“Is Veganism for Everyone?” A New York Times debate! »
You guys, the NYT is all over veganism lately. We’ve made it! Or is this a rehash of every other “fad diet debate” the media have ever had? Let’s decide together.
Today, Room for Debate asked some people* to discuss veganism and YOU. (Not “you,” of course, everyone else who isn’t vegan.) Repping for the vegans are Rip Esselstyn, hot-stuff author of The Engine 2 Diet; and Brian Patton, author of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook. Other debaters include scare-mongering vegan-parent-hater Nina Planck; scare-mongering author of The Happiness Diet Drew Ramsey; ex-vegan and known jerkbag Rhys Southan; and author of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss blog Erika Nicole Kendall.
What are their conclusions? Esselstyn is proud to have helped convert Lance Armstrong to a part-time vegan diet, and Patton notes that transitioning to vegan eating can pose more cultural than dietary challenges. Ramsey warns that “vegans are often vitamin-deficient!” (which, what are the stats on omnivores and vitamin deficiency, buddy?) and Planck begs vegan parents to THINK OF THE CHILDREN before forcing their poor helpless offspring to eat vegan food. Kendall points out that meat and dairy are vectors for disease, and Southan is very concerned about the guilt that vegan diets can induce. Fully half of the debaters focus on weight loss aspects, which is fine, I guess, considering they’re discussing a vegan diet, rather than a vegan lifestyle.
Look, we welcome all vegans! Even deliberately eating vegan part-time is better than doing it never. Still, it’d be nice if the national coverage of veganism included any of the other aspects of veganism besides “quick and easy weight loss” and “not being such fat fatties.” It’s not just a way of eating. We don’t change what we put on our bodies or how we stock our bathrooms out of concern for our cholesterol levels. It’s great that eating vegan makes us healthier, but there’s more to it than what we eat, and I worry that focusing so hard on the “vegan diet = perfect body” argument trivializes the work we all do to live a cruelty-free life. Besides, it’s not true!
This Room for Debate really should’ve been called “Is a Vegan Diet for Everyone?” which would’ve allowed all the participants to make the same arguments without glossing over all the non-food issues a vegan lifestyle addresses. What do you guys think?
*Our feelings are a little bruised that we weren’t asked to participate, but seeing as how your Vegansaurus is staunchly anti-diet, we understand why.
[photo by Charles Roffey via Flickr]
Mark Bittman presents: Recipes for the Semi-Vegan »
We know, we know, but we’ve had our ups and downs with Mr. Bittman, and overall, we like him. And free recipes by a New York Times food writer are free recipes by a New York Times food writer, you know? I vote we forward this link to all our non-vegan pals, and start the year off right: converting everyone, forever. Nothing says “I cherish our relationship” like telling people they’re living wrong!
Remember, you only get 20 free clicks per month on nytimes.com, so make ‘em count and copy down these 10 recipes right away.
[thanks to all the readers who sent us this link! It’s always nice to get tips!]
The New York Times kicks off its month of vegan Thanksgivings! »
We don’t have to wait one second after this year’s glorious Vegan MoFo ends to start amassing recipes again, because the New York Times has just begun its own month of veg food, to celebrate meatless Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is the official holiday of Vegansaurus, mostly because we’re horrible racists who love America! Just kidding, we’re mild racists who hate America! Nope, it’s because we love eating, we love our friends and family, and we really smothering our guilt about the holiday’s origins by eating EVEN MORE.
Last year was my absolute favorite: You awesome readers sent us gorgeous photos of your Thanksgivings, and we published them all Thanksgiving weekend long! The best! This year, you can get started early on planning your feast with the Times’ Well Blog Third Annual Vegetarian Thanksgiving, with recipes from Nava Atlas’ new cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen! And check out the pretty photos by Susan of Fat-Free Vegan! The recipes look rich and tasty and healthy, you could totally make some tonight for practice!
November is here, you guys! It’s the best month of the year! Let’s cook delicious vegan food with our loved ones and think about all the good things we have in our lives. And yes, we are totally doing another readers’ Thanksgiving weekend this year; watch for details closer to the date!
[photo of Deborah Underwood’s Thanksgiving 2010 feast!]
