Guru Rabbit

Turn a new leaf (and EAT it)

My Hypothetical Argument. Part III June 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — rabbit @ 9:31 am
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Health issues, check.  Environment, check.

And now, perhaps my favorite argument for reducing one’s consumption of meat, and my primary personal reason for remaining vegetarian.

To put it bluntly, do you support slavery?

No one will answer “yes” to this question except the sexual sadist (and we all know that’s a different kind of slavery).  But the truth is that, though we obviously don’t condone or like slavery, we are supporting it financially, through the food we eat.

In factory farming, there is no actual farm, just a factory.  And whether the factory produces eggs, poultry, dairy, beef, or pork, the quality of life for these animals is just non-existent.  To start, the animals are rarely given any space.  Hens are pent up in cages that don’t allow them to stretch their wings or legs.  Sows (female pigs) are kept in crates too tight to even turn around in or lie down comfortably.  The animals are unable to behave as they naturally would.  On a real farm, chickens would roam about in the grass, pecking away for insects, taking dust baths, and building nests when they’re ready to lay eggs.  In the factory, where all they have are the small wire cages, they exhibit behaviors of frustration, like pushing and pecking at each other.  Similarly, pigs will turn to tail-biting.  To “alleviate” the problem of these anxious behaviors, pigs and cows will have their tails cut off (sans anesthesia), turkeys lose ends of their toes, and chickens will lose a portion of their beak.  (And for anyone who thinks a beak is all bone and it must not hurt too much, that’s not the case; just like your mouth has nerves, so does a bird’s).

The “living” spaces these animals receive not only induce anxiety, they cause, directly or indirectly, a ridiculous number of maladies and deaths.  Chickens lose feathers and damage their skin from rubbing against the cages, or get their heads caught and die.  Because pigs have no room to move around and exercise, they become obese, causing damage to their legs.  Hoof disorders are all too common in cows because they spend so much time on concrete floor instead of outside in the grass where they’re supposed to be.  During the latter part of their lives, beef cattle are crowded into feedlots; there, the manure builds up and the air is filled with bacteria, leaving them vulnerable to respiratory infections (not just the case with cows, but other animals as well).  Pigs that are being fattened for slaughter are packed into warehouses that are swimming with excrement, vomit, and often other dead pigs.  With so much disease in the air, their immune systems are severely compromised.  And the antibiotics they’re given only make them weaker against illness.  (And we’re supposed to eat them?)

Females, be they chickens, cows, or pigs, are viewed as production machines.  They are pumped with hormones, impregnated, and shortly after giving birth, their young are taken away, and the cycle begins again.  Their bodies become weak and depleted from having to constantly support pregnancy.  Hens often suffer from osteoporosis because they lose so much calcium to the constant egg production.  Fatty liver syndrome also occurs because the liver works in excess to produce the fat and protein in egg yolks.  Many hens finally become too weak to lay eggs and die.  Dairy cows frequently suffer from mastitis, in which their udders are infected and enlarged, due to the overuse of hormones.  They are forced to produce ten times more milk than their bodies are meant to, yet only see a fraction of their natural lifespan.  When the animals are no longer “productive” they get sent to slaughter.

And for the males, they get to enjoy a short lifetime of steroids and unnaturally rich diets.  Chickens and turkeys are genetically altered to grow ridiculously fat twice as fast, but their hearts, lungs, and legs can’t support all that extra mass.  They have difficulty walking, and are at risk for heart failure.  Beef cattle acquire an array of metabolic disorders because they’re fed so much protein and carbohydrates (like I’ve said before: cows eat GRASS, not corn and soy).  And I don’t want to touch upon foie gras, but I may as well: ducks and geese kept in tiny cages, having metal tubes forced into their throat and pumped with at least one-fourth their weight of corn and oil.  Sounds good for the liver, right?  Oh yeah, they also lose part of their bills because it would be terrible if they start pecking and injuring each other due to the anxiety caused by their conditions.

Being slaughtered while still conscious is also part of the deal.  Yes, they’re supposed to be “stunned” before being drained of their blood, or skinned or scalded.  But time is money, and such inaccuracies are trivial.  Besides, they’re just animals.  They’re just sentient beings with social systems and specific needs and habits, and the ability to feel discomfort and pain…

And this is where our money goes when we eat a steak, a pork chop, a cheese omelette.  All this and so much more, but I would develop carpal tunnel before I could finish typing out all the details.  This is not about eating animals and animal products, per se.  I believe in the food chain and that it is natural for humans to eat animals if we choose.  But because of our modern western diets, and the insane (and what I would call “unnatural”) demand for animal products, the food chain hardly exists for us anymore.  A food chain is supposed to have some kind of equilibrium, some give and take.  Now it’s just slavery: making cheap commodities out of living creatures.

