Saturday, November 19, 2011

What's On Your Plate?

      Last weekend, Punky and I watched an excellent documentary together that I want to recommend to everyone.

      It's called What's On Your Plate? and it follows two 11 year olds on their journey to find out where the food they eat comes from.     

       The film starts when these city kids visit Ohio and discover just how much better a fresh tomato tastes.  They are able to visit the local farm where the tomato was grown, and they are instantly interested.  Curiosity piqued, they return to the city on a mission to find out just where their food comes from.

      This is an informative and fun documentary; I highly recommend it as a way to introduce kids to the concepts of nutritious eating and a little food politics.  It talks a lot about school lunches and where the food comes from and shows real kids getting involved in getting real food into their school.  For kids, this is a great, engaging movie because it's told from their perspective by characters they can relate to.

       It touches on a wide array of topics, from Farmer's Markets and global pollution to diabetes, all in a simple, interesting, and engaging manner Punky loved.

       But this is not just a documentary for kids. It is an inspirational look at getting involved for people of all ages.  As a parent, it totally renewed my dedication to getting Punky involved in our garden and all the other aspects of where our food comes from.  As a person, it reminded me of many of the reasons I take Ethical Eating so seriously.

      If you're already well versed in ethical eating and food politics, this may not be the film for you.  Then again, it still just might.  If you're an average everyday person, though, you really should watch this movie.  And if you have kids, they should really watch it with you.

       You should also check out the website for the movie, which contains even more information and fun and games for the kids!

      This is what Punky had to say about What's On Your Plate?:

      What's On Your Plate? rocked!  When I grow up, I want to be a farmer and have a job and two kids.  And I want to eath healthy food all my life.  When I get older I want my own garden!  My favorite part of the movie was when they went to the Angel family's garden.  I didn't know that it was so hard for farmers to put their carrots in schools.  I learned all that carrots have to go through to be in schools.  Feeding your body right is very important.  What's on your plate?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ethical Eating Out: Food Day

       Yesterday was Food Day! Did you eat ethically for the day?  If you missed it, try it out today; it's easier that you think. Forego meat for a day - I have loads of delicious cruelty free recipes on my Recipes page.  Buy Fair Trade/Equal Exchange coffee, chocolate, and tea.  Visit a Farmer's Market. Switch to veggie broth.  Easy steps!

      I didn't get to do quite as much for Food Day as I would have liked because we're TAD, but I did what I could:  I ordered my Fair Trade Chai Tea Latte with soy milk instead of inhumanely obtained cow's milk.  And when we went out to dinner, I hit the jackpot.

       How yummy does my dinner look?  No meat, and possibly no dairy (depending on how the babba ganoush was made), and totally delicious.

      Even Punky embraced Food Day with meat and dairy free penne marinara.

      How did your Food Day go?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eating Our Own

      I am not a vegan, and I don't claim to be.  I am not even a vegetarian.  And I don't claim to be.  Most of the time the meals I prepare are vegan or at least vegetarian, but I myself can claim neither of those labels.  And there are reasons for that.  Reasons that have become even more clear to me in the last few days.

      I practice Ethical Eating.  Like veganism or vegetarianism, Ethical Eating is a lifestyle.  But Ethical Eating is unlike veg'anism (that's the either/or term for vegan or vegetarianism) in the same way the Unitarian Universalism (which largely spawned the Ethical Eating movement) is different than most other religions:  It isn't about hard and fast rules.  The focus is on a continuing pursuit.  It is about education, it is about constant steps forward.  It is about striving.

      Sadly veg'anism has become very much about rules.  It has become a "religion" from which one can be summarily excommunicated for failing to meet the self-righteous standards of other self proclaimed veg'ans.  A couple days ago my friend Lindsay Nixon, author of Happy Herbivore, one of my very favorite cookbooks, wrote a post on her blog questioning whether or not Honey could be used by vegans.  A simple enough topic, and grounds (in my opinion) for a lively discussion.

     Well, let's just say that "lively" isn't exactly the word I would use for what ensued from there.

      As a result, the next day she renounced her V card.  Lindsay no longer claims to be vegan.  Score one for the self-righteous vegan fundamentalists?  I think not.  Because what sort of backward-ass movement strives to shrink it's membership?  How exactly does chasing away the author of an awesome and well known cookbook further your cause?  In short,

      I think Lindsay put it quite well in her post: "why are these vegans taking the time to run around and tell people trying to be vegan they're not vegan enough, instead of using that time and energy helping someone who isn't vegan at all? Is veganism some cool club that I'm not worthy to get into? Do we really want to make it about exclusivity rather than inclusivity? Someone said to me once, and I think this is painfully true, for cruelty-free dieters, vegans sure are cannibalistic!"

