I’m feeling inspired by Tracy’s recent post over at her practical vegan blog. Last week she wrote about Meatless Monday and wrote a post of suggested tips for giving it a go.
I’ve long felt of myself as an aspiring vegan. I’m a pescatarian but mostly vegetarian eater. The reasons aren’t that complicated. I’m concerned about animal welfare and I think contemporary farming methods treat animals with cruelty, disrespect, and disregard. I’d think it’s better not to give these industries our money.
While I’m not ready to completely make the leap, I like the one day week vegan commitment that is Meatless Monday. It gives me a chance to focus my efforts and I’ll how hard it is (or not).
To get ready I bought maple flavored oat milk for coffee in the morning. I thought about my lunch and dinner choices. All good.
And then Sunday night we had veggie burgers on the BBQ for dinner. Leftovers. Excellent. Except we’d put cheese on the burgers.
So I’m not about to throw out leftovers and they really need to eaten the next day. I thought about abandoning Meatless Monday but that’s ridiculous. My choice is either Meatless Monday (veganism) plus a cheese slice or vegetarian Monday.
In a way this moment encapsulated a thing Tracy often talks about, how perfection stops people from aiming in the direction of veganism. So in the spirit of the Tracy’s new blog, I decided to keep going and it’ll be an imperfect vegan Monday to begin.
The blog is going to explore what I call “imperfect veganism” from a philosophical, ethical, strategic, and practical perspective. I have been vegan for ethical reasons since 2011, vegetarian for quite some time prior to that. But, as I explain in “Welcome to ‘Vegan. Practically.” I am not 100% perfect at it. Many people both inside and outside the vegan community think of it as an all-or-nothing undertaking, that you can not be “properly vegan” if you ever falter. That has never seemed right to me, and as a philosopher I have been mulling it over for a long time.
The book-in-progress, and its new blog companion “Vegan. Practically.” will carve out a space for a principled approach to veganism as an ethical practice. I emphasize the idea of practice because I think that is a great way of understanding the ongoing, but sometimes flawed, effort, much as we do in other practices, such as yoga, meditation, religion, even physical training in athletics from hockey to running.
I started the new blog because as I’ve been writing the book over these past few months, I’ve had some challenges hitting the right note in terms of tone. I want to be inviting, offering these reflections not just to vegans, but also to anyone who might be curious, or anyone who might be more than curious but feels convinced veganism is “too hard.” I don’t want to be scary, combative, strident, or (overly) self-righteous (tough to navigate when you’re taking an ethical stance on something, but I don’t see that as a productive way for me to be). I also don’t want to evangelize or preach. I’m a philosopher, so argument, commentary, and analysis are my go-tos, with some personal narrative thrown into the mix. Hopefully it’ll be inherently interesting subject matter presented in an approachable and engaging way (a women can dream!).
As a writer I can sometimes overthink things like tone, but I know that I when I blog I feel as if my authentic voice comes through. I tried to approach some parts of the book “acting as if,” that is, pretending I was blogging. But I guess I’m not such a great pretender. Why not just do it for real?
As I was grappling with this question of tone and the possibility of blogging for real, I felt a bit of resistance because a blog is a commitment not to be undertaken lightly. Then my writing coach (Daphne Gray-Grant, The Publication Coach), whom I’ve been working with for a few months, said that a blog is an excellent platform for making a success of the book. I know from my experience with Fit Is a Feminist Issue and the book, Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey, that I co-authored with Sam, that this holds true. We did much better with the book because of the blog — indeed without the blog there would have been no book.
I plan to start modestly, with one to two posts a week on a range of topics from the various reasons in support of veganism to Veganuary pros and cons to cell-based meat to my favourite vegan recipe sites (I won’t be offering much if anything in the way of recipes). The photography will be my own (I’m intensely into photography so this is a way of showcasing some of my work).
Unlike this blog, I have no plans to expand the author-group, at least not for starters. I would love to find readers who are interested and curious. No need for readers to be vegans or ethically-guided eaters of whatever kind. I’m not focusing on health, though there are actually some compelling health reasons for following a plant-based diet and I might sometimes mention it.
Please check it out and ask your friends to do the same.
CW: talk about eating and feelings around the types of food eaten
This month for me has been filled with a lot less cooking than usual. My department is hiring an assistant professor, which means we’ve had a cavalcade of candidates on campus for interviews, teaching demos, job talks, and meals. Lots of meals. And none of them particularly satisfying (the meals, not the candidates).
