Thursday, July 03, 2008

Confined Feeding

Chile can make us do things we've been putting aside for too long.

Her Quit Now challenge asks participants to think about their everyday choices and what they will mean in a peak oil world.

Last month I officially signed up for the challenge of not using the clothes dryer. With one small exception, my family made it through the month with, um, flying colors (or at least waving-in-the-breeze dingy-whites).

I also managed to make the switch from shampoo in bottles to shampoo bars, and from disposable kitchen sponges to hand-knit washrags.

* * *

This month I pledged not to buy bread but to make it myself all the time, using grain we grind ourselves. I love making bread but often don't get it done for any time other than Shabbat.

(Well, we already blew it once. Last night we bought pita to go with our its-too-hot-to-cook hummus and tabbouleh picnic....)

* * *

I made another pledge, one that I've been struggling with intellectually for some time and only sometimes trying to live up to:

I will not eat CAFO (confined or concentrated animal feeding operations) or factory farmed animal products this month.

In the next few weeks, I'll write more about why I chose this action and what my issues with this decision are. But for now, a little history:

I was a most-of-the-time vegetarian for many years.

"Most of the time," you ask? I've always eaten whatever my mother and grandmother put in front of me. And I've always eaten foods culturally important to the people and cultures we visited on trips. (That meant eel in Quebec, pork barbeque in South Carolina, tako poke in Hawaii.)

While I was pregnant, I craved meat and eventually decided to honor that craving and eat all the liver I wanted. For years after my son's birth, I continued to be vegetarian except on the first day of my menstrual period when I ate beef.

We kept a vegetarian house, partly to make it easy for our kitchen to remain kosher. I ate meat out at restaurants during my monthly exceptions.

Then Peter Singer and Erik Marcus entered my life. When I read about how dairy cows and laying poultry worked into the industrial agricultural system, I began to feel that eating no meat but continuing to support the system nonetheless by purchasing milk and eggs was something I could not do. We began to buy soy milk and artificial egg powder, as well as TVP and more tofu and tempeh than we had been eating before in our dairy-and-egg days.

Then, Son had significant reactions to the soy he was eating. We cut out the soy for a brief experiment--and his weight and height both soared instantly. He had been a tiny child--and now I believe it is because his body could not absorb nutrients well because of his food sensitivities. (He is now very average size-wise and doesn't have significant food issues of any type.) I'm not saying that children cannot be fed well on a heavy soy diet--just that this particular child could not due to the reactions of his gut.

After a lot of soul searching, long conversations into the night, and reading in the philosophy section, David and I decided to buy both meat, eggs, and dairy from a nearby farm. I have been extremely pleased with this decision.

I swapped utterly, from keeping to a vegetarian diet at home but eating meat out, to keeping an omnivore's kitchen but eating vegetarian out. Or at least that was my plan. David kept to his word far more than I did.

We never said we'd be vegans when we were out--but a lot of my hair-pulling was from the fact that I truly believe a factory farm is a factory farm. Whether the animal is killed for meat or just de-beaked and de-tailed and crowded beyond belief in a dark warehouse full of its own shit really does not make much difference to me.

Ordering the cheese omelette instead of the burger really doesn't make me feel better about my ability to be a moral person.

The funny thing is that my belief that a factory farm is a factory farm pushes me away from not only animal products produced industrially but PLANT products produced industrially--and that means almost all soybeans and other meat analogs. I'll write more about this in coming posts, but for now...

...I am going to keep my meat eating and my dairy and egg consumption to our own kitchen, where, yes, we will cook animal foods, all from animals living on a farm we have visited, raised by a farmer we know.

* * *

I've already blown it. July 1st at knitting group, I decided to order eggplant fries. I did not ask if they were vegan. Even though I realized they might have some kind of egg dip, I decided they probably did not given that they do not have a thick-batter coating.

What a wimp I am. I'm going to have to learn how to ask again.

Then when I was chatting about it later, I realized they were sprinkled with parmesan cheese. What an auspicious start.


Laura said...

I hear you on the CAFO meat and even more so on the dairy and eggs. We pretty much eat only non-CAFO meats (beef, pork, chicken), our own eggs, and milk from a dairy that I trust. The rare exception is steaks from the butcher down the road when we have company - but they're from small local farmers so I try not to beat myself up too much that they've had grain, at least they weren't raised in a CAFO.

But there is still that nagging question when we're out. I've found myself eating a lot of salads lately. And not wanting to go out for breakfast even though it used to be one of my favorite things.

It's a hard adjustment to make. But I think we're both healthier for it, even if we're not necessarily lighter.

Can't wait to hear what you have to say about soy - I've always had an aversion to the fake whatever products made of soy. But maybe that's just the omnivore in me.

Carrie K said...