      I never have and never will understand backbiting idiots who turn on their own (remember Catty B*tches?  If you missed it, it's worth the read).  It seems to me that they're kind of loosing sight of the goal here.  I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the ultimate aim to have an overall positive impact?  To reduce the amount of cruelty caused by our consumption?  And to improve our collective and individual health while we're at it?

      At the very least, that's MY goal.  For some people, apparently, the point is to prove how much better they are at "being vegan."  Whatever.  Have fun.  But please keep the hell away from me.  I'm trying NOT to make Ethical Eating look like the niche of crazy extremists.  As Lindsay said, "As plant-based eaters, we are a minority. We need to stick together and support each other."

      And THAT, my dear friends is what Ethical Eating is all about.  Sticking together, and moving forward.  Whether you're taking big steps or little steps, every step counts.  My current struggles to cut out all foods containing inhumane eggs and cheese are no more or less significant that the person trying out Meatless Mondays (or, like us, Meatless weekdays!  You'd be absolutely shocked by how easy and satisfying it is).

      Whether you are a vegan or a vegetarian.  Whether you call yourself one or not.  Whether you claim to pursue the goals of Ethical Eating or you just want to make the best health choices for yourself and your family.  Whatever your reasons, and whatever steps you take.

      Because every step is a step.

      And lets not lose sight of that.

      What steps have you taken?  Which were the hardest?  Which were your biggest triumphs?  What are you struggling with now.  THIS is a safe place for any step on your journey (unless you promote cruelty, then you're just a jackass, obviously).  Tell us where you stand.

Friday, October 7, 2011


     As we all know, I'm not one for skipping Holidays.  It frustates the heck out of me when I walk into a store that's all fancied up for Christmas/Yule/Chanukka/Festivus and all other holidays on or around Winter Solstice before we've even hit Halloween (or even Patriot Day in some cases!). 

      But I'm breaking my cardinal rule and skipping ahead a holiday.  This skipping, however is necessary and is only preparatory.  Heaven knows I would never fully gloss over Halloween/Samhain!  But poor Thanksgiving really gets short shrift anyway, being sandwiched right between Halloween and the Soltstice holidays.

      Why start thinking about Thanksgiving so far ahead of time?  Honestly, I should have been thinking about it a few months ago and I totally dropped the ball.  The answer is simple:  TURKEY!

      Thanksgiving is a holiday that supposedly centers around giving thanks, but we all know what it really centers around, at least culturally:  Meat.  Turkey meat, to be more precise. 

      Just because turkey is a less popular poultry meat than chicken in no way means they escape the sick horror of factory farms.  Every year, hundreds of millions of turkeys are raised in sickening, tourturous conditions in factory farms. 

      I, for one, cannot stomach the idea of sitting around a warm family table discussing all the blessings in life that we are greatful for only to celebrate those blessings by feasting on an animal that lived its entire life in painful, sickening, deplorable conditions.  That is just simply WRONG.

      But I really don't think I can get the fam on board with a meat free Thanksgiving this year, and I also don't see it as necessary.  We still eat meat occassionally.  Probably about 3 times a month.  But we restrict ourselves from humanely raised meat from local farms.

      So I set out on a mission to find a humanely raised turkey for our Thanksgiving feast, and it looks like we're in luck.  I found this awesome site:  Eat Wild.  Eat wild provides state by state information (with maps) on TONS of humane farms, many of which will even ship meat to you.  Not only was I able to find turkey, I also found pork, beef, chicken, eggs (not that we need any), and goats.  And I'm sure that's just scratching the surface.  It is a GREAT SITE.

      I highly recommend everyone check out Eat Wild.  You might just be surprise by what you find in your area.  I know I was.  Before I found Eat Wild, I only knew of one or two local humane meat producers, turns out there are tons.

     Now, in all honesty, I should have started looking for a turkey earlier in the year.  Some of the farms start taking reservations for the turkeys back in June when the turkeys are babies.  But I've sent emails to a number of farms to see what's available.  And if I can't find anything in the state, I can always click Eat Wild's "Farms That Ship" link and find a farm that might be able to ship me a humanely raised turkey.

      Where are YOU getting your turkey this year?  Or are you even having a turkey?  How are you going to make your Thanksgiving a day of thanks not just for you, but for all the animals and humans who played a role in bringing your food to your table?

      And be sure to check out the recipes site for lots of Thanksgiving deliciousness before and after the day!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Food Day!

      Monday, October 24th is National Food Day!  And, whether they know it or not, it is effectively Ethical Eating Day.  Just take a look at the 6 Principles of Food Day:

Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2. Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4. Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

      See?  Ethical Eating Day!  I am super excited about this, and I invite everyone to grab the button from up top and join me in celebrating food day by learning more, being mindful of what you eat and how it affects the world around you, and cooking a healthy, ethical, home cooked meal that day.

