But first, Dinner!
I am ridiculously excited about tonight's dinner. As you can probably surmise from the picture, we had Tomato Pie with Greens and Beans from The Urban Vegan - hold your brains inside your heads, folks, I know that must have been a shock!
I couldn't find pre-made focaccia bread and I have a thing against yeast breads on work nights, so I substituted a faithful standby: mediterranean flatbread. It looks cleverly enough like a real pizza crust, though, doesn't it?
I also didn't feel like devoting over an hour to letting Dynise's special marinara sauce simmer while I wandered stupidly around my constricting apartment, so I slathered on a generous portion of Bertolli Fire-Roasted Tomato with Cabernet Sauvignon marinara sauce instead. It was perhaps too generous a smear, or maybe I didn't really need to sprinkle Mediterranean sea salt blend and garlic powder over it, but it was pretty intense. I also wish I'd been a little more artful in my basil-scattering.
I served it with mixed olives and the Greens and Beans, using my favorite green - Kale.
It was perfect - the kale brought a dark, almost bitter, earthy tone to the otherwise very bright dish, so it became quite natural for Mister and me to pile bites of our greens-n-beans on top of our tomato pies to complement and calm the bright acidity of the tomatoes.
There was another thing that played with the flavors on our tomato pies: our first ever experience with Vegan Parmesan 'cheese.'
It smelled just like the "real thing" but without all the fat, calories, sodium, cholesterol, morphine, and rocket fuel.
Chapter 5: The Dairy Disaster - if shock is what the authors are going for, they definitely get your attention in the first paragraph of the chapter: Go suck your mother's tits. Go on. Suck your mother's tits. You think this is ridiculous? It is. Get ready to use your head.
One of the reasons to eschew dairy which has made sense to me for years (even when I didn't make any active effort to avoid cheese and ice cream) is that cows' milk is for baby cows, just like human mothers nurse their young. In fact, to put that spin on it, can you imagine the contempt and controversy a woman would drum up if she nursed an abandoned baby kitten until it was ready to wean? It's really no different - we are the only species that drinks another species milk, as well as the only species that continues to drink milk after we are "weaned" as infants. That is a relatively well-known fact in the veg-community, but it bears repeating. Additionally, this may or may not be news, but lactose intolerance is actually the body's willful adaptation to the weaning process - you are supposed to be lactose intolerant because you aren't supposed to drink cow's milk when you're "all growns up."
In case that information doesn't speak to the "buy in" of why you wouldn't want to drink milk - AKA lacteal secretions of a cow - how about some health reasons?
Despite the lies we've been fed...by the milk industry...consuming milk not only does not prevent osteoporosis, it can actually cause it. The nations with the highest incidence of the disease are also the nations with the highest dairy consumption.
Cows are milked by machines, not people. Machines don't care if they chafe the udders and cause infection, nor do they stop milking once the pus begins to flow. In an effort to filter out some of the pus (yes, you read that right - some), the milk is pasteurized, which effectively kills all of the good qualities the milk once had, while not completely ridding it of the pus and pesticides that found their way in during milking.
According to the FDA, "virtually 100% of the cheese products produced and sold in the U.S. has detectable pesticide residues."
Chapter 6: You Are What You Eat - put your helmets on kids, because we're about to go on the most traumatic ride in the park. I will spare you a great deal of this chapter because I can't bring myself to look at the graphic accounts of cruelty described by slaughterhouse workers, and because I don't operate like PETA - I don't think that helps matters, it just makes you look like a lunatic militant.
The majority of this chapter is devoted to tales of horror from the stunning, bleeding, defeathering, and slaughter of the once-living creatures that now decorate plates across the states to the filth and contamination rampant in meat processing plants. I will only subject you to short accounts of a very long chapter.
Here is a direct quote from a worker in a poultry plant: I personally have seen rotten meat - you can tell by the odor. This rotten meat is mixed with the fresh meat and sold for baby food [seriously???]. We are asked to mix it with the fresh food, and this is the way it is sold. You can see the worms inside the meat. How much trust can you really put in an industry that is trying to give your babies salmonella?
