Why is Tal Ronnen, The Conscious Cook, Vegan?

I picked up a copy of The Conscious Cook because I was getting in a culinary rut and wanted some inspiration. I had heard of Tal on various websites and because of his connection with Oprah, so I knew his cookbook would be a great resource.

In the book, I found a nice infographic about why Tal is vegan. He put it so succinctly that I felt compelled to share it.

Cutting out animal products means virtually eliminating the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and several types of cancer. Your energy shoots up and your weight is likely to drop.

Most of us question the morality of eating animals, and many people who feel it’s absolutely wrong do it anyway out of habit. Eating with a clear conscience – feeling good about everything you put in your mouth – lightens up your life.

Factory farming of animals consumes and pollutes insane quantities of water and demands so much feed that it threatens forests. And because greenhouse gases from animal emissions are destroying the atmosphere.

Helping Others
The grain fed to livestock could feed at least twice as many hungry people in third-world countries. Weakening the livestock industry by buying less or no meat is a step toward rejiggering resources to save lives.

And he tosses in a couple extra noteworthy quotations…

Because Albert Einstein said so: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

Because Paul McCartney says so: “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you can do.”

Have you read Tal’s cookbook? Please share your thoughts below, on Facebook or on Twitter.


Is The Yes Men’s reBurger Idea More Ironic Than They Thought?

I recently watched The Yes Men movie (the one released in 2003 NOT The Yes Men Fix the World)  and was struck by an ironic bit of activism that was included near the end.

If you don’t know who The Yes Men are, they are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. They aim to raise awareness about problematic social issues in unique and very public ways.

The movie follows them as they impersonate World Trade Organization spokesmen on TV and at business conferences around the world.

Their final act of activism (in the movie) was a lecture to a group of students from The State University of New York at Plattsburgh. The students were told that they were going to hear a lecture about ways to reduce starvation in third world countries by representatives of The World Trade Organization (WTO). What they got was something entirely unexpected:

What struck me is that their idea isn’t really far from the truth.

The beef that is used to make hamburgers is ‘produced’ by feeding cows waste products like chicken excrement, toxic heavy metals, antibiotics, the flesh and bones of dead cattle and even nails and small shards of glass (source: Grist.org). As the cows excrete massive amounts of their own waste (because their food has so little nutritional value) they are forced to stand in it along with thousands of pounds of waste from other cows. That waste eventually runs off into surrounding water supplies that can eventually be used to irrigate farms that grow food for human and animal consumption. I don’t really see a difference. Do you?

If you would like to learn more about The Yes Men, please visit their website.

Have you seen The Yes Men movie? Share your thoughts on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.

How Can You Be Dynamically Harmless?

In my last post, I committed to sharing some ideas on how, as a wannabe vegan, you can by dynamically harmless based on the ideal of ahimsa.

Over the last month, I evaluated what I was doing and tried to discover ways we can all be more dynamic in our veganism so that I could share them with you. To say it was difficult is an understatement.

I realized that when I was presented with an opportunity to be outspoken or ‘plant a seed’ of new thought, I normally stayed quiet unless I was with a person I knew well and trusted would be open to my opinion.

This really surprised me. How can I be so steadfast in my belief and yet so timid and quiet?

I think it stems from the negative impressions people already have about plant-based diets and some of the people who follow them. There are some very outspoken, opinionated and downright mean people out there that are vegan.

Because of their aggressive and judgmental approach, I definitely do not want to be associated with them. In my opinion, they are promoting their own ego-driven agenda instead of coming from a place of being sincerely interested in people discovering what is right for them; vegan or not.

So, after a bit of soul searching, I knew there had to be a middle ground that works for me and others as well, so here are my suggestions on how we can all be dynamically harmless:

  1. Continue to learn so that you can be a source of accurate information
  2. Listen and respond from a place of respect and compassion
  3. Take positive action when it feels right

How are you dynamically harmless? I would love to hear your suggestions /comments on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Is There Grace in Your Gratefulness?

As a wannabe vegan, I am confronted with a lot of things I have taken for granted in the past. Almost every decision I am making requires more evaluation and understanding about where I stand on issues: What am I willing to compromise on? How steadfast am I in my convictions? How do I ‘really’ feel about something? I appreciate the opportunities to better understand myself and those around me. But I have to admit I still struggle.

