Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tempeh for one?

I get a lot of weird looks for my brown bag lunches at work. My meals include a lot of chickpeas, black beans, quinoa, kale, and lentils. Sometimes in a pinch, I bring a frozen black bean burger and some vegan cheese with a pita. Oh and Sriracha. Lots and lots of Sriracha.

Based on health, ecological, and moral (is that the right word?) reasons, I no longer eat any dairy nor factory farmed meat or eggs. I've also been avoiding fish until I can figure out which kinds are truly sustainable and fished in a way that does not harm the environment.

This change in my diet means that I only eat meat from my mom's farm and this happens about once a week-tops. I still love eggs, but I will only take them from her farm or from another farm in the area where the chickens are truly free range. Grocery store "free range" eggs largely are not.

Switching over to a mostly plant based diet has not been a huge deal for me. It turns out that I like almond milk or rice milk in my coffee and cereal. Vegan cheese is okay on a black bean burger or a grilled cheese sandwich. Nutritional yeast is BOSS on popcorn. I didn't like cooking with meat anyway and my mom raised us to enjoy things like black beans, hummus, brown rice, and nuts. I know how to get protein from other sources and I really love all different veggies-the greener and weirder the better.

Plus, by omitting factory farmed meat, dairy, and eggs, I am supporting something about which I care deeply. I think that factory farming is horrific. Why do we have laws against animal abuse for pets, yet allow atrocious abuse of the animals we plan to eat? I am not arguing the eventual fate of these animals. We want to eat them as meat. I get that. What I do not think is acceptable is that we abuse them throughout their lives. We should offer respect for the animals we eat; it is the least we can do. I don't think it is okay for people to turn a blind eye to the state of factory farmed animals because they don't want to deal with it. This makes me really fired up.

And yet, here is the dilemma: factory farming produces cheap meat. How can I tell someone to stop buying their inexpensive meat and live the way that I do? They don't have my circumstance. They don't have a mom who gives them farm raised beef (and duck-oh, the duck) and eggs. They might not have been raised to be satisfied with meat-free meals or feel comfortable cooking their own food. So how do I deal with this when I carry my brown bag of weird food? I am opening up more than a container of tabbouleh; I am opening up a Pandora's box of moral, societal, and personal issues. When I get those good-natured laughs about my weird lunches, should I open up about why I make these choices, or leave well alone? I don't know if I can share this without sounding preachy. Do I scoop out some tempeh for all, or keep it to myself?

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