves and idealizes farmers, and dismisses vegans and vegetarians out of hand. Here’s a typical zinger: “I don’t romanticize vegetables. I don’t believe in their nobility, nor have I been convinced by those who claim plants have feelings and scream silently when tossed into a hot pan. (I wouldn’t mind if that were true, since it would require vegans to starve themselves to death.)”

Poor Alan Richman wants it both ways: to be able to eat ethically without taking into account the fact that killing animals is unethical. Raising animals to kill them for your meal is unethical.

Check it: “‘We Americans prefer not knowing that the food we eat had a life. That way we don’t have to face the awful truth—that the food we eat had to die. We push away fish that arrives whole, with its glazed eyes, distressed not by the fate of the animal but by our own discomfiture, a dinner date ruined. Most of us would prefer that our livestock were treated indifferently, even inhumanely. If we consider animals inconsequential, a meaningless food source, we won’t be ill at ease when they emerge from the kitchen nicely cooked.”

Wrong, Richman. Vegans don’t eat animals because we know they have lives, and we aren’t so selfish as to presume we have the right to take away their lives for our meals. We’re the ones going undercover in slaughterhouses to expose the horrific conditions for the workers and the animals, and the ones protesting those conditions. We do not consider any animals inconsequential, because we don’t make an arbitrary distinction between “food” and “pet.”

Eric Ripert, however, does make incomprehensible distinctions: he’s a practicing Buddhist, and “says that if he were to operate his restaurant under those religious teachings, the decision of what to feed customers would be simple: vegetables, nothing else.” And I’d play the Goldberg Variations, but I don’t own a piano, so I can’t. You are a practicing Buddhist, but you own several seafood restaurants, and as a judge on Top Chef you eat all kinds of animal products without blinking. So what’s the point of mentioning this, exactly? It’s not endearing—it sounds crazy. Of course not all Buddhists are vegetarians, but saying you would serve vegetables, except you already serve fish, so you can’t—that is fucking stupid.

Equally stupid is Dan Barber’s assertion that “Where we are, the environment is telling you to eat meat.” Did he ask the soil himself, Richman? Did you put your digital recorder down to the soil? It’s one thing to need a few animals to help with the ecosystem; it’s quite another to house “an animal-breeding facility.” That’s using them, which is gross and disrespectful. But Alan Richman loves farmers! So Dan Barber can have sockeye salmon flown to upstate New York from Alaska because he believes they have the best fisheries, and it must be acceptable because he’s a farmer and a chef. Don’t question him, he’s supreme master meat-farmer.

Then of course Richman gets to bring up Mollie Katzen’s later-in-life switch to an omnivorous diet: “‘For decades I ate brown rice, broccoli, and tofu…. And I felt tired, depressed, and irritable. As I’ve aged, I’ve felt a need for animal protein.’” Omnivores love it when vegans and vegetarians start eating animal products again, like it’s a giant game of red rover and they’re winning. Mollie Katzen is a grown-up and entitled to her own decisions, though maybe if she’d been able to eat more delicious vegan cheeses, tasty protein sources, or even just more non-animal-based fats (olive oil! avocados!), maybe she wouldn’t have felt this “need.” Who can say? None of us here eats exclusively brown rice and vegetables, though.

Ultimately, it seems like Alan Richman’s problem is that even if he could find food that met his nebulous standards, he wouldn’t know what to do with it, and further, he has no faith in “we” “Americans.” Again, if he stopped ignoring the non-animal-eating community, he might stop despairing so much. We know how to cook at home, because the majority of restaurants in the majority of the country do not cater to us. Instead of using the whole animal, we use the whole vegetable—cook the leafy greens, and use their hard ribs for stock. Our diets are richer, cheaper, healthier, more varied, and (arguably) more delicious than an omnivorous diet.