One issue that has been at the forefront of my mind lately is gratitude. Mostly because of Thanksgiving and my desire to shift my opinion about it. I no longer want to be the cranky relative who begrudgingly attends out of guilt. I want to be happy, enjoy myself and appreciate the kindness and love that is experienced when you are with family and friends. So, I have been on a mission to understand what gratitude is for me and how I can be more grateful.

I know that on a spiritual level, I feel very good when I recognize, acknowledge and am sincerely grateful for the beauty, people and experiences in my life. The issue that sometimes hinders me is how to do it. I get caught up in the appropriate way to write a Thank You card or whether or not I should keep a Gratitude Journal or if I should publicly or privately thank someone. I get distracted from the original intention of ‘being’ grateful by ‘doing’ grateful. So I dug a bit deeper to find the root of what this is about in hopes that it would help me overcome this hurdle.

As I was reading blogs, articles and quotes about gratitude, I had a thought. Where did this word ‘grateful’ even come from? What did it originally  mean anyway? Maybe we all have it mixed up with some other word that really means being cranky! Now that would be ironic wouldn’t it!? I digress . . . What I found was that grateful comes from the Latin word “gratia” which means “grace” or “thanks” and the English root “ful(l)” meaning “full of” or “with.”

The idea that by being grateful, you are being graceful, really struck a chord in me. When I think of grace I think of serenity, elegance and peace. I don’t think of how I can attain it or how others may have been blessed by it, it just ‘is.’ It is in those moments of full connection to everything around you. In those moments of awareness of how everything is absolutely perfect. Moments of no judgment; just acceptance and recognition. That is why it feels so special – because you know it is truth realized.

Those moments are flowing and freely experienced. They are not contrived or forced. And they certainly are not bound by the definition of what is appropriate or not appropriate in certain social situations. Can this also be true for gratefulness? I think so. I think it might make things a heck of a lot easier for people like me who tend to over-think things, try too hard and in the end do not take action because of the fear they are not doing it correctly.

So I’m going to shift things a bit this week. I am going to connect to the grace of what is and be content with my desire to be grateful. I hope you join me and we can all experience the beauty and perfection of what surrounds us and truly enjoy a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Does this resonate with you? Do you have any thoughts and/or suggestions? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

Image courtesy of Embroidery Library.

Are you dreading Thanksgiving?

To be honest, Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays. I could never understand why everyone would want to get together with people they never see otherwise (and usually have unresolved issues with!) and gorge themselves on food until they make themselves immobile. The only thing that kept me going through the whole ordeal was knowing I could have a slice of pumpkin pie.

Now that I am a wannabe vegan, I am dreading this holiday even more. The thought of seeing the turkey on the table and knowing what it had to go through to get there feels me with dread. I can’t imagine I will have much of an appetite, let alone be able to eat heartily and enjoy myself. But shifting my perspectives is what becoming vegan is all about, so I really want to try and make Thanksgiving enjoyable again and something I look can forward to.

Have a Happy Vegan Thanksgiving!

After doing a bit of soul searching, I came up with the following perspective-shifting thoughts. I am hoping that they will help me handle the combination of family, food and being vegan on the 25th just a bit more easily and positively:

  1. I choose to think of being vegan as being a simple dietary choice. Just like some people don’t like to eat okra, I don’t like to eat animal products. Simple as that. When someone tells you they don’t like okra you normally don’t give them any grief unless you are a big okra fan but even then, it is usually just a, “Really? I can’t believe you don’t like okra. It’s the best!” and then the conversation moves on. If I treat my  choice to be vegan in the same way, hopefully others will follow suit and not make a big deal about it.
  2. I realized that being invited into someone’s home for Thanksgiving is a nice gesture that shouldn’t be taken lightly. They are letting me know that they value my presence and are willing to spend a lot of time and effort to make the experience an enjoyable one for me and everyone else. The best way to reciprocate the gesture is to be an appreciative guest. I plan on doing this by bringing a vegan dish or two of my own that I know people will like. This guarantees that I will have something to eat (which will help me feel less stressed about the situation) and will hopefully introduce others to some yummy recipes.
  3. At the dinner, I plan on keeping a positive attitude about being vegan. If anyone wants to know more about my choices, I will reply in an upbeat manner. I will tell them about all of the positive changes it has made in my life and to my heath instead of feeding into the common misunderstanding that it is all about restrictions. I know that if remember that people are just trying to understand, it will be a lot easier to be compassionate and understanding of their views as well. Isn’t that what being vegan is really all about anyway?