A vegan dinner party in the New York Times! »
If you look at Melissa Clark’s New York Times archive, you’ll see articles about London broil steak, clam sauce, pork cutlets, and “How to Spatchcock a Chicken,” which term is not in my browser’s dictionary but is in my computer’s (it sounds filthy). However, on Oct. 14, she wrote about a vegan dinner party, with a menu that sounds pretty amazing. Great job, Melissa Clark!
She uses lots of early autumn produce, and makes a delicious two-appetizer, four-course meal. The menu:
Hummus with Crisp Maitake Mushrooms, served with Sesame Flatbread
Crisp Kale Chips with Chile and Lime
Farro and Fresh Tomato Soup with Basil
Dandelion Salad with Garlic Confit Dressing
Harvest Tart with Pumpkin, Roasted Red Peppers and Olives
Roasted Pears with Coconut Butterscotch Sauce and Toasted Coconut
Yes, those are links to all of the recipes. Who’s making what this week? I am all about savory tarts—please veganize Zwiebelkuchen for me and then make it for me and serve it to me, I will do so many things for Zwiebelkuchen, it’s undignified, but oh—and reading about that pumpkin-red pepper-olive concoction is making me so hungry, oh man.
Go read the article, and maybe tell the Times how happy you are to read a lovely article, complete with recipes, on the delights of eating vegan. Because it is delightful, and one of our post-VVCon projects is to recognize and express appreciation for positive things, such as “sincere praise for vegan food in the New York Times.”
The Wild Dolphin Project! You mean you don’t need to cut animals open to study them? Stop the presses!
My grandpa sent me this article from the New York Times and it rules. Denise Herzing is trying to talk to dolphins! Well, communicate with them. Well, even more basically, Herzing wants the dolphins to initiate contact with her, as opposed to her initiating contact with treats or whatever. She wants the dolphins to be like, “OMG, Dr. H! You’re back! GirI, we have so much to tell you!”
The system they’ve designed to get this two-way communication going sounds dope:
The two-way system she will test next year is being developed with artificial intelligence scientists at Georgia Tech. It consists of a wearable underwater computer that can make dolphin sounds, but also record and differentiate them in real time. It must also distinguish which dolphin is making the sound, a common challenge since dolphins rarely open their mouths.
In the new system, two human divers interact in front of dolphins: First they play a synthesized whistle sound, then one hands the other a scarf or a piece of seaweed. The idea is to establish an association between sound and object. Dolphins are excellent mimics, and the hope is that they will imitate the whistle to request an object or initiate play.
Do you know what this could mean? Dolphin Scuba instructors! Or some sort of Planet of the Apes-style dolphin takeover. I’m down with either.
[P.S. Have you bought your super-sexy Vegansaurus shirt yet? They’re going fast!]
We’ll tax you till you’re healthy, jerks »
Our old pal Mark Bittman knows a lot about food. He espouses a vegan-till-dinner diet, which we also encourage you to try if you’re not yet vegan. Give it a go, you know. We love his recipes, his How to Cook Everything app, and his general attitude toward eating.
We’re less pleased with his latest op-ed for the New York Times, in which he proposes taxing “bad” foods “like soda, French fries, doughnuts and hyperprocessed snacks,” and using the revenue those taxes generate to “subsidize the purchase of staple foods like seasonal greens, vegetables, whole grains, dried legumes and fruit.”
OK, MB, we see where you’re coming from. Coke is terrible for you. So are Fritos and Hostess snack cakes. We vegans would love people to eat more produce and non-animal proteins. It’s just that increasing the price of foodstuffs at the retail level makes everyone uncomfortable, and it doesn’t address the government subsidization of meat and dairy, which makes that stuff extra-cheap, and guess what? A cheeseburger will kill you just as quick as a Little Debby.
It also leads normally super-serious magazines like the Economist to respond with their own “humorous” op-eds about taxing fat (read: unhealthy) people in the name of “consumer sovereignty.” I assume the individuals at the Economist have senses of humor, but the editorial voice isn’t exactly the Grub-Street Journal, and this little piece isn’t exactly Swiftian.
Is it the government’s responsibility to encourage better food choices? Is it anyone’s? Omnivores get defensive when vegans call attention to the violence inherent in eating animals, and also because they know their diets are bad for the environment. Even if you don’t mind having animals killed for your meals, you know that mass milk, cheese, and meat production is killing the planet. Maybe that’s the stronger argument, since caring about people’s health and well being is usually wrapped up in scolding and “nanny state”-style policies.
