Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 29: Eating Out and PETA

*Not an exact conversation
Hubby: Let's go out to eat.
Me: Okay
Hubby:.....Oh, we probably shouldn't do that right. Since you're going vegan and all.
Me: I can still eat out.
Hubby: Yeah, but we'd have to go to that vegan restaurant.
Me: No, I just have to look up their menu. It's no big deal.

I've eaten food from Carl's Jr, Denny's, Pizza Hut, and Wendy's.  While there is one token vegan restaurant in my city, I've only eaten there once many years ago.  I'm not sure I'd feel right about going in there again.  They were big PETA supporters and might still be.

Instead what I do is this:
1) I have a book from the library called "The Vegan Cheat Sheet" which has a chapter devoted to eating out at various national restaurant chains.  It tells you what is vegan and also what you can tweak to make vegan like asking to not use cheese.  The books is a little out of date so...
2) Sometimes the restaurant will include dietary information about the food that they sell online.  I really really wanted onion rings from Carl's Jr, but they use milk.  So I had to settle for fries.
3) That said not all restaurants list stuff online so I have to do a websearch which often leads me to PETAs website (shudder). This is how I double checked that Denny's veggie burger is vegan and doesn't contain any egg (like so many veggie burgers do).

I haven't found a restaurant yet that I couldn't eat food from.  Even if it's just a salad, there's always something on the menu.  In Pizza Hut's case, I told the waitress that I couldn't have dairy (she didn't need the full explanation).  So I had a cheese-less pizza with veggies.  I'm thinking that they've made this sorta thing before because whoever created the pizza did a fantastic job.

So you may be thinking "what's your beef with PETA."  Ha ha. Beef.  Well, I have no problem supporting the Humane Society (which is also called SPCA, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  They care about the treatment of animals as well.  Here is my brief list of why PETA makes me shudder.

1) PETA supporters have been known to go off the deep end during some of their protests.  At times they show up naked or covered in lettuce.
2) They don't make much sense. They have protested Pokemon which is a video game with fictional creatures.
3) They have problem with people keeping pets and that includes some people with disabilities who use service animals.
4) They don't believe that we should kill pests.
5) They have targeted Christianity.
6) The founder has admitted that their tactics are not to be polite but to make waves. In other words, rather than appealing to people's good sense like the Humane Society does, they intend to make people angry.
7) They euthanize and sterilize animals despite being fundamentally against both.
8) While PETA has a clear stance on the treatment of animals, it remains neutral when it comes to unborn people. Thus people are treated with less dignity among adherents than animals.

I could go into more details, but I think it suffices to say that PETA is a controversial group even among animal lovers.  This is why I cringe whenever I click on the links.  It could be a great source of information, but the organization is into being controversial and proselytizing and demeaning to humans. The Humane Society on the other hand protests similar things like puppy mills, factory farming, etc and has historically stood up for the rights of children.  Unlike PETA they often send grants to no kill shelters. Maybe a Humane Society has a vegan information page?  That would be nice.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: bagel with red pepper hummus

Please ignore my messy kitchen.
Lunch: Gardein soy nuggets, rice, blackberries, and half a bagel with chocolate peanutbutter
Snack: Cliff bar
Dinner: Baked ziti and asparagus

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 28: Why Christians Go Vegan

In a lot of these posts I've hinted at the reasons why Christians go vegan particularly when discussing the historical context of Christians and diets.  But to give a more concise understanding I thought I would lay out the bullet points here:

Why Christians Go Vegan:

1) To avoid gluttony- In the Bible, there is a story of a rich man and poor man named Lazarus.  Lazarus is hungry and has sores all over his body.  He would give anything to eat the scraps from the rich man's table, but when they both die, it is Lazarus who is exulted and the rich man made low. This is one example of many pointing out the dangers of gluttony.