Richman moans that “We no longer regard food as a gift, the way so many foreign cultures and religious families do. Instead of giving thanks and expressing gratitude on holidays, we gorge ourselves with meat.” Has the idea of a Thanksgiving without meat ever occurred to him? It’s fantastic. What about potlucks, or brunches? Within the vegan community, we cater to each other while we work and wait for the greater community to cater to us. Group meals are exciting and fun, each dish a present to friends. We get a lot of joy out of cooking and eating, part of which comes from knowing that animals didn’t suffer and die for our meals. How exactly is that "ethical eating run amok"?

Richman’s narrow-mindedness does him a serious disservice. If he really wanted to discove how to eat ethically, he should have researched vegans and/or vegetarians. Otherwise, he frames his article disingenuously: this is “talking to independent farmers and a couple of restaurateurs about how I can feel less guilty about eating the same way I do now.” And that is a bunch of bullshit. At least Michael Pollan made an effort. Alan Richman used his budget to travel around eating a lot, get his relatives to write about their own hard work living consciously, and type up the same stuff everyone else has been saying about eating meat and vegetables and Alice Waters and Dan Barber since the publication of The Omnivore’s goddamn Dilemma. What a waste of time.


Overfishing, under-(cover)inspecting, producing better produce plates, arguing about Alice Waters and MORE in today’s link-o-rama!  »

Dolfapedia says, “They’re gonna make the dog ride the zip line because they need the coverage on Vegansaurus.” Doubt it! But if this happens someone better let us know so we can let you know and we can amass a zip line protest group ASAP. It’ll be the funnest protest ever (we will take over the zip line).

Fun-times vegan-style events!
The SF Green Festival is this weekend, Saturday and Sunday Apr. 10 and 11! And Alice Walker is speaking on Sunday at 4 p.m. Get your guide here.

The LGBT Army of Compassion will hold a peaceful demonstration against animal cruelty on Sunday, Apr. 28 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Northeast corner of the Heart of the City Farmers Market at U.N. Plaza. Click here for further information.

Items of social and political import!
Kinship Circle has volunteers helping animal victims of the Chilean earthquake and could really use your donations.

Whoops, another environment overfished to the point of near-destruction! There’s a ban on fishing in the Sea of Galilee and no one can play “Jesus and Disciples” anymore.

Oceanic nightmares: photos from a Japanese whaling expedition. I am not going to look at them because I will cry, but have at them, you all with your stronger constitutions.

FDA inspections of food manufacturing plants are few, far-between, and essentially useless. Color me fucking shocked.

But big businesses are using their big dollars to fight for the closure of legal aid clinics, including that of the University of Maryland, which filed a lawsuit against Perdue in March, “the first effort in the state to hold a poultry company accountable for the environmental impact of its chicken suppliers.”

HSUS held its own undercover investigation of four factory farms owned by “two of the nation’s largest egg producers,” with undeniably horrifying results.

Aren’t these paper puppets adorable? They’re by artist Furze Chan and you can buy them at Little Paper Planes.

Madhur Jaffrey, author of the lovely World Vegetarian, says that the SF Bay Area has the best food in the world, particularly in the spring. I am not going to argue with you, ma’am.

This year’s first “positive side effect of global warming” is the super-low price of California and Florida strawberries. Fresh strawberries are SO GOOD, you guys, and remember, buy local and organic whenever possible because berry pesticides are nasty.

Six of the “seven essentials” of Alice Waters’ kitchen are applicable to vegans AND omnivores—imagine! We are of course not counting the business about getting children to help you, which is silly if you do not already have children in the kitchen. But did you know that everyone hates Alice Waters forever? She is the devil in a blue organic cotton apron.

We have an appreciate/desire-to-punch-in-the-face relationship with Slow Food Nation—roasting a piglet for two days is saving the planet how?—but declaring 2010 the "Year of the Heirloom Apple" and providing consumers with a fancy informational booklet all about that fruit earns them a mark in the “appreciate” column.

Another study shows that unless you are participating in a lot of activities that make you more likely to get cancer, eating produce won’t make you less likely to get cancer. Kind of. It’s complicated, which probably means the science is real.

Europe is tired of cupcakes! Hi, All of Europe, you probably just haven’t enjoyed enough vegan cupcakes, because duh they are the best and everyone loves them forever. Who wants to move to a Nordic country, open a vegan bakery, and eventually find nice citizens to marry? Totally awesome social services for life, plus near gender/class equality! I speak two European languages and am NOT AT ALL JOKING about this.

More Social Kitchen news: They have a brewer’s permit, and have scheduled a “soft opening” for Tuesday, Apr. 20. Plus: the menu will be split into thirds for omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. Party in the Sunset!

Jonathan Kauffman loooooooves Gracias Madre, he just loooooooves it. “Oh Gracias Madre, mi amor,” he says, “te amo, te amo mucho.” Or something like that anyway.

Maoz Vegetarian finally opened in Berkeley, hooray! Man that picture is making me really hungry.

Ezra Klein is mad as heck, and he is most likely not going to eat it anymore! What “it” is this? The ubiquitous, irritating, boring-ass grilled vegetable plate that totally doesn’t count as a “vegetarian entree,” gosh darn it. And Julian Sanchez totally concurs.

Here is a serious reason not to smoke, like, ever, as in not even when you’re drinking or stressed or sad or hanging out with other smokers or watching a lot of Mad Men, really for real never: the filters are made with pig’s blood.

Someone on Chowhound needs advice on vegetarian wedding menus. Anyone around here have any experience?

Wired explores foods/food-like substances/food-creation methods that are “changing the way we eat,” including pseudo-meat and aerosol pancake batter.

The Kitchn gives us 10 ideas for vegan breakfast, none of which includes aerosol pancakes.

What does “biodynamic” mean in relation to growing wine grapes? How does it compare to organic growing conventions? If you ever wondered when reading a wine list, this article may answer some of your questions. Maybe.

Regardless, I would rather drink a million bottles of mediocre, confusing, goddess-blessed biodynamic wine than one meat-infused cocktail, because BARF to the MAX. Why, god, why.

Philly Represents, by Megan Rascal.


East Bay vegan drinks, Keep’s sample sale, foie gras vs. puppies, ‘anus-grade pork,’ SF vegan bakesale and more in this week’s link-o-rama!  »

Tonight, Friday Dec. 4 at 7 in Palo Alto: A screening of Food, Inc. at World Centric, 2121 Staunton Ct.  Following the film is a speaker, Stanford student and eco-documentary filmmaker Matt Harnack, who will also show his own 20-minute film, Fossil Fuel Free Film. This event is free, though donations are requested to cover the cost of film and speakers. Seating capacity is about 70 people; arrive early to ensure that you will get a seat. Please feel free to bring food/drinks to share and a cushion as there are a few metal chairs.

Tomorrow, Saturday Dec. 5: the SF Vegan Bakesale, take three! Get over to Ike’s (3506 16th St. at Sanchez Street) between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. with a lot of cash, there’ll be tons and tons of baked goods, AND bunnies! BUNNIES.

Hey LA vegans: Keep is having a sample sale this weekend! From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday Dec. 4 and 5 at Keep headquarters, 418a Bamboo Lane in Los Angeles. Up to 60 percent off select styles, I AM SO JEALOUS, Keep makes amazing shoes.

A ramen truck in Hayes Valley? Opening this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., on the corner of Laguna and Hayes Streets? That appears to offer a vegan option (unconfirmed at press time)? Get out of my dreams and into my mouth. That joke is not funny, but I remain entirely serious.

Sunday, Dec. 6 at the Fort Mason Center, Building C: an Animal People Party, consisting of a white elephant sale and vegan potluck, to benefit Animal Switchboard! Not a lot of details here, except that it runs from 1 to 4 p.m. in room 260. Probably contacting Animal Switchboard would be the best way to get further information.

Miss Vegan Drinks? Of course you do! Thank goodness for the East Bay, who’ve been doing their thing on Tuesdays and want to see you at their next meeting! Mix and mingle on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Kona Club, at 4401 Piedmont Ave. at Pleasant Valley Avenue in Oakland! Details here.