Not to complain– the meals are free, after all, which appeals to my inner graduate student. But eating so often at the campus cafeteria and local eateries in the small suburban town 40 miles from where I live has been sort of low-level drudgery. So, you would think that, on days I am free to eat on my own, I’d be cooking foods that felt better to my palate, to my tummy, to my weekly needs. Sadly, no– that’s not how these weeks have been playing out. Instead of making nice quiches or sheet pan bakes or stews, I’ve been scrounging around my fridge and pantry, making carb-heavy veggie-light food and flopping on the couch.
There’s nothing wrong with eating whatever you eat. All of us on the blog have written about this many times. And we believe it, and there’s evidence to support our views. But sometimes, in some lives (my life right now in particular), eating feels yucky. It makes sense– I’ve been very busy with candidates, more driving than usual, scrambling to get work done that I couldn’t do because of the schedule shift, and my eating patterns have changed in ways that don’t support my feeling good.
Tomorrow (Monday) is our last of four candidate visits, so there will be room to shift back into ways of food shopping, preparing and eating that better suit me and my system and my feelings. I’m reminded of a post I wrote way way back in February 2019 (remember 2019? Me neither…) It’s about a book, Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It. If you haven’t heard of this book, it’s worth checking out.
See you all next week, and I’ll report (briefly) what’s cooking…
I’ve blogged about Veganuary before, and in the six years since then the Veganuary web resources have just gotten better and better. If you want to take the January challenge, it’s certainly not too late to sign up. But you don’t have to sign up to gain access to all that the Veganuary website has to offer. It’s not just for vegans or even just for people who want to try it for the month of January. It’s really a wealth of resources for anyone with some curiosity.
If you sign up, which you can do for free, you will get a daily e-mail through Veganuary, a free cookbook, a nutritional checklist, and three meal plans — low calorie, medium calorie, and high calorie).
Veganuary is a non-profit, and they’re doing good work worth supporting. So there is of course an opportunity to donate to them. They make it easy to do, but it’s not a requirement.
Whether you want to try it or not, I recommend taking a look at the website and picking at least one recipe that looks good to you. There are lots of delicious-looking recipes and I would be shocked if even the most fervent omnivore didn’t find at least one thing that looks worth making.
As someone who struggles the most with missing eggs, I’m going to try the Tofu Benedict. What do you want to try?
Growing up, no one needed to explain to me what I already seemed to understand: Grandma cooked big meals (especially over the holidays) to show that she loved us, and we ate as much as we could to show her we loved her.
That dynamic worked for me a kid because the food was delicious and I didn’t care about things like portion sizing, calorie counting, bad cholesterol, etc. At the time, I wasn’t fully aware of the complex dynamics involved in eating food and showing affection—which also involves aspects of power, tradition, expectations, guilt, body rights, etc., as other FIFI bloggers have described.
And, as Tracy recently reminded us, how food is offered and received can create much stress in social situations. In turn, these dilemmas focus our attention away from being merry and grateful for eating together in the first place. This is especially true if we are able to feast with loved ones while the pandemic continues.
Soon I am hosting our family’s upcoming holiday meal. While others may be planning how to respond to offerings of food, I am thinking about how I can create a dinner in which everyone feels attended to but not unduly pressured. Here is what I am thinking:
Share the menu in advance, and ask for dish suggestions.
It’s no secret I am planning a menu in advance, so why not share it to let people know what’s for dinner? I’m not doing exotic food theatrics like a on-fire baked Alaska, so I will leave the surprises to the wrapped presents under the tree. I will try to seek favourite dish requests–and put extras on the side–to ensure everyone gets something that accommodates their dietary needs.
Make the traditionals
In one of my favourite Christmas movies, The Ref (1994), Caroline experiments with an off-beat Christmas dinner menu, serving (to her family’s horror and disgust) “roast suckling pig, fresh baked Kringlors in a honey-pecan dipping sauce, seven-day old lutefisk, and lamb gookins.”
While I might enjoy preparing elaborate dishes with strange ingredients, I know my family mostly likes to eat the basics: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Unless I plan on making guests uncomfortable (and eating 16 portions of 8-day old lutefisk afterwards), it’s more realistic to give them what I know they will enjoy.
Plan an outdoor stretch break
Not everyone likes to feel trapped in a place where they can only eat and drink, and I can’t see my family getting into a lively game of charades, so I will remind everyone to bring their warmies for a relaxed winter wonderland walk outside at some point. I will make available extra scarfs, and maybe some travel tea, so this activity will be inviting and comfortable.
Ask once, judge not
I will only ask folks if they want more food ONE TIME. I will not repeat my Grandma’s loving mantra, “Eat eat eat.” I will not take offence to food that is not touched or finished. I will remind myself that people choose what, how, and how much to eat for their own reasons that have nothing to do with my cooking.
