Move over meat

One of the dilemmas I think a lot of people have with the concept of vegetarianism, is a fear of getting bored with meat avoidance. I've always thought, "how does a person eat only veggies? What they hell do they eat? Boring."

A few days ago, I was driving around, and noticing a lot of restaurants and fast food joints. And I started thinking about all the things I had always previously eaten at those locations. Everything involved meat. I saw a Del Taco, and thought, "Shit. No more tacos." I saw a subway and thought, "Shit. No more $5 foot long broth injected chicken-breast-that-contains-rib-meat sandwiches." I saw a couple of Chinese buffets and thought, "Shit. No more Chinese buffets."

Granted, I had been eating very little meat, comparatively speaking, for the last several months. But I had been eating mostly the same things. Lots of chipotle black bean burgers, salmon burgers, boca burgers, and hummus. I had been dabbling in some cooking, mostly curries and stir fry's. Then, with salmon eliminated, I was pretty much just down to the black beans.

In a society where most menu items in most restaurants contain meat of some sort, we get pretty used to a lot of variety. I mean, go to Chili's and try eating something meatless, besides a salad, or a deep fried cheese stick. Or chips and queso. Not that Chili's is, by any means, a bastion of good food. But go anywhere, and unless you want to eat a salad, meatless choices are slim. Even ethnic foods which are probably traditionally meatless, have been americanized and meated. Let's face it, we are a carnivorous nation. We eat more of it than any other country, and probably more than many countries put together.

But it doesn't have to be that way. It is perfectly possible to eat well (and by well, I mean delicious, satisfying meals) and avoid meat. Does anything really compare to medium rare filet wrapped in bacon? Well, I guess not. But there are plenty of other things that are delicious in their own right, although completely different. For example, tonight I made goat cheese stuffed tomatoes. I would say I enjoyed that concoction every bit as much as I have ever enjoyed a filet. But in a different way. Equally delicious, but different.

So, at the risk of being cliche, I have decided to start a cooking blog. Today, I bought a big, thick, blue oven mit. As I stood in my kitchen with that thing on my had, looking at it bathed in the unfortunately harsh glow of my fluorescent kitchen lighting, I knew it was time to start a new blog. If it goes largely unread, I don't care. If it helps just 1 or 2 people enjoy vegetarianism a little bit more, that is good enough for me. Either way, if I want to maintain a meatless lifestyle, I have to keep it interesting. And even if you still eat meat, but are just looking to eat things that are more healthy, this might be a good place for you to look, as most things will probably be relatively good for you. If you would like to go there, click HERE.

I promise this blog isn't going to turn into an anti-meat soap box. I promise.


It's raining golden calves

If you have been reading this blog for the last year or so, you are probably aware of the fact that I have been graduated for over a year, and have been suffering from a fairly acute level of cognitive dissonance caused by the fact I am still employed at Carrabbas. If you have just recently joined this, well, simply mind bogglingly important blog--the dissonance has indeed been acute, and been suffered for the better part of a year. Which is maybe why, quite unexpectedly, grad school suddenly sounded real appealing.

Which is weird, because I have mostly been of the disposition for the better part of the last 3 years that, upon finishing college school, I'd rather be chewed to death by a bear, starting at the crotch, than go back to school.

I sort of, well, loathed school. I mean, not the actually going to class/learning part. That part I rather enjoyed (mostly, minus didactic lecturers with God complexes.) But the endless, tedious assignments and research papers I hated. Over the last year, whenever a friend or a co-worker told tale of a huge test to take, or a research paper to be written, I would get the most ominous, dreadful feeling. Sort of like what I get whenever I see a neighborhood with an assload of cookie cutter housing. The sort that summer sales bro's target. The sort that I targeted 3 years ago, during my 2 month stint as, well, a summer sales bro. Seeing a neighborhood ripe for a corporate raping takes me back to the feeling of misery I experienced during those 2 months. And hearing about other peoples' school assignments made me feel the same way, thus ever solidifying my anti-more-school position.

So when a grad program actually sounded like a desirable course of action, I felt like It had to be the right thing to do. Because, even as I type this, thinking about my undergrad still gives me that despicable summer sales swindler feeling. But, curiously, not when I contemplate this particular program.