Nutritious food should be accessible to and affordable for everyone. The answer probably isn’t “subsidizing ‘good’ food with a tax on ‘bad’ food,” though, however tempting it may be. You can’t treat food like cigarettes and alcohol in any context because, no matter the quality, food is necessary to live. Addressing the broader aspects of our Terrible American Diet—i.e., federal subsidies to grow corn that mostly feed the cows that mostly feed people—may take longer, but it’s more responsible and more effective. Right? At the very least, making high-fructose corn syrup BAD while ignoring weirdo chemical compounds like non-nutritive sweeteners—aspartame won’t help you grow up big and strong and smart—seems hypocritical, and dumb. You’re better than soda demonization, Mark Bittman.
[“Untitled (view of checkout through pet food aisle)” by Robert Adams via Yale Digital Commons]
What do to with a murdered goose: eat it! Obviously! »
New York City is set to kill a bunch of geese, again. This year, however, instead of gassing them and throwing their bodies in a landfill, NYC made a deal with a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse to truck the geese there, where they’ll be killed, processed, and sent to Pennsylvania food banks.
According to the New York Times, “much of the outcry” came from not anger at killing the geese last year, but that “literally tons of tasty, high-protein free-range meat (an adult goose can weigh 25 pounds) [was left] to rot in garbage heaps.” Yeah! I remember, um, none of that. Maybe it’s true, though—maybe In Defense of Animals is super-angry because the goose meat was wasted. It’s definitely not because geese that have lived in human-populated areas are unfit for human consumption, full of “PCBs, pesticides, and heavy metals.” And the geese chilling in Prospect Park right now because they are molting and therefore “temporarily unable to fly” are definitely huge threats to airplanes.
Delicious, dangerous geese: destroy and devour! What choice does New York have? Obviously none, or else this wouldn’t be happening. Right?
[photo by TexasEagle on Flickr]
NYT, you are killing me with this trash! »
Good god this is some crap! I kind of don’t even want to link it because it’s so bad but if you can stomach it, read this piece by Carol Kaesuk Yoon about how plants have feelings. Do they just let anyone write for the New York Times now? Because I think my dog is more eloquent than Yoon. In fact, NYT should hire Figaro because homeboy needs to start pulling his weight around here. I mean, look at this sentence: “In particular, given our many connections to animals, not least of all the fact that we are ourselves animals, it can give a person pause to realize that our most frequent contact with these kin might just be the devouring of them.” Are there no editors? She has so many run-on sentences, I’m wondering if she gets paid by the comma. Is it April 1? No, really, somebody check the date. It’s like someone from the Onion’s editorial staff took over the whole damn paper.
How tired is this “plants have feelings!” angle? I don’t care what anyone tells you, no one save your average schizophrenic actually believes plants have feelings. How many times do we have to say it: it takes a lot more plants to raise meat than eating plants directly! From Cornell: “Each year an estimated 41 million tons of plant protein is fed to U.S. livestock to produce an estimated 7 million tons of animal protein for human consumption. About 26 million tons of the livestock feed comes from grains and 15 million tons from forage crops. For every kilogram [about 2.2 pounds] of high-quality animal protein produced, livestock are fed nearly 6 kg [about 13.2 pounds] of plant protein.” PLUS, an insane amount of the rainforest is destroyed every year to clear land for cattle grazing—those are all plants too. SO, to reduce harm to plants, DON’T EAT MEAT. Yoon’s logic is flawed; “It’s just that as far as I was concerned, if eating a tofu dog was as much a crime against life as eating bratwurst, then pass the bratwurst, please.” No, because to get that bratwurst, a whole lot more plants had to die! Way more than die for your tofu dog. Go cry over that.
Besides this, there’s also the simple fact that plants don’t feel pain. You can disagree with me but you’d be wrong. It’s my own theory but let me break it down: pain doesn’t exist for it’s own sake, it’s a tool—specifically, a tool for mobile beings so that they can better survive. Fire is bad for you so getting burned hurts; this way, you learn to avoid fire and survive to produce your offspring. Plants are not mobile! It makes no evolutionary sense that plants would feel pain if it doesn’t help them survive. I know, there are plenty of things that make no evolutionary sense, but none of them reach the scope of an entire category of life such as plants. I mean, really. Now consider this: the majority of plants benefit from pruning. While she’s lamenting the poor plants getting their stems cut, these plants are flourishing better than their untouched peers. Why in the world would pruning be painful if it actually increases a plant’s viability? Like I said, pain is a tool, it’s not an end.