      Check out the Food Day website to sign a letter to your Congress person asking them to take notice of the issues Food Day is trying to raise awareness of and find ways to participate.

      They even have a free downloadable cookbook with amazing recipes from a ton of celebrity chefs!  I doesn't get better than that.

      So, in honor of Food Day in just a couple weeks, I hope to see you all joining in, if even in a small way.

      Want to be featured here on Cheap Wine and Cookies?  Send me your Food Day plans, and you'll get your very own post.

      What a fun and easy way to have a HUGE impact on our world!

Friday, September 30, 2011

New Posts Coming Soon

Can't wait?

Submit a Guest Post!

What are you doing in your life to eat more ethically?  I'd love to feature your story, tips, or even articles,  books,  or information you find enlightening in the realm of Ethical Eating.
Whatever you can think of, try me!  Email me at CheapWineandCookies at gmail dot com.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Good and The Bad: Drinks and Cravings

Originally Posted:
Jun 6, 2011 2:36 PM

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the good and bad things in my life.  I have two super-long posts drafted up about where I’ve failed and where I’ve succeeded, just sort of taking stock.  I may never post them, though because 1) they’re probably pretty boring to read; 2.) the positive parts of them come off as super braggy; and 3.) they are super duper long.  Such posts are the epitome of a post just for myself.
Still, I’ve been spending a whole lot of time just looking around myself, thinking, assessing.  This morning as I made a cup of tea (organic white), I started ruminating on my eating habits.  I’ve gotten a little lax the last couple weeks.  I mean, not all that lax.  I’ve still been eating ethically and getting enough veggies, but my sugar and fat cravings have been off the charts.  I suspect it’s a combination of sleep deprivation and a recent Flintstone growth spurt.
Did you know that sleep deprivation messes with your hormones in a way that causes increased appetite?  What a pain in the rear.
So in the last couple weeks, I’ve indulged in a few more cookies that I usually do.  I’ve had veggie pizza twice (I found out that Little Caesars’ and Pizza Hut both use cheese without enzymes from slaughtered baby animals).  And where I usually drink a constant stream of unsweetened tea – green, white, and black – all day, I’ve instead been drinking a lot more coffee with milk and agave nectar (or *cringe* flavored non-dairy creamers – mmmm . . . caramel macchiato . . .) and either Pepsi Throwback or Dr. Pepper Throwback in the afternoons (Throwback is made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, HFCS=gag).  Granted, I’m still only drinking 2 or 3 cans of pop during the workweek, but I had been down to about one a week, usually divided over two days.
So this morning, gazing longingly at the coffee pot in my office mourning the fact that I really can’t have any more caffeine right now, I put my foot down (figuratively).  I’m going back to tea.  This little period of indulgence has gone on long enough.  No more frozen yogurt before bed.  No more pop in the afternoon.  (Ok, to be realistic “no more” might be taking it a little far, but I am cutting it back down to once a week or so).
I think it’s about time to bring my loose leaf teas back to work.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Veggie Brain

