Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Fad of Being Vegan?

After I finished my first round of chemo last year, I thought about becoming vegetarian as a way to get more plant products into my body to be healthier.  I took the leap after reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals, which convinced me that factory farming and fishing are the critical cause of environmental damage to our planet as well as a key player in abuses of migrant workers.  Foer argued that going to sustainable local farms for animal products was not good enough because there are really no remaining local slaughterhouses, leaving you to be part of the process of the abusive, environment damaging Big Farma anyway.  And animal byproducts, like eggs and milk are almost impossible to find except through Big Farma.  As a result Foer became a vegan--eating no animal products or byproducts (including fish who are particularly devastated by current fishing methods or fish farming methods).

I did not think, however, that I could give up eggs and dairy.  I do not want to drink soy milk, given the debate about the effects of soy on cancer.  One of my friends with breast cancer says her oncologist told her last year to stay away from soy given the alleged effects of estrogen.  So she drinks almond milk, which I must say makes me shudder at the thought.  I walked out of a cancer survival cooking class I took several years ago (ironically before I found out I had cancer) when they wanted us to try different types of nut milk.  I hate flavored coffees and the thought of putting nut milk in coffee (or in any food other than maybe a brownie mix) disgusts me.  As for eggs, I do not eat them that much anyway but they are one of the few things I can stomach when I am doing chemo.

However, it is hard to find sustainable dairy products and eggs.  The eggs you buy at Whole Foods or at the farmer's market are factory farmed.  The closest place I could find to get pastured eggs (eggs grown on a small farm where chickens eat their intended diet and really roam free rather than being enclosed in some manner) is about 15 miles away.  I recently also found out that one of the organic milks I have been buying is factory farmed.

Moreover, I fret about the processed foods that seem to make their way into vegan diets.  I am not talking about potato chips like the Los Angeles Times article recently crowed to show that veganism is not necessarily healthful.  I am talking about soy isolate protein, aka textured soy protein or TVP,  as featured in some recipes by superstar chef Tal Ronnen on the new Ellen Degeneres vegan blogsite.  The health benefits of TVP are questionable to say the least.  I personally like to stay away from it.  I also am skeptical of vegan cheese like Daiya which contains "pea protein" but I have not really looked into that issue much yet and on a quick look it appears to be less problematic.

Which brings me to the title of this post.  All of a sudden it seems that the news is covering a number of famous people embracing veganism.  Bill Clinton, for example, this past week talked about his vegan diet.  There is the new Ellen site as referenced above.  Tal Ronnen is getting a lot of press for introducing Vegan dishes at Steve Wynn's request (Wynn is vegan) to Wynn's resorts in Las Vegas.

And vegan restaurants seem to be popping up all around me.  In Culver City near the studio, Native Foods has taken off, serving vegan comfort food.  Yesterday I went to the 3rd Street Promenade area to go to a vegan restaurant named Real Foods Daily (RFD) and was surprised to see a proliferation of vegan cafes.     Santa Monica is still filled with wealthy"progressive" chic people vying for space among the ubiquitous homeless people (some of which were getting a bit more aggressive than I remembered) and now the toney are flocking to vegan restaurants.  Indeed you have to have money; my enchiladas meal with a drink at RFD cost $25. (However, if you want to cook at home see Eat Vegan on $4 a Day.

So, as Malcolm Gladwell would say, is there a tipping point toward being vegetarian and vegan?  Have I decided to change my lifestyle at the same time many other yuppies of my generation have?  It gives me pause but in the long run, I do not care.  I am happy with my decision to embrace this type of eating and hope to be able to sustain it.

No comments: