Saturday, July 05, 2008

Industrial Vegan...

...or CAFO terroir?

At the Smithsonian Folklife festival, I am struggling with my month-long pledge to myself not to eat CAFO animal products.

I thought about bringing my own food but decided it would be interesting to get something from one of the festival vendors. Surprisingly, there is nothing vegan here that I can find other than Lime Fizz and watermelon. (Note to self: Follow Chile's advice and check first next time. Duh.)

Am I really thinking of getting a ConAgra-owned Tofu Pup from a side stand on the Mall instead of this, which of course is not exactly terroir but is about cultural traditions and it is from an independent restaurant:

Nakey Tshoem
Chicken (shredded), fiddleheads, cheese, chiles, onion, garlic, ginger, and special seasonings served with Bhutanese rice

Ema Datsi
National dish of chiles with cheese, served with Bhutanese rice

Bhutanese cuisine, influenced by those of Tibet and India, links the country's eastern Himalayan environment and traditions, including food production and consumption. Chicken Nakey Tshoem includes nakey, which is a type of fern, and tshoem, which translates literally as "curry," but in Bhutan the name refers not to spiciness but to a hearty stew served with rice. Ema Datsi is the national dish of Bhutan and is the undisputed favorite of the Bhutanese. Its main ingredients are chiles; a fat-free, fresh cheese; and onions. As a side dish, it accompanies almost every traditional meal.

This pledge of mine is not easy.


Chile said...

Wow, tough choices. I think there are issues with simply substituting highly processed meat analogs for animal products, especially if making diet changes for health. In your case, trying to avoid CAFO products still leaves you with the tough decision whether to then support agricorp products. Yikes. Enough to make your head spin, I'll bet!

What did you ultimately decide?

What I probably would do in the same circumstances:
1. Eat before I went.
2. Take food with me.
3. Order from the local restaurant and ask them to add a little extra rice and vegetables instead of any of the chicken.

The Purloined Letter said...

Thank you so much, Chile, for your support both today and of my challenge in general!

What I did: I thought about not eating lunch. My son was starving and beginning a hunger-inspired meltdown. I was starving myself.

I got the cheese dish.

The Folklife Festival is a huge annual festival that has always had vegan choices before (not that I have always eaten them). The stands with food are not real restaurants themselves--but they are tents set up by local restaurants which produce only two or three dishes in mass for sales at the festival. It isn't the kind of place where you could ask them to leave out the chicken--although would be a great answer in a lot of circumstances.

To round everything out? The cheese dish came in a styrofoam clamshell.

Just flog me now.

(And it was really delicious, just to add to my guilt.)

To make myself feel better, I promise to write to the Smithsonian about both of these issues. And take my own food next time, even if it is just for backup.

Veggie Mom said...

It's hard to stick to your choices. I hear that Texas is represented at the festival this year--as a native Texan, I can truthfully say there's nothing vegan about barbecue! I'm new to the blogging world and found you through the Carnival of Family Life. Drop by sometime!

linda said...

I relate to this. I took the vegetarian (not vegan) challenge last summer. The first month was really hard for me as well. I live in a huge city and yet still managed to gravitate to all the non-vegan/vegetarian events in existence. The options:
1) bring your own
2) eat ahead
3) if going to an actual restaurant, call ahead.
4) I have a favorite Chinese restaurant that are happy to substitute tofu for anything on the menu. All I have to do is ask.
4) at festivals, bring fruit, nuts, and other things that will get you through the day.
And if you fall off the commitment, just brush the dust off and start again:)

Red said...

I am a mother of a vegetarian 14 year old. I stand by her everywhere we go. I come to her defense all the time. People are rude and uneducated, and somehow that usually goes together. You would think people would want more info, but no, they just stick labels.

We too take food for my daughter, and all is well. We do get some folks who are genuinely curious, but still...over r6 years later, people still poke fun of her.

I am so pround of her, no one can know. And I am in agreement with Chile on how she hnadles the situation. Take your own or eat before going.

We do ask what is in dishes when we go somewhere, and there are hidden ingredients that folks do not understand. Gelatin is one of those things that is in so many things. So we ask.

C Meir said...

I will seek answers and provide suggestions and encouragement to the Folklife staff on providing vegetarian and vegan alternatives. Wanting to draw the most people to the folklife festival is a big factor in what is "presented" on the Mall along with what is being offered as authentic to and typical of in this case, food, clothing, music and the like from Bhutan and Texas. Let's see what they say...

The Purloined Letter said...

Thanks, Carol.

The thing that made me want to eat at the festival was exactly that authentic cultural experience of the areas represented each year.

The more I've played out my decision (and other compromises I've already made about my month-long pledge), the better I feel about it.


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