I have felt lost for the last year. Graduated with a seemingly useless degree, wondering what on earth to do. I mean, this blog was an obvious fall back, since I make just stupid amounts of money maintaining it. Or should be. I guess I was waiting for either that to happen, or for a big golden calf to fall out of the sky, come crashing through my house, and land on my leg. So then I could sue whoever dropped that golden calf out of the sky, broke my leg, and ruined my ceiling. Hopefully for enough money to just live an extravagant life of blogging and eating expensive fruits. Grad school gives me real direction. Finally.

I applied for a Masters of Arts in Teaching at Westminster. I was worried, because they only accept 15 secondary ed students. So, having been accepted, that either means that I am simply a spectacular bastion of scholarly material, or that there just aren't that many people who want to pay a boatload for a masters degree. That golden calf crushing my leg would really be welcome right now.

So, after a couple years of avoiding my destiny as a secondary education mind moulder, I have come back to it. Over the last year or so, I have come to the realization that I need to love what I do. I need to feel fulfilled. Meaningful. I want to make a difference, to help people think critically, to love education. Pending the golden calf incident, I may not end up rich. But I will be happy. And that is what is important.

I'm ready for you, August 25th. No ominous feelings here.


Tight wad

Today, a guy came into the carside door and ordered a chocolate cake desert thing. The total was 6 dollars and 47 cents. He pulled a ziplock plastic baggy out of his pocket, and proceeded to pull out a 10 dollar bill.

"A crafty substitute for a wallet, that ziplock bag," I thought.

He handed me a crinkled up 10 dollar bill. I opened the carside cash drawer, and was annoyed at finding no coins. Typically when this occurs on a carry out order, I try to look and sound real put out when I tell them, "hang on a sec, I'll go look for 37 cents." Or 15 cents. Or 62 cents. Or whatever the cents may be. And often times, people will say, "Don't worry about it." Partially because they realize that you should tip on a carry out order at a legitimate restaurant, and partly, I think, due to the fact that "who really gives a shit about 33 cents."

I owed him 53 of those cents. I assumed he wasn't going to say, "go ahead and keep it," as he had fished that $10 out of a plastic bag. So I said, "Hang on a sec, I'll go find you some change." I walked away, immediately calling out, "does anyone have 4 quarters?" I found 4 quarters, and returned to the guy. I owed him 53 cents, but gave him 50. Because I don't carry quarters, let alone pennies. In fact, in my entire serving career, I have never given anyone coins. If it is 15 cents or less, I eat it. If it is more than that, I let them eat it, and tip me less if they are pist.

Nobody has ever been pist.

What sort of person really would care about 3 pennies?

The answer to that question, apparently, is a person who carries his money around in a plastic sack.

Upon handing him the 50 cents, I turned away to go back to whatever else I was doing. He said, "Um...it was fifty-three cents." Dumbfounded, I sort of just stared at him for a moment. "Okay. I'll find you 3 pennies."

So I walked away, yelling "Does anyone have three pennies? Anyone?"
"What the hell do you need 3 pennies for?"
"Just gimmie the damn pennies please."

So I walked back over, and said, "Here are you 3 pennies."
He put them in the plastic sack, and left.

I wonder if, on dates, he transfers his money into something more respectable. Like a velcro wallet.


Eating animals

This post is probably going to be a little out of line with the general tone of this blog, so bear with me on that.

I finished a book, about which I had some pretty strong feelings, and I share those at the risk of possibly alienating some, and pissing off others.

Let me preface with the fact that I love a good steak as much, possibly, as I love my little brother. Although I rarely eat them, a good filthy burger, slathered with goat cheese is something for which I would possibly trade a kidney, if I didn't probably need both kidneys to process all that sodium. I love ribs, I love chicken, I love a good pork chop. Seared ahi tuna, I'd most definitely trade that kidney for. A fat shrimp, grilled or chilled or covered in cocktail sauce, is the sweetest of delicacies.

Which is why giving up meat is certainly going to be a decision not lightly made, and very difficult to maintain.

I have been gradually avoiding meat for the last few months, not on ethical grounds, but because I simply wanted a healthier diet. I have been bothered by the fact that as Americans, we seem to revolve our meals around a meat dish. I decided that I never wanted to fall into the routine of, "this will be the meat, now what goes well with that?" I wanted meat to be something that sometimes goes with a meal, but most of the time it doesn't.