I can’t say what an animal thinks or feels, as I’ve yet to have a coherent conversation with my cat (although there was that one time I swear he said “No”).  But we know animals can suffer, we know they are complex.  If Wilbur and Bessie are going to eventually become our bacon cheeseburger, don’t we owe them a nice, long life, with all the simple pleasures and necessities?  It’s not that hard.  Give them a field to graze and forage in, clean water, and shelter with plenty of hay for bedding and snacking.  They’ll take care of everything else; land will be fertilized, eggs will be laid, milk will be produced, babies will be born and cared for by their mothers.  The most difficult part?  Cutting back on the Steak ‘n Shake; supporting the farmers who don’t cut off their chickens’ beaks and confine them to tiny cages; learning not to take animal-derived food for granted.  As long as we think of a piece of meat as just thata piece of meat— the industry will take the liberty of putting anything in front of us, at any means, because they know we’ll eat it if we don’t know any better.  If it’s all about supply and demand, we should demand food that is clean, natural and doesn’t have a dark past.  Dinner should come from the land, not a factory.

To read more about animal welfare and other factory farming issues, go here.  Just don’t read before bedtime…

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Sucky news, a potential silver lining, and pesto June 27, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 8:05 pm
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Okay.  So, I’ve been negligent to this blog for the past week because I was focusing on an awesome job opportunity as a “Healthy Eating and Green Mission Specialist” at Whole Foods (perfect position for me).  I had, and made connections, I researched and studied, and I did really friggin’ good during the interview.  But there’s always someone “better” than you.

Well… no hard feelings, except on myself.  Whoever got it, kudos.

BUT.  Because I was proactive, because I called today to check on the status of the position, I also found out that they liked me just enough to take a different kind of interest in me.  I don’t know the details yet, but I may end up doing cooking demonstrations for Whole Foods.  At least that’s something.  Later for that, though.  (Whenever it is that I find out…)

While I was doing all that mental pacing over the weekend, I made something different.  Well, a different sort of common something.  You’ve probably had pesto at some restaurant at some point.  It’s basically a flavorful blend of herbs and olive oil.  In the most traditional sense, it’s a pasty condiment made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan (or some other sharp Italian cheese), and olive oil.  It’s used in pasta, pizza, as a dip for bread, etc.  It’s too good to not use in other applications.  It’s also, like many things, versatile.

And, seeing as how I like to do things differently, I made a different kind of pesto.

I had some arugula, and some dried figs.   So I got some walnuts, also.

And then I put them in the blender

     I also added a few dashes of salt, pepper, dried basil, and nutmeg.  And a bit of balsamic vinegar and water to fix the consistency.  You can add olive oil, but I wasn’t really feeling it that day.

And then you have Arugula and Fig Pesto.

Use it as a dip for veggies, bread and crackers; spread it on sammiches; throw it into pasta; eat it with a spoon… whatever.  Good for showing off to to your friends and taking pride in when you’re depressed because no one will hire your stupid arse!!  Aaah!!

 

My Hypothetical Argument. Part II June 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — rabbit @ 10:56 am
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So back to Steakerella and her predicament with cutting down on the red meat.  My first point was overall personal health.  You gotta be a little selfish with your health, right?  I mean, what good are you to others if you’re just in no good shape?  So I can’t understand why some people, despite knowing better, will neglect their health.  But I ain’t no psychologist.

Maybe we should look away from personal health, look at something that has an effect on everyone.

First off, when we see steak on the plate, we actually have very little context for it.  We’re unaware of how it got there, where it came from.  Then if we think about it, we may picture a field of cows or bulls, doin’ their thang, chewin’ their cud, and playing poker.  Alright, maybe nix the poker, but you see what I’m saying.

Then again, nix the field.  How about a gated vicinity of cows, with barely inches to move.  Hoards of them.  They’re standing around in their own waste.  The air is heavy with the stench of manure, disease, artificial hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals, which are used to combat the filth.  It’s dangerous just to stand by and breath.  And it all permeates the ground, gets into the water, even the steak on the plate.  Sure, the manure can be used as fertilizer.  Problem is, there’s so much of it (about 500 million tons a year) that the amount that’s applied often exceeds the soil’s ability to use it up.  So then it seeps into groundwater, streams, residential drinking sources, etc.  Cheers.  Then, as the truck that transports the cattle (or carcasses) burns up fossil fuels, it passes by the ever-growing “lagoon” where a slurry of farm waste resides.  The slurry is a concoction of what the animals produce, as well as the aforementioned hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, etc.  First, the slurry will release noxious gasses into the air and contribute to acid rain, as well as pollute the the surrounding earth and water.  Then, it will be used to fertilize the corn and soy that is grown strictly for feeding cows, chickens, and pigs.  And then we are supposed to eat those cows, chickens, and pigs.  Circle of life!