I admit this one will be tough for me, but I will remember that paying less attention to other’s plates means I can focus on conversation and fun. (And if folks really don’t like the food, then they should be offering to host dinner next year).
My own habit is to overeat so food “doesn’t go to waste,” even if I don’t really want more. But I can avoid waste-guilt all around by making takeaway containers readily available, so folks can eat more when they want. (If I get my act together in time, I can get neat lidded dishes from a second-hand store.)
So, this for this holiday dinner–instead of focusing all of my energy on the food prep and on the eating habits of others–I plan on giving people information, choices, and a little optional exercise to let them know I love them. If they show up and seem to be having a good time, then I know that they love me.
This post is dedicated to my late grandmother, Margaret Stanski, who was a loving person and a wonderful cook.
Better eatsNick Whitaker: The kitchen of 2020 looks mostly the same as that of 1960. But what we do in it has changed dramatically, almost entirely for the better—due to a culture of culinary innovation.
And this year, Feminist Philosophy Quarterly ( a journal I helped found and co-edited for a few years) published a special issue on Feminism and Food. This collection of anonymously peer-reviewed articles is the result of the call for papers inspired by the 2019 meeting of the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy hosted by the University of Guelph, on the topic of feminism and food.
Did you know there was a feminist food club? I didn’t either. I don’t know if this yummy looking banana and blueberry French toast is particularly feminist but I might make some this week for #FrenchToastFriday.
The other day, famous children’s book author Eric Carle passed away. I was a bit sad, since The very hungry Caterpillar is a firm favourite in this house at the moment (picture proof below). The tiny human is still too small to understand the text, but he loves looking at the pictures and sticking his tiny fingers into the holes the caterpillar makes into the different foods it eats.
The Internet was awash with lovely stories about Eric Carle, like this one about how he helped a woman find her missing cat. So the story of an interview he gave TheParis Review about getting into a fight with his publisher over the hungry caterpillar’s diet fit right in: apparently, Carle had not wanted the caterpillar to have a tummy ache after its epic binge fest just before its metamorphosis, but his publisher insisted that the consumption of that much (and, on top of that, unhealthy) food be followed by some kind of punishment.
The only problem: the interview was quickly debunked as a parody. It was part of an April Fool’s issue of The Paris Review. Like many others, I was sad to hear that. Which begs the question: why? Why did it get so much traction in the first place?
I mean, I get it. Even before reading this, I’d alwaysfelt a bit sad the caterpillar doesn’t get away with just enjoying its feast. But I hadn’t given that feeling any conscious thought. Now I want to explore it. I’ve done much less structured thinking than my fellow bloggers on here on the issue of weight stigma, body shaming, and how these link with eating, so I’m a bit worried I won’t find the right words here. But let me try.
I think it has to do with an underlying awareness that our relationship with food and eating is fraught, and a wish that it weren’t so. Shouldn’t innocent children be entitled to a story in which a caterpillar gets to give in to its instinct of eating? After all, it needs to, so it can transform into a beautiful butterfly. Instead, our poor caterpillar is loaded with all the fraught feelings adults have around “overeating” and food, and the twisted ways in which we project these feelings onto our kids. Sam has written about this onnumerousoccasions.
The issue of the fake interview and the reactions it got perfectly illustrates what Sam calls “our romantic ideas of children as ‘natural eaters,’ on the one hand, and as out of control eaters, wantons, on the other” (here). On the one hand, we think the idea of a caterpillar overindulging in a range of foods including cherry pie and a lollipop – like a child might – is cute. On the other, there has to be a teaching moment in this, because we don’t want our children to “overindulge” (and become overweight). And at the same time, the idea that the author himself did not want to include the punishment, but was forced to do so by the publisher, reinforces exactly that dichotomy: wouldn’t it be nice if food were innocent for children? Oh no, but it can’t be! There has to be a punishment! Because what if The very hungry Caterpillar ends up encouraging kids to engage in unhealthy overeating, contributing to what is often framed as an ‘obesity pandemic’? We can’t have that! Somebody (the publisher) has to play the bad cop and stop it (but what a spoilsport).
In this narrative, Eric Carle, the beloved author, takes the side of the “innocent” children, the strict publisher the role of a disciplinarian imposing an unwanted but necessary consequence. Just like with food. Ugh. It’s all quite twisted and there’s a lot of projecting and wishing things were different and we all had a more “innocent” and “childlike” relationship with food.