The real "a-ha" moment, though is that after they describe all of this - the cruelty, the horror and grief felt by the animals as they're led to slaughter, the infected, pesticide-ridden, hormonally-altered "meat" - they play a game of pretend: Let's make believe that all the animals killed for human consumption are healthy, happy, free of antibiotics, steroids, and pesticides and are humanely raised and slaughtered. Pretend you are eating 'perfect meat.' Great. But what exactly are you eating? "Meat" is the decomposing, decaying, rotting flesh of a dead animal. No matter how fresh your little package of Perdue looks and no matter what lies have been spread about "fresh" meat, please remember that with all creatures, the moment a being dies, it begins to break down and return to the earth.
Chapter 7: The Myths and Lies About Protein - This chapter is the longest, best answer ever to the perennial [and boring and offensive] question, "But where do you get your protein??" Do you know who is suffering from protein deficiency? People who are literally starving. That's it. Seriously. According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet still provides twice as much protein as a person needs in a day. How much is that, you ask? From as little as 18 grams to as many as 60 grams. There is actually much more evidence pointing to the ill effects of diets that are overloaded with protein - for one thing, it can interfere with the absorption of calcium, leading to osteoporosis...because it is actually leaching calcium from your bones.
Chapter 8: Pooping - This chapter provides a more tangible illustration of balancing calories in with calories out. It makes sense, though - pooping is your body's way of expelling what's left after it picks out all the good parts of what you eat. If you aren't pooping adequately, what's "left over" is just rotting inside your intestines until it can make its getaway. How does waste escape? By binding with fiber - if you're overdosing on protein at the expense of fiber, you run the risk of stopping yourself up, which isn't comfortable and isn't conducive to the healthy body you surely desire.
Chapter 9: Have No Faith: Government Agencies Don't Give a Sh*t About Your Health - I really think the title says it all, but if you've been following the thread of the book, I hope you're wondering exactly why the authors would say that.
More or less, they "connect the dots" where the dots are the people who are in charge of the milk industry, the meat industry, the sugar industry, etc, and are also the people in charge of the USDA and FDA. There are tons of conflicts of interest going on, but the real reason you, the consumer, should not trust these people with your health and safety is this: The U.S. Department of Agriculture was not created for your interests; it was created to protect farmers. It is their best interest in which the USDA is invested and their interests and yours may not coincide.
For example, if a farmer should volunteer to have their livestock tested for epidemic diseases like Avian Flu or Mad Cows Disease, that animal would be one of the .0005714% of food-animals tested in this country. By way of comparison, Japan tests every slaughterhouse-bound animal.
When I was in high school, rumor had it that someone had seen the big cartons of meat delivered to the cafeteria kitchen, and they were marked "Grade F but Edible." Apparently dog food is Grade D. That may have actually be true, however, since the government uses our money to purchase surplus/unwanted meat from the various industries and then feed that meat to America's children through the "virtuous" National School Lunch Program.
P.S. We are the only industrialized nation that allows for the use of Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) in our dairy supply.
Did you forget about the Rocket Fuel? I didn't - because of various government tests through the decades, a certain amount of rocket fuel has infiltrated the ground and feed of the animals milked and killed for human consumption. According to the Environmental Working Group's research, every sample tested in Texas (in 1999) came up positive for rocket fuel, and most milk in California had 5 times the amount considered "safe" by the EPA.
Chapter 10: Don't Be a Pussy - despite the title of the chapter, this is actually a really long and very positive pep talk, meant to motivate and inspire the readers to take what they've learned and let it change their lives. It also touches on fasting as a great way to distance yourself from previous vices and detox your body from the damage you've inadvertently done. There are tips spread throughout the chapter to help the reader make a move and stay strong. The chapter concludes with a comprehensive but accessible list of essential vitamins and how to make sure you have them in your diet.
Chapter 11: Let's Eat - as you might expect, the entire chapter is devoted to lists of "acceptable" grocery items as well as a very helpful 4 week guide to becoming a happier, healthier, and yes, skinnier you.
Chapter 12: FYI - a good umbrella for miscellaneous tips and tidbits about living the good life.
Chapter 13: Use Your Head - another peptalk, this one is less about building up your self-esteem and making you feel good about the choices you have presumably made to live a different life and more about empowering you to become everything you ever wanted to be. This is like self-esteem on performance enhancing drugs (like juice...freshly pressed).
Thus finally ends my book review/tirade. I will leave you with the same words our authors chose:
The preface from Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coats:
Isn't man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eat them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."