That’s factory farming, folks.  To keep up with the demand for meat and other animal products, the agriculture system has mutated into something far from organic or real.  In turn, it’s pretty much killing the little ecosystem we have left, as well as poisoning our food.  Natural habitats like the Amazon are slowly disappearing to accommodate factory farming.  And much of the earth’s water is used towards it as well.  Either that, or it’s as polluted as a filet mignon.  More than two thirds of the earth is dedicated to livestock and genetically modified crops for feeding that livestock, even though the livestock would never eat that stuff in nature.  Cows eat grass, not corn and soy.  But growing feed crop is cheaper and faster than the natural way.  And it certainly doesn’t matter that antibiotics, genetic modification and pesticides are encouraging the growth of resistant bacteria and cancer.

Bottom line.  The insanely excessive consumption of meat and the efforts to sustain it have contributed to: air pollution, water pollution, loss of natural habitats, and food that’s tainted with hormones/antibiotics/bacterial disease…  The earth can’t keep up with this.  When we choose to eat excessive amounts of meat (or poultry, eggs, dairy), the same thing that happens to our bodies happens to the land and water.  Natural balances and cycles are thrown out of whack.  Good organisms that perpetuate growth and health disappear, and the bad ones take over.  Things become sick and die.  The difference is that humans adapt way more quickly than the environment.  We can figure out how to deal with illness in a snap, even if it’s not good for us in the long run.  But it takes a hell of a lot longer for a forest to grow, or a river to run clean again.

Even if you don’t care about your own health, isn’t it kind of a big deal for future generations to have clean land, air and water?  Or to eat food that’s not contaminated?  Food is not just food these days.  Food has consequences.  I know it’s not easily reversible, but it’s not a lost cause.  The farmers who are doing things right– raising livestock naturally, avoiding hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, working in sync with nature to perpetuate organic cycles– they need to be supported.  I think it’s totally worth it to track down sources that sell pasture-raised animal products.  And yes, they will be more expensive.  But not only are you paying for something that’s healthier and tastes better, you’re paying for sustainability.  And yes, you will probably have to cut back your consumption of these foods due to the cost.  But that’s what I was getting at anyway…

Here, I’ll make it easier for you to track down a sustainable burger.

Also, if you’d like to see my sources for this information, and read up further, here you go.

 

It’s a Mexican Thing… June 17, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Recipes — rabbit @ 10:38 am
Tags: , , ,

Pineapple is a good start.

(I cheated and picked these out of a Publix fruit salad.)

Then you’re gonna top it with lime juice.

Fresh is preferred, but, y’know…

And then…

A schtickle of chili pepper!

When I was seventeen and went to Mexico to visit family (yes, it’s true, I am half Mexican), one of the most important things I learned was that chili pepper goes with pretty much everything.  One evening after dinner, my aunt and uncle served some pineapple slices.  Then they sprinkled it with a magical condiment, which is made up of dried chili pepper, lime, and salt.  This stuff is Mexico’s answer to salt and pepper, and various brands over there produce it.  Sometimes my dad receives care packages from siblings with lifetime collections of the chili-lime powder.  But of course, it does not last a lifetime in this house.  We’re out, so I may have to venture out to Sedano’s and get some.  Anywho, when I first tried the combination with pineapple, it was epiphanous.  Sweet, spicy, tangy, refreshing.  O.  M.  G.  And they do the chili-and-lime thing with just about any fruit.  Watermelon, mango, apple, papaya.  Pineapple and mango are my favorites.  It’s a great way to wake up in the morning or mid-afternoon when you feel sluggish.  It’s an awesome summertime treat, and is good for digestion and metabolism.

Even the candy in Mexico often has chili pepper in it.  One of my favorite treats is a lollipop made with tamarind and chili.  The tamarind is a naturally sour fruit, but has a hint of molasses-like depth.  It’s whack, but amazing.  Maybe, just for you, I’ll try to find a Mexican grocery store and pick up some authentic goodies.  For now, try the above suggestion.  For reals.

 

My Hypothetical Argument. Part I June 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — rabbit @ 12:02 pm
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I’m not into arguments.  I usually find them counterproductive, unnecessary, dumb, etc.  Magically, in the three-plus years my boyfriend and I have been together, the only thing we’ve argued about is directions, and that’s because I apparently can’t tell left from right, and he doesn’t know cardinal directions.  What’re ya gonna do?  Anyway, those arguments don’t last long.