In the West, we eat and consume a lot of food including an abundance of animal-based foods.  It's both the quantity and the quality.  For some individuals there is an obsession with certain foods like bacon so they practice detachment and if necessary avoidance of certain foods to avoid gluttony.

2) For health- Franklin Graham, arguably one of the world's most famous Evangelicals, went vegan at the beginning of the year.  He cites health as his motivation for going vegan, and he also mentions that in the book of Daniel, Daniel eats a strictly vegan diet for 10 days and is said to look well afterwards.  This is commonly referred to as the Daniel Diet.

3) Out of tradition- I won't get too detailed here as I wrote an entire blog post on the various traditions of fasting and diet from different Christian groups. Suffices to say that it is traditional and in some cases it is an obligation as there are directives from your local Bishop.

4) Stewardship- Most people have this feeling that cows are raised happily grazing on grass and that chickens are freely peeking in the yard, but the reality is that much of our animal-based food is not raised this way.  They are usually raised and slaughtered in horrendous conditions.  Animals are being mistreated.  Much of the animals are in terrible shape and shouldn't even be consumed.  This is what has fueled the organic and free-range movements.  Some people find that they can't afford such food or only sparingly so they simply eat a vegan diet instead.

5) For the planet- Another aspect of stewardship is taking care of the eco-system.  Large parts of the rainforest and other eco-systems have been cleared away as pasture and grazing land.

6) In the beginning- In the book of Genesis before the Fall, God told Adam and Eve to eat only the plants.  Post-fall was the introduction of animal products (you recall God putting together animal skins for Adam and Eve).  Some have taken the approach that we should live like we were commanded pre-Fall to set ourselves apart from the sinful world.

7) Love of Neighbor- There are people who are responsible for processing of these factory farmed animals.  There are also people who live close to factory farms and end up with contaminated wells and soils.  My own grandmother experienced severe sickness when her well water was polluted by live stock.

8) As a personal penance- Fasting or abstaining from certain foods is a good personal penance (which is essentially why I've gone vegan for Lent).  So long as going vegan doesn't inhibit your other obligations then it is a moral good.  You don't have to do this just during Lent or Advent. You can do it at other times as well as long as those other times are not supposed to be times of Feasting such as the Easter season.

Keep in mind that eating animal-based foods is not in and of itself immoral. Certainly it could be immoral for an individual (as in the case of gluttony) or groups of individuals (in the case of ignoring a Bishop's directive).  So we should frame the avoidance of animal-based foods/products as being because of the sin of disobedience or gluttony etc. rather than the erroneous sin of eating animals.  Does this make sense?

What I ate Today:
Breakfast- bagel with vegan chocolate-peanut butter
Lunch: peas and home fries
Snack: Cliff bar
Dinner: black berries, and chocolate chip pancake, not pictured french fries (Hubby brought them home)

Day 27: Christians and Health Food

We keep getting hit.  This weekend the plague struck Knee.  It's spring. It seems like it never ends.

But onto the main event...

During all the multiple law suits over the HHS birth control mandate, I learned some eye opening stuff.  People do not connect the dots.  Let me explain.

When people, rather liberal and atheist types, think of religious people, they think in stereotypical terms.  Religious people are nutty right wingers who spend all their time watching sports, drinking beer, and eating really bad foods.  Or something along those lines. While there are some who fall into those categories, there are numerous people who don't.

Case in point: Eden Foods

Eden Foods prides itself on being a small processor of organic plant-based foods.  It's a closely held company whose CEO is a Catholic.  He sued (and as far as I can tell is still suing) the government because he doesn't want to cover birth control.  His lawsuit is similar to Hobby Lobby's although in that case they objected to 4 forms of birth control.  Eden Foods doesn't cover any life style medications/devices like Viagra or any birth control.  Viagra isn't mandated to be covered but birth control is.  (Although at this time of writing, the Republicans are making several attempts to repeal that part of the mandate and replace it with something else).