*** This is one of the 30 or so posts that have been languishing on my computer desktop, just a thought or a note, waiting for its moment of glory here on this highly respected blog :-P ***
      I recently read a very interesting article in Psychology Today about the differences in brain chemistry/wiring between vegetarians/vegans (veg’ans) and omnivores.  The article discusses a recent and very thought provoking study published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE), The Brain Functional Networks Associated to Human and Animal Suffering Differ among Omnivores.  You should seriously check out the study.  Or at least the article.  But I’m more into the hard scientific details and correlations, so I was thrilled to be able to read the study.
      The basic finding here is – not at all surprisingly, in my opinion – people who refrain from eating flesh for ethical reasons seem to have much more empathy than those who eat meat.  And this isn’t a touchy-feely fill out this survey and tell us how much you like animals thing; subjects of the study were placed in a fMRI machine and shown various images, to include images of humans and animals suffering.  The areas of their brains that responded and the degree of the activity in these areas was then measured and quantified.
      Has anyone noticed that I have a *slight* addiction to research studies?  I probably read an average of 50 studies, articles about studies, or results summaries (on all sorts of topics) every week – no exaggeration.  And the number was much higher when I had more free time (and didn’t blog . ..).  I love studies.  I know – I am, in the truest sense of the word, a complete and utter dork.
      You can check out the study or the article for more detailed discussion of the various brain structures affected and the functioning behind them.  While I love that sort of stuff, I recognize that most people don’t really care much whether it was the Anterior Cingular Cortex that lit up or the Medulla Oblongata (it was the former, by the way).
      The long and short of it is that when vegetarians/vegans who refrained from eating flesh based on ethics were shown images of animal and human suffering, they exhibited responses in a NUMBER of brain regions associated with empathy, higher-order representations of the self and values, and bodily representation that were not found in omnivores.
      VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  Neither this study, nor I, in any way imply that omnivores are lacking in empathy or are in any way cold and heartless.  The study simply demonstrates that ethical veg’ans have more empathy.  So I don’t want any angry comments from the omnivores out there thinking I’m trying to malign anyone.
      Empathy is an extremely important human emotion.  It is an integral key to societal functioning, successful interpersonal relationships, and human happiness.  I’m not exaggerating.  Empathy – The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings (Alvin Goldman) – is the absolute foundation of true kindness.  Those truly sick, cruel individuals among us and throughout history were the ones lacking in empathy (or able to dehumanize others to a degree where they could deactivate empathy, but the same idea).
      If you can’t tell, I feel very strongly about empathy.  I did well before I read this article.  I have always felt strongly about “The Golden Rule,” which is found in most world religions, and I think empathy is the key to being a good friend, parent, wife, and human being.  I am empathetic to a fault (if that’s possible).
      I’m not saying veg’ans are better people (even though I know it sounds like it).  But I’m not at all surprised by this study, either.  There are people out there that can watch movies like Food, Inc. or see images or videos like the one below and three hours later are scarfing bacon or digging into a bucket of chicken.  I can’t do that.  It has gotten to a point where watching other people eat factory farmed meat upsets me.  In that particular area, I have much more empathy than probably most people.  But I’m sure there are other areas where people have me totally outstripped.  As we all know, I have much less empathy for adulterers (granted, I actually do have some; I’m more talk and ranting than anything else on that, but still – I have a heck of a lot more empathy for poor farm animals than people who take vows then refuse to keep it in their pants).
      So what’s my point?  Interesting facts.  Interesting study.  Something to think about.  No real point to speak of.  I’m not trying to say veg’ans are better or trying to talk people into changing their ways.  I simply found this study enlightening and pertinent to stuff I ramble about on this blog. 
      Ok, so maybe I’m trying to change your behavior a little.  Seriously, how can anyone watch something like this and still eat factory farmed meat?  Or refuse to watch it because they don’t want to feel guilty about eating said meat?  By the way, this is where the SCHOOL LUNCH MEAT comes from:
<damn broken links - erg!.

      Yes, these videos are graphic.  Watching them makes me want to simultaneously vomit and cry.  But, damnit, it’s better to watch it and make a change than to refuse to recognize that you contribute to this every single time you eat meat, eggs, or dairy produced by these animals.  And for most US Americans that is EVERY MEAL OF THE EFFING DAY.
      You don’t need “more empathy” to want to make this stop.
      And, oh by the way, people who commit violent acts toward animals JUST LIKE THIS, are exponentially more likely to commit violent acts against other humans, particularly children.  Think maybe we should try to put them out of business?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Human Milk From Cows

This isn’t what I was planning on posting today, but this article really got me thinking:  Scientists in China have genetically engineered 300 cows that produce milk very similar to human breastmilk.  At first glance, there are a couple of possible pros to this:  It would be a great alternative to formula for babies, and it might even be better for adult humans to drink than regular cow’s milk. 
Just last night NotDonna and I were talking about how weird it is that the only milk most adult US Americans are not grossed out by is cow’s milk.  Cow’s milk is designed for COWS.  And what makes it more palatable than goat milk, or giraffe milk for that matter?  Really, if humans want to drink milk, human breast milk should still be the first choice.  Obviously, that’s not very workable since most human breast milk should be going to feed human babies, but you get my point.  And all that said, I still drink organic cow milk occasionally, though I am phasing it out for Ethical reasons until I can find a local, humane dairy farm from whom to purchase milk.
Back to the genetically modified (GM) cows:
On further thought, there are TONS of cons to this idea.  Here are just a few:
-          The last thing we need is yet another “alternative” to breast feeding being promoted. 
-          The calves of these GM cows suffer and die.  The milk isn’t nearly worth the cost of all that suffering and death.
-          The milk has a lot of the same compounds as human milk, and they’re touting its “immune boosting” properties, but leaving out that fact that what it lacks are any of the mother’s antibodies, the main ingredient in breastmilk that protects babies.
-          It will have to be pasteurized and whatnot, which will kill half the benefits of it.
-          Human infants have what’s called an “open gut” which allows through much larger microbes than an adult stomach.  If there is ANYTHING unusual in that milk, microbes, particles, etc., it will pass straight into the blood stream of the baby eating it causing, at the very least, allergies, and possibly much worse.
-          I doubt they have yet tested the milk to see how it will actually effect human infants.
-          Did I mention that producing this milk is CRUEL!?!
-          And that people should just frigging BREASTFEED or get breastmilk from a milk bank?
I mean, really, isn’t breastfeeding and promoting and educating about breast feeding a MUCH more obvious and logical course of action?  Not to mention a cruelty free one.