Now, debates I like.  Anytime, anywhere.  A debate requires thought and reason, and you have to push aside your own biases the best you can.  You’re also required not to be a bitch about whatever the subject is.  That’s a good thing.

So le boyfriend was telling me a story about one of his co-workers, who we shall call… Steakerella.  Yeah, that’ll do.  Okay, so Steakerella apparently eats a lot of red meat.  Like a steak for dinner every night.  Her doctor told her that she needs to cut back to about once a week so that she can lose some weight, and of course, improve her health.  Sound advice, I’d say.

Steakerella, however, is not happy.  Understandable.  You’re used to having something all the time, it probably helps your day feel complete, and duh, it tastes delish.  She seems to feel though, that her right to happiness is being taken away when her doctor tells her, that for the sake of her health, she should cut back.  He’s not putting her on a strict diet.  He’s just saying, ration your red meat.  Still, she says, No one can take away my red meat.  When another co-worker tried to give her advice on how to make a hearty salad, she called him a hippie.

It’s probably better that I don’t know this girl.  When someone has an attitude like that towards common-sense dietary advice, it makes me feel defensive.  When I see my dad, a colon and lung cancer survivor, often make less-than-stellar food choices, I keep my mouth shut for two reasons: a) he’s not a child, and after all the books he’s read and my brother nagging him, he still doesn’t seem to want to really try, and b) I don’t want to get heated up about it and start preaching– I don’t agree with that.  So if I was in my boyfriend’s shoes, talking to Steakerella, I know I’d get unnecessarily pissed.  But I still feel it’s important to somehow, somewhere, lay out the reasons why we need to reconfigure our food system.  So I’ll do that here, in a hypothetical argument against Steakerella’s dilemma.

Point one.  If you could only see the inside of your body.  If you could talk to your arteries, your colon, your lungs, your pancreas, your stomach, and various other organs, they’d probably tell you that they often feel tired, or sick, or both.  It’s not just about losing weight.  There are plenty of hefty vegetarians out there, whether that’s their natural build, or they are also eating junk.  Red meat may be a good source of iron, B12, and some other minerals, but it also contains carcinogens.  It can also trigger our own bodies to actually produce carcinogens.  Colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer.  And yes, there are more cancers that are correlated with high consumption of red meat.  Not to mention arthritis, and various heart problems due to the saturated fat and cholesterol hanging out in the arteries.  And diabetes.

I shouldn’t have to go on about the health risks, I think the news can do that for you.  You might also want to look at the older people around you who have the same beefy diet.  How many are there?  How many have an abundance of medications in their cabinet?  How many complain about their joints, their digestion, or being tired?  Just as an example, there are reasons that traditional Asian and Mediterranean diets are associated with longer lifespans.  One of them is not the elimination of red meat, simply less.  And word on the street is that they’re generally happy.  But if you’d rather pay for your happiness through arthritis and heart meds, maybe even chemotherapy, or losing a section of your colon, then I’ll just stop here with the health reasons.

 

Into the Darkness… June 14, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info — rabbit @ 11:55 am
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Once upon a time, I was totally down with Hershey bars.  And Milky Ways, and Three Musketeers, and Kit Kat, and Rolos.  And Twix.  Freakin’ Twix, man…

For as long as I can remember, life is about chocolate.  Growing up, the Nesquik Bunny was my homeboy.  Of course, back then, it was just called Quik and he was just a brown bunny.  And it came in a tin container, and the lid was awkward to open because you had to be careful about popping it up too fast and getting chocolate powder all up in the kitchen.  But then there was the syrup and that was so much easier.  I loaded my chocolate milk with that stuff.  I think my chocolate milk was actually more chocolate than milk.  I would put chocolate syrup on top of Cocoa Puffs.

It was bad.

But now it’s good.  Not because I stopped eating chocolate.  I eat chocolate everyday.  Except now I’m actually tasting chocolate, and not just sugar of various forms.  Once in a blue moon, like on Halloween, I will totally eat one of the baby Twix bars, but I can’t handle much.  Despite the nostalgic factor, I’m just not used to things that are so processed anymore.  This past Easter I had a Cadbury egg.  Another childhood friend.  It was definitely awesome, but I nearly choked on the sweetness.  And then I felt it just hanging out in my stomach for a little while.  One and I’m done.

This is what I eat nowadays.