The company is named Eden Foods which is a reference to the Garden of Eden, which is a Biblical place.  The CEO prides himself on eliminating BPA lined cans.  The whole point of his company is offering healthy, pure foods.

This is appealing to those who want a healthy, pure food product.  Often these people searching for organic food stuffs are liberals and irreligious.  So when they discovered that Eden Foods doesn't cover birth control and was suing the government in order to continue doing what they always do, which is promoting a healthy, chemical-free lifestyle, some online people went bonkers.  They basically trashed the Eden Foods facebook page and pledged to never buy another Eden Food product.

It wasn't that they didn't share similar values of living a chemical-free lifestyle with eating a healthy diet.  It was because he based this value on his Catholic faith.

What was most shocking to me was these numerous people were shocked to discover that Eden Foods was run by a Christian using Christian ideas.  Clearly there was a disconnect with the name being a Biblical reference and the idea that not all Christians/Conservatives are junk food addicts.

Would it surprise you that Eden foods is not the only Christian food company?  It shouldn't especially when I've been talking about this being true for years. Nor should it surprise you when you read the packaging of several different brands and also what they are named.

Food for Life, while it claims has no religious affiliation, has put several Biblical references on their products including Ezekiel Breads.  The founder Max Torres got the recipe from reading the Bible.

There's also Bragg Foods Inc, which makes this nutritional yeast product.  If you look closely, their label includes a Jesus fish with Biblical reference.  The head of Bragg Foods Inc appears to be a Christian.  She appears on labels along with her late father-in-law.  Both are/were into healthy eating and give lectures on the subject.

So yeah...

Christians have historically and are currently into nutrition, diet, and healthy eating in alignment with Christian principals of diet and fasting.  Why this is so shocking to irreligious people is confusing to me.  It's also shocking to me that numerous fellow Christians are unaware of this.  But now you know.  Hopefully this will no longer be such a controversial thing but rather a point of mutual respect and understanding.

What I ate:
Breakfast: overnight oats
Lunch: romen noodles, salad
Snack: overnight oats
Dinner: soy nuggets and corn

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 22: Christian Fasting

These past few weeks have been hectic.  I sort of fell off the radar because I was feeling blah, which probably is best explained by the sudden onset of illness from other members of the family.  In other words, I think I was fighting off what they had but didn't know it at the time.  Then HB got a rather nasty cold with a huge amount of coughing.  Last week on Thursday I went to pick him up from school only to be notified that his teacher and four other students (6 according to him) puked.  On Friday I picked him up complaining of stomach issues.  A few hours later he developed this plague.  Fortunately nobody else has gotten it.  Although Hubby has gone out of town and texted me saying he thought that he had a fever (which HB had a fever too).  So....I guess you see why I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks.

I mean, who wants to think of food when this is going on?

I have a barter/trade thing going on.  I give music lessons to a teenager in exchange for babysitting.  So in the midst of all that is sickness, I was giving lessons because said teenager has an upcoming exam.

It was also her sister's birthday and there was a cake, which was offered to me.  Now you all know that cake consists (ordinarily) of eggs and milk.  So I passed on it with the explanation that I was going vegan for Lent.

You'd think I just announced that I was joining a cult.  Her father's eyes got hugely wide, but then he simmered down.

What really struck me during the brief exchange was that he thought that some Christian fasting practices are over-the-top and "unBiblical."  I politely refrained from pulling out my ninja Bible skills.  He's a Presbyterian and not a very well versed one.  I don't expect him to be a theologian.  Nor do I know of many Protestants who do fast.  He's got a very busy job and has to raise three children.  So I bit my tongue and reminded myself that in all charity not everyone has the time or inclination to do their homework.

Since I do have the time and inclination, permit me to enlighten you.