Check out this idiotic sentence: “Here the lack of a face on plants becomes important, too, faces being requisite to humans as proof not only that one is dealing with an actual individual being, but that it is an individual capable of suffering.” WTF is she talking about? I don’t even know where she gets this from. Then there’s this: “Plants don’t just react to attacks, though. They stand forever at the ready. Witness the endless thorns, stinging hairs and deadly poisons with which they are armed. If all this effort doesn’t look like an organism trying to survive, then I’m not sure what would.” No one said plants don’t try to survive—but that doesn’t mean they feel pain! But of course, like every successful organism, plants have evolved to survive. Simply stating this in no way supports her point.
Oh my god and get a load of this offensive offensiveness: “Slavery and genocide have been justified by the assertion that some kinds of people do not feel pain, do not feel love — are not truly human — in the same way as others.” Is she serious? Harvesting plants is comparable to genocide? Fucking idiot. And towards the end she keeps talking about “our tribe” and it’s the lamest pseudo-anthropology I’ve ever encountered. STFU. Is the bar at the Times really so low that this crap slips by? Because in that case, we really should try to get Figaro hired. Let’s start a campaign.
I like what Erik Marcus had to say about this asinine sentence: “Perhaps you’re having trouble equating a radish to a lamb to a person whose politics you hate to your beloved firstborn.”:
If she’s going to equate—her word, not mine—a radish to a lamb to your firstborn—the author should show some courage and take the argument where it leads and provide a recipe for cooking your first-born with radishes, since she apparently can’t see any moral distinctions whatsoever regarding what we put into our mouths. None of this argument is sincere. It’s feigned concern for the sake of bypassing the responsibility to make any ethical choices about food whatsoever.
The Times’ coverage of meat issues is kind of all over the place—that’s all good! A newspaper should cover all sides of an issue but this is NOT a side, it’s poorly reasoned, nonsensical crap. As Laura put it, “if I want to stand on a street corner yelling about how there is an three-headed alien living on my shoulder, that’s fine, but don’t give me a fucking column in the most respected paper in the United States to argue my point as if it were valid.” I need something intelligent to read as a chaser or I may vom. Not only does this piece make me hate meat-apologists, it makes me hate literacy.
Your government hates you: recalls and “hot” milk! »
Do NOT eat packaged leafy greens if you live, like, anywhere on the East Coast right now; some listeria got into Massachusetts’ State Garden’s manufacturing plant and wowza, there are so many brands that could sicken you, it’s scary!
More ground beef is out to get you, too: nearly 8,000 pounds of “Fully Cooked Black Angus Ground Beef Steak Patties” are also lousy with listeria; thanks, United Food Group, LLC (UFG) of Vernon, Calif.! Oh man, it gets better: These “patties” were produced on Oct. 11 last year, an inspection discovered they were all listeria-ful, and UFG shipped them anyway! Whoops!
Listeria is the choice for food-poisoning right now, it seems; almost 500 boxes of “Wheat Free, Gluten Free Mac and No Cheese” and “Wheat Free, Gluten Free French Bread Pizza” from Ian’s may be contaminated with the little buggers right now! When food safety standards are lax—and I mean, farm-to-shopping-cart safety standards—everyone suffers, even the Celiacs and the vegans.
The standards are super-lax, too: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so little power to regulate anything, the only reason every one of us eating food in the U.S. hasn’t been poisoned by it yet is absolute luck. Used-up dairy cows are sold to slaughter for human consumption without being subjected to the same tests your standard food-cows are, and these cows are full of antibiotics, like, illegally full of them, tee hee! The dairy industry, however, refuses to “allow” any further testing of any of the milk or milk products, and as the FDA is about as strong as A VERY WEAK THING, it can’t make the producers submit to these tests. HA HA HA your milk is full of substances that will kill you!
Of course the FDA gets to test your milk, and annually “only a small number of truckloads are found to be ‘hot milk,’ containing trace amounts of antibiotics.” Then that milk is “destroyed”—whatever “destroyed” means, it’s not like pouring it down the proverbial drain disappears the antibiotics from the world—and all the milk-drinkers can breathe easy. Except that the dairy farmers are actually injecting their cows with oodles of drugs the FDA doesn’t test for! Because the law doesn’t require it! Because dairy industry lobbyists use their massive amounts of cash to “convince” our elected officials to eat a cheese sandwich and keep mum!