From a Mormon standpoint, (sorry if you aren't a Mormon, and aren't familiar with the theology) I have always been slightly bothered by the disconnect that devout Mormons have when it comes to the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom, being, the reason why Mormons abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and other addictive and/or judgement altering substances. The disconnect comes with the part where meat is to be eaten "sparingly" and "in times of famine." For whatever reason, that part seems not to matter to many Mormons. It certainly didn't matter to me for a large portion of my life.

But it should matter.

Eating large quantities of meat (what the Average American certainly does) is simply not a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But meat is easy, and cheap. It is much easier to spend 3 bucks and 5 minutes (more like 30 seconds) at McDonald's on double cheeseburgers, than the time, effort, and thought it takes to cook something wholesome. My point is, it isn't good for anyone to consume a good sized portion of meat, every single day. Ask any dietitian, or look it up on the interweb if you think I'm wrong.

Recently, I read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and pretty much fell in love with it. I found it to be a deeply moving, highly entertaining book. He recently published a book called Eating Animals, and having enjoyed Extremely Loud so much, I decided that I wanted to read it.

I knew it was about the American factory farm. I knew that I risked my love affair with with meat by reading it. But I also knew that I needed to really know what I have been eating my entire life, and what I would potentially continue to eat.

Eating Animals was not written by a PETA activist. It was written by a guy who has loved meat, and been an on again, off again vegetarian throughout his life. He chose to write the book when his son was born, because he realized that eating meat was no longer a personal decision, but one he would be making for his son. He wanted to find out if feeding his son meat was the right thing to do. So he set about doing 3 years of intensive research, which included breaking into factory farms, visits to actual sustainable, truly free range farms (the very few that are left,) and attempted contact and (legal) visits to some of the nations largest factory farms such as Tyson (none of which responded, nor allowed him to visit, for obvious reasons.) What he ended up with, I think, is a truly powerful (and truthful) exposé on the American meat industry.

A few years ago, my sister watched a short film online called 'Meat your Meat.' I had seen it previously, and dismissed it as extremism. I told her she was stupid for giving up meat, because there was no way that such a video was indicative of the industry as a whole. The video shows animals being treated and tortured in the worst ways imaginable. Now, after reading this book, I believe that this video is more the rule, rather than the exception. Or at least something close to it.

But, for the sake of people who will argue, let's pretend for a moment that it isn't. Let's go ahead and say that most animals aren't beaten with metal rods, aren't slammed upon the concrete until they die because they are too sick to move, and they aren't unnecessarily and often sadistically prodded with electric prods (much more than necessary) or a plethora of other common abuses, don't often occur. Sadism aside, there is plenty of inherent cruelty in the factory farm system that other potent examples are simply vegan icing on the shit cake.

Fact--factory farm animals (especially chickens and other poultry) are confined to small, disease ridden, shit infested spaces. Fact--through factory farming, genetically altered birds have been created for maximum growing potential and efficiency--the average broiler, (the chicken you eat) is slaughtered in 42 days. Sometimes 39. Can you even fathom the growth hormones and antibiotics necessary to create a succulent chicken breast in 42 days? Growth hormones, because nothing on this planet could naturally grow so fast and be ready for consumption, and antibiotics, because of the filthy conditions in which these birds are kept. Have you ever seen a 42 day old kitten, or puppy? Puts things in perspective...

So. We know (from government provided statistics, and obvious math ((if 30+ thousands birds are confined to a warehouse the size of a grocery store, it can't be any other way)) that animals really are unbelievably confined to small, filthy spaces. So why is that okay? Everybody, at one time or another, has seen an evening news story about some man or woman, who was discovered to be hoarding dogs or cats. We all look on in sadness, disbelief, and disgust while filthy, shit covered feral cats, with sores and scabs are being captured by animal control men wearing face masks. Why is that scenario punishable by fines and even jail time, while the same thing (just a different animal) ends up in your frying pan, or in between a bun, and slides happily down your gullet without ever a second thought?

These are questions that need to be asked. These are things that need to be thought about.

I think the problem, is the average american has no idea where his or her chicken, beef, pork, or fish is coming from. The idea that anything you purchase at a grocery store, or a fast food restaurant (or virtually any other restaurant, for that matter) is coming from a farm as you know it, is pure fantasy. I think if people really knew what the American factory farm was doing, and how meat actually gets to the end of your fork, there would be many more hesitant people when it came to meat consumption.