Fasting practices are ancient.  There are many references to fasting found in the Old Testament and New Testament.  And dietary restrictions are also normal.  Sampson, from the Old Testament, was raised as a Nazirite.  He was not allowed to drink alcohol. The Essenes, a group of Jews during Jesus' time, were forbidden from sacrificing or eating meat. According to the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist, who there is some debate if he was influenced by the Essenes, is said to eat or have for meat only locusts and honey.

That right there should blow any notion of dietary restrictions and fasting being "unBiblical" right out of the water. It has always been a part of the Church as well.  Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, tells the disciples to fast and pray in order to heal.  Later in the Acts of the Apostles, there was prayer and fasting especially before missionary work.  Prayer and fasting go hand in hand.

In modern times, Coptic Orthodox Christians of Alexandria and Ethiopia have the most restrictive diet.  Outside of 7 weeks after Easter, they eat a vegan diet. According to Wikipedia, they are vegan 250 days a year.

Other Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholic Christians observe fasting practices during Advent and Lent.  These are often referred to as Little Fast and Great Fast respectively.  During Lent, there is a progression of abstaining.  First it is meat, then it is cheese (dairy and eggs too), and lastly oil (and fish).  The idea is that it was a time of rest for the animals.  Today, oil doesn't require the use of animals to produce so this is merely a tradition.  Usually on Sundays (and for some Saturdays) the fast isn't observed.  Wednesdays and Fridays are vegan.  This of course depends on the Bishop's directive and if you are in good health.  If you are interested in understanding this more, here's a great blog post on the topic from a Priest's wife.

Western Catholic Christians have historically had stricter fasting observances/dietary restrictions.  Black Fasts were part of the early church and are still observed by Orthodox and Eastern Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Over time the Church has eased many of it's restrictions.  Here is an article detailing fasting/dietary restrictions in the United States back in 1906. I imagine my Catholic great-grandparents had to observe this fast.

Monastic orders have traditionally held higher dietary restrictions and fasts than the laity.  To this day, some monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians practice vegetarianism on a regular basis.

Protestants also have fasting and dietary restricting traditions.  Seventh-day Adventists tend to be vegetarians and are expected to follow Old Testament dietary laws.  Some Mormons restrict their meat intake.  Also some Society of Friends extend their practice of peace to animals and are vegetarians or vegans.

So with all this in mind, I decided to hold a stricter fast than is required.  This is actually encouraged by the Bishops as a form of personal penance.  But one doesn't have to fast just for Lent or before Mass, it's Biblical to fast for a myriad of reasons in conjunction with prayer.

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast: not pictured overnight oats

Snack: not pictured hashbrowns with nutritional yeast and ketchup

Lunch: not pictured, salad and spaghetti with mushballs

Snack: not pictured, rest of overnight oats

Dinner: not pictured, vegan chili and toast

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 9: Accidentally Vegan

Some of the foods I've purchased specifically say "Vegan" or contain the happy little V on them to denote that they are vegan.  These are foods created specifically to be vegan.  Some vegetarian products can also be vegan, but usually they have both marked on the packaging.  I've looked at some vegetarian burgers only to discover that they have egg in them, but those spring rolls only say vegetarian when they are also vegan.

See "Happy little V" It looks like plant while the vegetarian designation just looks kinda sad.

Other foods are designed to be Kosher or Halal.  The bacon bits are Kosher and contain the U symbol on the packaging.  Since keeping kosher involves avoiding milk and milk products mixing with meat, then some of these foods are also vegan.  They are accidentally vegan.  In other words, the manufacturer never intended them to be vegan, but they are anyway. It's important to note while some of these Kosher products don't contain meat, bugs, or dairy, they will sometimes contain egg so you have to read the ingredient list if you are using kosher products as another way to shop.  My pretzels also don't say they are vegetarian or vegan, but they have a U on them.  A quick glance at the ingredient list shows that they are vegan.  Just so you know the U is the Orthodox Union's designation.  There are other Kosher designations including one with flag thingy and a the letter K which I've seen (KofK). They are just different organizations giving their particular stamp of Kosher approval. Wikipedia has several articles about keeping Kosher and food symbols, but this one I thought was interesting because it mentions how being Kosher is different than vegan when it comes to food products. So if I managed to confuse you, it should help.