Even just writing these down has made me feel better about the whole prospect of Thanksgiving. I hope it has given you something to consider before the holiday arrives so that your experience is enjoyable too.

What do you think? How have you handled Thanksgiving as a vegan? Please share your comments and tips below.

Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating – Book Review



Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus


When I picked up the revised edition of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus at my local library, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t read a book about vegan issues in a while and as I flipped through the pages deciding whether to check it out or not, the content seemed interesting and broad enough to retain my interest. It did much more than that!

Erik starts the book with Part I: To Your Health. It looks at the state of our nation’s health and our quality of life. He highlights Dr. Dean Ornish’s work, including personal stories about people who have suffered from heart disease. Cancer and The China Project are also examined and links are shown that the consumption of animal products can trigger the development of colon, breast and prostate cancers. Of course, a section about health benefits without weight loss would be incomplete, so he also talks about how a vegan diet can easily reduce your body weight to its optimal level and discusses the work of Dr. Terry Shintani.

The ‘Perfect Food Isn’t’ chapter was of particular interest to me because I experience a dramatic shift in the happiness of my body when I cut out dairy products and I am dismayed by the implications of the constant barrage of messages to drink milk and eat cheese that we experience as Americans. Mr. Marcus does the topic justice by explaining what dairy does to your body and how we are being manipulated by special interests.

The final chapter in this section was the most eye opening for me. It is entitled; ‘How Now, Mad Cow.’ I had no idea what was going on in the 80’s regarding mad cow disease. Now I know that was intentional. I also didn’t fully understand that a discussion on Oprah Winfrey’s show between Howard Lyman and Dr. Gary Weber about the disease was what spawned the well known lawsuit she endured. I also know much more about how this disease proliferates and how we as a species are seriously compromising the health of ourselves and our children (throughout the world) by consuming beef products from factory farms.

Part II starts off with Rescued! a chapter about Gene and Lorri Bausten who started Farm Sanctuary. The chapter Chickens and Eggs is next with a devastatingly complete depiction of the horrific conditions of poultry which are used for egg production or slaughtered for meat. If you are a Vegetarian who eats eggs, you may want to take a look at this chapter before your next shopping trip.

Erik goes on to explore the lives of pigs, dairy cows, veal calves and beef cattle. He notes throughout these chapters how breeding practices and conditions are creating an environment of disease, misery and death, not only for the animals but for the people who consume their products. This section ends with a chapter named The Killing Business. It explores both sides of the slaughterhouse situation and completes the horrific life cycle of the animals.

If you weren’t convinced by now that consuming animal products is not in anyone or any animal’s best interest, Erik goes even further in his discussions about world hunger, public property violations by the National Cattlemen’s Association and his personal journey to his current stance on veganism. The New Four Food Groups from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Vegetarian Starter Kit is included for those who are interested in eating a more plant-based diet.

Overall, I agree with Howard Lyman when he says, “Reading Erik Marcus’s Vegan is a critical first step for anyone wanting to extend both the quality and length of their life, and the planet’s life.” So read the whole book or just those chapters that interest you. I am sure that you will be more informed and more able to make better choices when it comes to deciding what you consume. Once you do take a look, please let me know what you thought!

The revised edition of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus is 211 pages and includes a foreword by Howard Lyman the Director of Eating with Conscience Campaign of the Humane Society of the United States. There are three main sections; To Your Health, The Truth About Food Animals and Beyond the Dinner Table along with two appendices; The New Four Food Groups and Resources.

If you would like to learn more about Erik Marcus, his website and blog can be found at vegan.com. You can also find him on facebook, and twitter.