If you knew that children were used as the chief source of labor in the production of Ipods, and were terribly abused in the process, would you keep buying or using an Ipod? I know that animals aren't children. But the concept, I think, is fair. Meat is by no means a necessity, just like having an Ipod isn't a necessity. CD's play music too. So, upon finding out that there is extreme inherent cruelty built into the system (with factory farm demand, and the desire for cheap meat, things can be done in no other way) what can one do?

Again, let's set aside cruelty. Factory farms are probably going to be the cause of the next big pandemic. Because of the amount of antibiotics preemptively fed to factory farm animals, new strains of highly virulent, antibiotic resistant viruses are being, basically, farmed. With every bucket of KFC chicken, we are giving money to an industry that is inadvertently probably creating the next pandemic.

Do we need to even talk about how problematic 1.37 billion ton (not lbs, mind you) of shit per year produced by American livestock is?

I guess when it comes down to it, I am not opposed to the consumption of meat--sparingly. I do not think that the actual act of eating meat is wrong. However, what seems unequivocally wrong to me, is the manner in which our meat is derived. Which makes me feel that eating meat from a factory farm (which is most meat) is wrong.

Eating Animals, I think, may be one of the most important things I have ever read. Here is an excerpt, and one of many contained therein that I think lend credibility to his argument, and overall "agenda."

"My decision not to eat animals is necessary for me, but it is also limited--and personal. It is a commitment made within the context of my life, not anyone else's. And until sixty of so years ago, much of my reasoning wouldn't have even been intelligible, because the industrial animal agriculture to which I'm responding hadn't become dominant. had I been born in a different time, I might have reached different conclusions. For me to conclude firmly that I will not eat animals does not meat I oppose, or even have mixed feelings about, eating animals in general. To oppose beating a child to "teach a lesson" is not to oppose strong parental discipline. To decide that I will discipline my child in one way and not another is not necessarily to make a decision I would impose on other parents. to decide for oneself and one's family is not to decide for the nation or world."

If you read this book, I think you will be surprised by what you read. It doesn't feel preachy. It feels honest, and rational. You may disagree with most of what I have said here. And I get that--I have been there for most of my life. But I think I was there because I never had, what I felt like, were the facts presented to me. Meat consumption is one of the most polarizing subjects out there. Vegans and hardcore vegetarians are adamantly opposed to the cruelty and lack of animal welfare, often to the point of extremism, while meat lovers vehemently defend their steaks and God given right to exercise dominion and eat all creatures bond and free, while a lot of people in between just do what is easy, and mosey along in an ignorant, carnivorous bliss.

Meat is probably a large part of your life--it was certainly a large part of mine. Don't you think you should know a little more than "chicken comes from a chicken, and chickens live on farms"? If you are going to be an eating animal, you should know what that really means.


Ho, canada!

Turns out, Canada is a pretty cool place. And mostly like America in a lot of ways. This is pretty much what I expected from Canada previous to arrival:
--French speaking babes
--Big pine trees
--An abundance of beavers
--My money to be worth more than their money
--Bear attacks

I was disappointed in all but the big pine trees. They sure had a lot of those.

I decided while packing, that wearing a red flannel long sleeved shirt was probably the best thing that I could do upon arriving in Canada, in order to not appear as a lame tourist. I expected a land of merry lumberjacks, stomping through the streets yelling things like, "Ho there friend!" or "Ho brother! Watch oat fer bairs aye!" Turns out, I was the only asshole walking around in flannel. But I wore that flannel proudly and filthily, 4 out of 5 days backpacking. Which may be why #6 never occurred--the bears could smell that my smelly sweat/smoke saturated vestment wrapped body was something they would rather not shove down their gullets. Or they felt a sense of camaraderie, like I was a flannel bearing illiterate Canadian of old, before they all got into fashion and the metric system.

I sure do like the metric system, even though my brain is too stupid to translate it. I constantly had to convert things to miles/feet/gallons/inefficient in order to figure anything out. "Wait, we have to go 150 kilometers? Shit, wait, how many is that in feet?"

Somehow or another, during the 5 days of our hike (on the Juan de Fuca trail, which occupies about 30 miles ((49 kilometers)) (((it's hard to know how many feet))) of the south-western coast of Victoria island) my trusty calculator watch with the gold band managed to be about an hour and 25 minutes off real time. Which I guess would explain why it seemed like the sun was setting at about 11:30 at night. Which I simply attributed to Canada being weird and way far north. I think towards the end, I finally figured out that my watch was wrong, and I really had no clue what time it was for 5 days. Which was sort of awesome.