Yep.  Ninety percent cocoa.  You’ve seen on the supermarket shelves sixty percent, seventy, eighty, maybe even eighty-five percent.  But this is where I’m at now.  When these first came out, and I saw them on the shelf at the Lindt store, I think I heard angels singing.

It’s not for the faint of heart.  You have to work your way up to this point.  I once thought seventy percent was dark.  Then I graduated to eighty and eighty-five percent, and I thought, Yeah, I’m hardcore!  I was naive.  Now, I know.  I have seen the dark.

I would describe this chocolate as velvety.  The cocoa flavor is very deep, but soft.  It’s like stepping onto really fine-grain sand at night.  I know that sounds weird, but I feel it’s appropriate.  Then the serotonin effect washes over, and you realize that now you really know what chocolate is.  The sugar is finally not in the way.  Instead, the small amount that’s in this bar is just giving the cocoa a little boost.

The dark chocolate rabbit I still have leftover from Easter has twenty grams of sugar in a forty-three gram serving.  But it’s all too easy for some people to eat more than that; they think they’re hooked on the chocolate, but in truth it’s the sugar that’s bringing them back.  A forty gram serving of the ninety percent bar has only three grams of sugar.  That’s crazy awesome.  Yet it’s difficult to even eat more than ten or twenty grams of the ninety percent because of its intensity; just one square really delivers.  So realistically, that’s even less sugar.

In addition to the lack of sugar, the forty gram serving actually provides twenty-five percent the recommended amount of iron.  Whaaa?  Plus four grams of protein and five grams of fiber.  Like I said, it’s a bit much to eat more than half that amount, but it’s impressive that you can get a decent amount of an essential nutrient from chocolate.  And surely, you’ve heard that cocoa has antioxidants, yes?

So there’s my argument for chocolate.  Cheaper and healthier than street drugs.  Soon I’ll just start snorting cocoa powder.

 

Mr. Peanut, the Hangman June 13, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info — rabbit @ 12:14 pm
Tags: , ,

My boyfriend just shook his head at me.

As far as I’m concerned, peanut butter goes with almost anything.  Chocolate, honey, apples, bananas, grapefruit, blackberries, strawberries, celery, tomatoes, pickles, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, chipotle hot sauce, coconut, curry…  Don’t judge me.  I just… I really love peanut butter.  I want to hug it.  (Actually, I’d like to hug the voice of Mr. Peanut, but that’s irrelevant.  Look it up if you don’t know who it is.)

I would die for peanut butter, but I know some people would die because of peanut butter.  How sad.

The causes of peanut allergies, whether mild or severe, are still pretty mysterious.  They could be due to genetic disposition, early exposure or lack-there-of to peanuts, growing up in a rather sterile environment, or perhaps even the roasting process, which strengthens the allergen(s) in peanuts.

Back in 2007, a technique of inactivating the allergens in peanuts was developed at a North Carolina university.  Whatever happened to that progress, I don’t know.  It seems to be a slow ride to get to an allergen-reduced or allergen-free peanut.  The latest news comes from the University of Florida, where a researcher has been using concentrated bursts of ultraviolet light to drastically reduce the allergens in peanut extracts and peanut butter.  Pretty neat, though I wonder if the UV light would have any other effect on the peanut?  Either way, I think it’s still gonna be a while until the peanut-sensitive can savor a Reese’s.

What I find most interesting about the article is another one of UF’s doctors indicates that “epidemiological data show an increase in food allergies over the last 20 years”.  From what I’ve seen around me, no kidding.  Between friends, family, and customers I’ve had at past jobs, it seems like everyone develops something, even if it’s just temporary.  Gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy.  What in the world?  I thought people used to eat these things with no problem.  My suspicious side thinks it has to do with the way foods are being processed. I think more global studies need to be done, comparing the types and rates of allergies, diets, food processing, and organic production versus “conventional”.  I know.  That would take forever.

But maybe it is indeed genetics, or exposure-related.  I’ve had my share, too.  As far back as I can remember, I always had an odd feeling in the back of my throat whenever I ate shrimp.  And then, before I finally gave up seafood, there was the lobster incident.  I had only eaten lobster a couple times in my life, and decided to indulge since I certainly wasn’t paying for it (monetarily, at least).  I felt feverish, itchy, nauseous, my hands felt swollen even though they appeared not to be…  I thought that maybe I was feeling similar to what the lobster felt when it was cooked.  Anywho, I took an anti-histamine and that was that, fortunately.  But yeah, no more lobster for me.  I would’ve given it up eventually anyway.

So I’m looking forward to hearing about new food allergy progress, to see if one day, the peanut no longer holds a noose over some people’s heads.  In the meantime, I going back to my jar of peanut butter.  And Mr. Peanut…