Win a pound of Allison’s Gourmet vegan fudge! Enter before midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 8, on VegWeb (run by Vegansaurus’ Laura!)

According to Salon, the Humane Society of the United States has to make a choice: either it works to shut down foie gras farms, or it protects puppies from abuse. Can’t do both!

So tell us, Mr. Henry, “why can’t people live in harmony with animals without resorting to the barbarism of slaughter?” Answer: it takes too long to cook vegetables. No, really.

Adorable video: mad bunny attacks keys!

OMG RAGE: Fast food makes you fat so everyone should eat like Alice Waters, DUH! Lord save us from these simplistic dichotomies. The world is not black and white!

In Indiana and Minnesota, 24 slaughterhouse workers were sickened with “a variety of neurological and physical illnesses” from inhaling a mist of pig brains. Very, seriously sickened. Bacon is so awesome!!

Animal Place has new bunnies, a chance to win a Daisy Wares gift basket, tips on photographing pigs, and an ode to Arturo the chicken. Half the proceeds from the Worldwide Vegan Bakesale, San Francisco chapter went to Animal Place; they’re the greatest!

Not the greatest, at all: Brookestone’s Frog-o-Sphere’s. PETA2 is all over it.

Colleges are expanding their veg options! Humboldt State is currently sampling pumpkin ravioli and taquitos; the University of Houston offers falafel, pizza, and tacos.

King of the Greens Al Gore FINALLY acknowledges the impact factory farming has on the environment.

MORE RAGE: this program proposed by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture called “Meat the Need,” which would give people extra food stamps specifically for purchasing meat and dairy products. Why? Because people are buying less meat and dairy. So obviously THERE IS A HUGE PROBLEM!! And the most logical solution is to FORCE POOR PEOPLE TO BUY MORE ANIMAL PRODUCTS!!!

And speaking of angry fucking vegans, PETA and the Animal Defense League are now “domestic special interest terrorists,” according to the USDA. No, really. Really for really for real.

Hey have you checked out the discussion going on in Laura’s post about Mission Street Food’s dead-pig-ful Food Not Bombs benefit?

SF Food Wars gets a little feature in the New York Times! And friends-of-Vegansaurus Fat Bottom Bakery’s award-winning! vegan mac-n-cheese gets a mention in the very second sentence. World domination is coming, I can taste it.

So Charles Phan “is in talks with San Francisco city officials about turning empty lots into street-food hubs similar to the popular Singapore hawker centers,” is he? Um YES PLEASE, I will never leave. Because I will have eaten all the vegan food available and become TOO FAT TO MOVE.

So that lab-grown pig meat that tastes “soggy”? Jon Stewart reminds us that it’s still five years away from being “anus-grade pork.” Ugh times a million, and also, groooossssssss.


Alice Waters + Humane Society = Sharks!  »

Well, well, well; it turns out Mrs. Slow Food Nation, Queen of the locavores (GOD I hate that term) Alice Waters has a heart after all. She may have once been crazy about shark fin soup, but since Friday she is firmly against it, “committing never to [eat] or serve” anything with shark fin in it. Looks like the Humane Society schooled her pretty good—not sure how they got to her, as she was very publicly pro-shark fin soup just a few months earlier—but their methods are beside the point.

For all the praise that “eating local” gets, the truth is that limiting your meat consumption is a lot more helpful for the damn environment than scarfing down whatever fish caught within a 100-mile radius of your house. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been telling you that for years, A-dubs. Good on you for finally saying something both positive and sensible. As for us nonentities, we can help support the Shark Conservation Act from behind our computers by sending strongly worded emails to our senators, demanding (politely) that they vote for the bill that the House has already passed.

(because all this converges with the Discovery Channel’s SHARK WEEK 2009, maybe you want to know there is a free video podcast that accompanies said SHARK WEEK broadcast, which—if you are into this sort of thing—is fairly interesting.)

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