See the U next to "flavored" on the bac'n pieces and the U next the "net" on the pretzels.  I bet you thought it was some sort of trademark symbol.  Nope.  It denotes that it's Kosher.  Gold star if you start looking through your cabinets and declare "hey this is Kosher."

Halal doesn't have the same dietary restrictions as Jews.  They eat dairy with meat and bugs are fine.  There are no Halal alcohols while there are Kosher ones. The similarity is in how the meat is slaughtered.  So finding a food product that's vegan and Kosher is more likely than Halal and vegan.

Then there are products with no such markings of any kind.  Oreos are vegan.  So are oriental roman noodles and teddy grahams, some crackers, and some breads.  You can read through the ingredient list and discover that there isn't honey, meat, eggs, or dairy in any of them.  If you call the company, they won't claim to be vegan because they make some of the products on the same machines as other products that do contain dairy.  Therefore it's easy to transfer minute bits of dairy to the product even if it doesn't actually have it in the ingredient list.  Some companies will actually warn you of this on the packaging because they don't want allergic reactions.  It's up to the individual vegan how strict they want to be about this.

I know that you're probably like "Not another vegan post.  I think I'd rather gouge my eyes out.  Wasn't this supposed to be about religion or something?"  In fairness I am talking about keeping Kosher and that's sort of the jumping off point where Christians get their fasting practices.

But, you'd be right. I haven't really discussed Christian fasting practices...yet. I'm setting up a contrast between veganism and how Eastern Catholics or the Orthodox fast.  So the next set of posts are going to be about their fasting practices and how I'm doing it.   Since I've set up the vegan end, the next post will be discussing the fasting practices of Eastern Catholics.  So stick around....

What I ate today:
Breakfast: overnight oats and black berries

Lunch: bagel with hummus, spinach, and tomato.  1 orange and yogurt

Because it was a day in which I needed to be in two places at once (both kids were dismissed at noon), I packed my lunch.  Ordinarily I go to Bible study across town on Thursdays so it's normally okay to get back home for lunch, but not today.  And when I say across town, I mean that.  I come the furthest away from anyone.  My local parish has Bible study for moms (and non-moms. there's actually a lot of them) but the one for moms is in the evening which takes away from family time.  This one across town is during the day. 

Snack: not pictured black berries and pretzel

Dinner: Leftover lo mein, and spring rolls
It didn't taste so great warmed up.  So this is one I'll have to portion out so less chance of leftovers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Day 8: What's a Vegan

You probably remember me talking about vegetarians and vegans simultaneously in a psuedo-interchangeable way.  Historically this is correct because the term "vegan" wasn't coined until the 1940s.  That isn't to say that there weren't vegans, but they were such a small minority of vegetarians that they were referred to as vegetarians or to be distinctive strict vegetarians.  In other words, vegans aren't really separate from vegetarians, but rather they are a subset. 

Vegetarians are more common historically speaking.  No one knows where the term vegetarian comes from, but there are several cultures that have practiced vegetarianism over the historic landscape of humanity.

Vegans, even though they are subset, don't agree with what is acceptable in a vegan diet.  This is similar to a vegetarian who may or may not eat eggs.  Some vegans have no problem consuming foods derived from insects such as red dye number 4 or honey.  Others are so strict that they refuse to eat sugar that has been whitened with bone char or manufactured in a plant with machines that also process food with dairy.  I even came across a gentlemen arguing that it wasn't vegan to buy the chicken romen noodles even though the person wasn't consuming the packets. It's a kind of surreal vegan in-fighting and squabbling over who can out-vegan the other. 