One gentleman on our journey forgot deodorant I think. I wasn't previously aware that arm pit stench had the ability to drift upwards of 50 or more feet (like 15 meters ((I'm learning))) through rain forest to penetrate, nay, rape the nostrils of the unfortunate soul (generally me) walking behind. Which is why anytime I was bringing up the rear of our 3 man expedition, I ended up walking a good distance behind, probably setting myself up to be straggling bear meat. Or cougar meat. Which I think would be preferable to being bear meat. I feel like a cougar would probably go straight for the jugular, and end it rather quickly, whereas a bear is probably as likely to start with the crotch as with anything else. Anyways, it was really just an unbelievable stench, worth possibly dying to avoid.

At one point, I found myself trapped for a time in a sleigh bell B.O. sandwich, from whence there was no escape. We passed this weirdo German couple with sleigh bells attached to their walking sticks. Upon passing them, I was unable to maintain my usual 75 foot buffer zone. Which essentially felt like being herded into the stench by a sleigh bell wielding German shepherd (person, not dog.) Wanting to vomit while feeling extremely annoyed is a weird, bothersome combination.

Ripping mussels off of rocks, while getting soaked by cold sea water is rendered a much more disappointing culinary experience when said mussels are subsequently cooked in a Bear Creek minestrone/Santa Fe chipotle chicken soup mix. In other words, minestrone and Santa Fe chipotle chicken are 2 soups that don't combine well, and are not in any way improved by tossing in a couple dozen boiled mussels. Whoelk (that was a puke sound.) I should have stuck with sticking the whole shell in the coals of the fire with my leatherman, and eating them plain. Or maybe just purchased 6 matching soups, rather than 6 different. Idiot.

They (Canada) only give you .95 Canada cents for every American dollar. Which made virtually everything which was already more expensive, more expensive. That problem would fix itself if we would just turn them into a state already.

I saw one beaver, which was simultaneously the happiest and most disappointing moment of my trip. Happiest, because I got to watch a beaver, the literal Frank Lloyd Wright of the animal kingdom, swim around like 2000 centimeters in front of me. But this was basically my last day in Canada, and was the only beaver I saw, which made it disappointing. A bitter sweet moment.

I didn't run into any French speaking babes, but there sure were a lot of beautiful women walking around Vancouver nonetheless. Seriously. There must be something in the water. Get real Beach Boys, Vancouver girls are what you should be wishing for.

After completing the trail, we had to hitchhike the 30 miles back to the trailhead at Port Renfrew. We had the good fortunes to be picked up by the "Mayor" of Port Renfrew--a 63 year old pot smoking Vietnam draft dodging ex-patriot. Here was an excerpt from a conversation:
Adam: "So there is a doctor you visit?"
Mayor: "Ah yeah, but I don't even take none of the shit he gives me."
Adam: "So you are more into holistic medicines?"
Mayor: "I smoke a lot of pot."
Me: "Cool."
Mayor: "The prettiest girl I ever dated was a Mormon. She was always tryin to get me to go to church on Sundays. I was always tryin to get her to do drugs. Neither of us really had much success." It was a fun 30 miles.

Possibly the thing I loved most about Canada, was the Maynard wine gummies. My selection of said gummies had nothing to do with the fact that they were supposedly wine flavors, and everything to do with the consistency. I was hungry on a ferry, and saw a package of gummies. Upon careful examination and after various squeezes of the gummies through the bag, I deduced that I had possibly found a gummy with the perfect consistency. Which proved to be true. And, thankfully, they tasted nothing like wine.

I went on this trip assuming that I would starve for the duration of the backpacking experience, and lose a few pounds. Upon making a visit to my bathroom scale this morning, I found quite the opposite--a slight weight gain. Maybe something to do with eating pizza twice, hamburgers twice, a gigantic Ben and Jerry's ice cream waffle cone, 3 bags of Maynard's, plenty of fries with said hamburgers, more fries with a greasy Po boy tuna sandwich, and virtually zero fruits and veggies. Which, those things combined, are worse than the sum total of the WORST things I have eaten during the last 2 or 3 months. Maybe those were my last burgers. Ever. And my last albacore tuna. Ever.

More to come on that development.


Almost done aye

I haven't yet died in Canada.

Sorry I disappeared.

Be back very soon.