Mindful at least.

I'll have to check out the CAFO information.

Will baking bread cost you more in utility bills? Does not using the dryer even it out a bit? Not that you'd be baking bread every day or even that often. I'm mostly mulling it over in my head, out loud on your blog. Nice, no?

Chile said...

Well, I was hungry before reading this post....

When changing a habit, and forming a new one, there's the annoying period when you have to constantly remind yourself you wanted to change. When the change involves others - restaurant staff and friends - it can be more difficult because of distractions and/or a bit of embarassment if you worry they will question your choices.

Here's one way to make this easier. If you know ahead of time where you will be going, many restaurants have their menus online. This gives you the option to sit at home or work, and peruse through it carefully. You can also call the restaurant - at a non-busy time and ask if substitutions are welcomed or perceived as a major hassle (ala Anthony Bourdain's disdain for vegetarians).

And, not directed at you, but for general information - a healthy and well-balanced vegan diet can be totally soy-free. :)

The Purloined Letter said...

Carrie--Baking bread may raise the bill slightly. But given the current costs of store-bought bread, we'll still come out ahead by a lot! Using a bread machine when we're not baking other stuff at the same time is probably the best way to go.

Chile--Absolutely. I thought of going into the whole story, but it is kind of a long one for another post. Thanks for pointing it out, since I certainly don't want others to assume you have to eat soy and processed food to be a good vegan. Its just the easiest way to do it if you shop and eat in relatively conventional American ways, as so many Americans do. Learning to eat a decent vegetarian diet doesn't take as much thought as learning to eat a low-soy vegan diet.

Madeline said...

I do the same - eat meat from local farmer friends and avoid it when out, with a few exceptions - I'm not fanatical about it any more. But I always avoid soy. Have you ever read the info on soy at the weston site?

terpsicore said...

Which farm do you buy your meat from?

Red said...

I LOVE this post.

A not to Carrie. We are a fmaily of four, and wash at leat 4-5 loads of laundry everytime we wash. Now...when we were using our dryer(Now only when it rains) that was, at least, one hour of drying per load, sometimes longer.

When I make bread(which we knead by hand) we make 4 loaves at a time, and feeeze what is not being used. If you make/bake your bread that way, then you definitely save on electricty. 45 minutes of baking in comparison to 4-5 hours of dryer time. Others may have something different going on in their home, but that is our scenario.

Change is difficult. I know my daughter is a vegetarian, not vegan and she still has difficulty eating anywhere. That is why, when we go places, we make sure we cook or take something she can eat. An inconvienent truth(No pun intended).

We had been invited this past spring, to a gaming(video) party. Everyone was supposed to bring a side dish and a beverage. We made something we knew my daughter could eat and our gallon of homemade sweetened tea.

No one, and I mean no one else brought any side dishes. It gets better. The host of the party was ordering pizza. No problem we think, she can have a lsice or two of cheese pizza. Wrong! They were all with pepperoni(sp?) I was miffed and asked why there wer eno cheese pizzas and stated that now my daughter was limited to her dish and a few carrot sticks the hostess had provided.

I get angry when things like this happen, but I keep my cool and then get on a soapbox and try to educate people. I hope that by going on one of my tirades, that these people listen and remember, that there other diets out ther other than the S.A.D.(Standard American Diet)

*Removes sopabax and goes back to her cave*

The Purloined Letter said...

Thanks, Red. You're absolutely right that the dryer is a much bigger deal than the bread. And the nice thing is that while you effectively have to pay somebody else's power bill when you buy store-bought bread--but when you use a clotheline, there is no power use anywhere and it is all both free and good for the planet.

Madeline--I knew Weston Price and I knew a lot of soy stuff, but I did not know their pages. Thank you so much for the lead!

Terpsicore--There is more information about the farm at this post. If you want more info on local farms that sell meat, feel free to write me off list. Thanks.

Chile said...

Red, I just wanted to pop in here and let you know that I plan to do a few posts this month on eating out as a vegan. The first may not be until next week, but I hope you'll stop by.

Wendy said...

Very interesting .... I had the opportunity to read an exchange between two people on a local homeschooling group. One is a vegan (for "philosophical" reasons). The other is a locavore (mostly, and moving more in that direction). The vegan said, basically, that eating meat is wrong because factory farming is wrong. With that, I agreed. Factory farming is wrong.

I was going to ask how she felt about industrial vegetable farms, but I haven't, yet ;).

I like what you've said here, though, and I completely agree - a factory farm is a factory farm is a factory farm, and regardless of whether it's plants grown in a monoculture or animals raised in warehouses, it's still no good for us.

Like you, my solution is to eat locally and in-season at home.

I also bake all of my own bread, and the result has been - not as much bread, which may actually be more healthy :).


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