It gets worse when you branch outside of the realm of food consumption to any animal consumption.  Some life-style vegans argue that dietary vegans who wear leather or wool should drop the vegan moniker.  The argument goes that they are only eating a plant-based diet and should refer to themselves as such.  They aren't vegans because they don't subscribe to same set of ethics.

All of this actually reminds me of Christians or Catholics with the in-fighting of who can out-Catholic each other.  Not a trad-Catholic who attends Latin Mass- quelle horror!! In other words, I don't take the militant vegan seriously and many vegans don't either because it doesn't actually help their cause.  The ones I see more often want to educate the public and encourage baby steps not large leaps since that's the more likely way a person will stick with veganism.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: apologies for the weird camera lighting.  That's overnight oats with black berries.

Snack: not pictured half a bagel with hummus and black berries

Lunch: left over pizza and a salad with vegan ranch not pictured chocolate chips with peanutbutter

Dinner: not pictured loaded bake potato and salad with vegan ranch.

The potato had black beans, vegan cheese, vegan sour cream (which it has saturated and trans fat so I don't think I'll be purchasing again), vegan butter, and bacon bits for crunch.

Bacon bits?

Yes. Unless it says "made from real bacon" it's not really bacon.  Bacon bits are actually soy bits.  They are flavored and dyed to look bacon-y.  And by dye I mean the unnatural kind red dye no 40.  Bacon bits are vegan.  They are what vegans term "accidentally vegan" which I'll explain tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 7: Wraping up the Week

It's Day 7 and I've finished the week.  It has been at times hard.  This is because there are three other members of my family who are not giving up animal derived foods for Lent.  My children are under the age of 14 and haven't really gotten the hang of Lenten penance.  I don't think my interest started until I was much older either.  I do make them vegetarian meals for Friday, but other than that....  So naturally when I open up the fridge I have to remind myself that my snacks are limited.  My mind says "oh, look, cheese! Oh, that's right. No cheese."  I think it would be easier if those things weren't here- much how during Passover Jews remove the leavening agents of bread.  But we carry on.

Over the summer when I switched over to a low-carb diet I spent three days with a rough headache.  So you may be thinking, what's going vegan like?  Gas.  Lots and lots of gas. 👃💨 At times it's a bit painful until one expels it.  I remember reading that you would need to take something like beano from a vegan website, but I didn't realize how accurate that would be.  Yep.  I think you'd need some sort of gas thingy for a week at least.  Of course I've just done it the hard way and offered it up.  That's because of laziness and cheapness.  But you don't have to be like me.

And in case you are thinking "Oh, I'll never go vegan for Lent."  I say "ha" to you.  If Jesus asked you to do something for a spiritual exercise, then you'd do it.  Judging by a Twitter query of "what's the most interesting thing you've given up for Lent", he's asking a lot of people to do this.  "Vegan" was listed or alluded to several times to my shock.  Check here too. Perhaps it's in solidarity with our Eastern Catholic Brethern who are particularly being persecuted in the Middle East or perhaps it's a need for renewal and more visibility within the Western Catholic Church that he's asking for this.  It's probably many reasons both for the individual and for the Church as a whole.  So don't say "Oh, I'll never go vegan for Lent."  Because next year you might feel the tug too.  I just hope that reading my journey and the fruits of my research will help you.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: not pictured bagel with avocado and hummus and one large strawberry.

It was one of those days of rushing through breakfast.

Snack: not pictured pretzel with mustard

Lunch: Vegan Pizza and not pictured strawberries.

The pizza I bought was your typical frozen pizza.  It also tasted that way.  I think if I made my own vegan pizza it would taste better.  I didn't eat the whole thing, but the image is after I sliced it up.

Snack: not pictured chips

Not healthy I know.

Dinner: Chocolate Chip Pancakes and hashbrowns  I forgot to put nutritional yeast on the hashbrowns.  Woops.

I feel like I should have had some leaf greens in there somewhere today.  I guess I'll just have to make that up tomorrow.