But, you know, drink your milk or you won’t grow up big and strong/lose all the calcium in your skeleton/fade away from dairy product deprivation. You can just die of a minor infection because the bacteria were resistant to every antibiotic known to modern medicine, you’ll just do it super-full of cheese. Definitely a good trade-off. The vegans will just suffer the fever and chills of listeria poisoning, no big deal.
Artisan cheesemakers: Don’t hold us to FDA standards! A little listeriosis is fine! »
It’s the retort of many a locavore/slow-foodie: “But I only eat meat/dairy/eggs from small, usually local producers who produce it ethically and safely.” There are a million reasons that that isn’t true, but most of them take a long time to explain, and people won’t agree with you anyway, so I’m happy (sort of) to report that today, finally, we can just say, “oh yeah?”
As it turns out, “small, local, artisan” food is no guarantee of either quality, safety, or a caring producer, looking out for his/her customers. The New York Times ran an article the other day about the Estrella Family Creamery, and their defiance of the FDA. The people at Estrella make artisan cheese. They make it in relatively small batches, and then (sustainably, one assumes) ship it all over the U.S. to snooty restaurants where people who really care pay lots of money for it, eat it, and feel superior—before they start to feel sick.
You see, in February 2010, F.D.A. inspectors found listeria in Estrella’s cheese, and all over the building where the cheese is produced and aged, including in the humidifier that blows air all over the production and aging area. Gross. Kelli Estrella, owner and principal cheesemaker at Estrella, recalled some cheese and cleaned the production facility. Later, follow-up tests by the F.D.A. showed there was still listeria in Estrella cheese. Listeriosis causes fever and muscle aches and vomiting. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can also cause miscarriages.
This time, though, Kelli Estrella’s fighting back. She refuses to throw out the contaminated cheese, saying essentially that regulators should go after bigger operations and leave small producers like hers alone—despite, apparently, the fact that her small operation has now twice tested positive for a bacteria that can cause serious illnesses. It turns out this kind of entitled attitude is pretty common among artisan cheesemakers, which isn’t all that surprising considering that it’s also pretty common for them to fail their inspections. In the last year, nine small cheesemakers have had to recall their products due to contamination. From the Times:
“If the F.D.A. wanted to shut down the U.S. artisan cheese industry, all they’d have to do is do this environmental surveillance and the odds of finding a pathogen would be pretty great,” said Catherine W. Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese of the University of Vermont, referring to the listeria testing at cheese plants.
So, wait, WHAT? Artisan cheesemakers think they should be exempt from the standards imposed on all other producers, even as they admit that most artisan cheese is probably contaminated with something gross? How does that make any sense at all? Yeah, yeah, you’re all raw-milk crusaders, and we should be allowed to put whatever the damn hell we want in our mouths, and blah, blah, blah, but come on! You are really fighting for your down-home, small-batch right to sell a product that you know is contaminated with a dangerous bacteria?
OK, small, artisan cheesemakers, let me tell you about how food contamination works. I’m not a microbiologist, but I’ve taken a food safety class and had a whole glass of wine, so I think I’m qualified, particularly given how you guys all apparently interpret it. First, bacteria doesn’t give a shit whether you are a faceless corporation or a chock-full-o-personality-and-gumption artisan. Second, bacteria doesn’t give a shit if your customers are wealthier foodie assholes as opposed to poorer, food-desert nomads; they will get EQUALLY SICK—though I suppose you could argue that your rich foodie customers probably have more money for doctors and so are less likely to die from the listeriosis they contract from your artisan cheese. Third, bacterial contamination (particularly by bacteria that causes fever, vomiting, and MISCARRIAGES) is bad! It’s not folksy or character-building. It’s bad! It’s also gross! In sum, artisan cheesemakers, your failing inspection grades are neither government persecution nor badges of honor. Food safety regulations are important because it’s important to NOT KILL PEOPLE WHO EAT YOUR FOOD.
Reading this whinefest made me wonder how many other “artisan” food producers think they should be exempted from food safety regulations. I’d sure think twice before putting that “small batch” brie in my mouth.