But the whole thing only goes to show that in our society, food is anything but innocent or something to be enjoyed freely. It has to be regulated and judged. That makes me sad too, and I almost want to change the story for my son before he is old enough to read it himself and demand the “correct” version. Maybe next time, I’m going to tell the part following the caterpillar’s dinner party like this: “That night, he felt quite full. The next day was a Sunday again, and the caterpillar was a little hungry again. He wanted a small snack, so he ate through one nice, green leaf. After that, he wasn’t hungry anymore.” Sound good?
Today is National Banana Day. Who knew? Well, Sam did, and duly informed all of us at Fit is a Feminist Issue Central. So, here I am with your first (and perhaps only– we shall see how this one goes) National Banana Day post.
Who here had a bicycle with a banana seat? Anyone? Anyone?
I certainly did. Mine looked something like this (my mom is guarding all my childhood pictures at her house far away, so this is from the internet):
Mine had a white plastic woven basket on the front, also with groovy flowers on it. I don’t think streamers were de rigeur at the time (mine was circa 1969/70), but I wouldn’t have minded either way. Here’s an ad with a lineup of new bikes and a girl dressed in late 60s/early 70s fashion:
I rode my banana seat bike endlessly up and down the driveway, and even sometimes out on the road in our suburban development in Florence, South Carolina. Eventually, I screwed up my courage to ride down the very-steep-to-me hill which was a neighbor’s driveway. It was the most thrilling thing I’d ever done. Riding fast down steep-to-me hills is still the most thrilling thing I ever do. Different bike with helmet, but same feeling– wheeeee!
Bananas are not just a design win. They are also good as food, whether on the bike or off. They fit easily into a jersey pocket and come with their own sanitary carrying case.
But, if you’re feeling pressed for pocket space or worried about bruising, there are options:
Bananas are perennial sources of fun and humor for cyclists. This week during one of the Spring Classics (European road/cobblestone/mud bike races), someone made everyone smile with this tweet:
Finally, bananas can be a bike fashion statement. At least for me and my friends.
In summary, bananas and bikes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or bread and butter. Or Coffee and doughnuts. Or your favorite combo– you choose…
So readers, how are you planning on spending National Banana Day? I have to work (rats!) but will celebrate by making… wait for it… banana nutella muffins! Get the recipe here.
Feature photo credit: Girl with Red Hat via Unsplash.
Any good food can be abused into the shame spiral of diet culture. I have no problem with protein shakes, egg white omelettes, or cabbage soup. Well, maybe I have a problem with cabbage soup. Although borscht is good. Anyway, B365 teaches it’s not the things we’re eating that makes something a diet but the mindset we approach it with, so I thought I’d play a game. I have some old cookbooks, many of which are steeped in diet culture, and let’s see if we can take that diet food and make it a balanced, satisfying meal, yes?
Book: Food, by Susan Powter, (c) 1995
Weird diet advice: Thicken soups with dried mashed potato flakes
Recipe: Broccoli Soup, p 373
I’m starting easy on myself. There are actually recipes in this cookbook that I still use, decades after I stopped worrying about keeping my dietary fat below 15%. But this soup seems, well, basically like sauteed broccoli in soup form. Broccoli, garlic, some spices, and a couple potatoes.
So, to make this a balanced, satisfying meal I would add some chicken or tofu. Maybe some cheddar cheese, too? Adds some satisfying fat and some umami flavor. Oh, speaking of umami, some mushrooms with the onions and garlic would be good and add a nice chew!
Book: The Good Goodies, Stan and Floss Dworkin, (c) 1974
Weird diet advice: Wax your cookie sheets and cake pans instead of greasing them to avoid added fat
Recipe: Liver and Onion Crisps (p75)
Ok, I’ve got my work cut out for me on this one. I don’t even eat liver! But, let’s say a person does and they’ve decided to eat it in rice crackers. Seems like we could make it a more balanced meal with a hefty side of fruits and vegetables to make it more filling. And maybe some cheese? Or maybe that’s just so I can hide the taste and texture of the crackers.
Weird diet advice: Substitute mineral oil for vegetable oil when sauteeing.
Recipe: Fish Mold
Yuck. What was it about the middle of last century and savory gelatin things?! Well, it’s high protein, so that’s nice. Now it needs some fruits and veggies and some starchy carbs. Maybe a big green salad? And a pile of rice. I learned living abroad that I could eat just about anything if I heaped enough rice on top of it before I chewed.
And there you go! Three satisfying, balanced meals made from diet offerings. Good foods and bad foods are about what you enjoy and what helps you live your best life, not mineral oil and gelatin.
Do you have a favorite food that others might see as “diet” food, but you eat just because you enjoy it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Unless it’s fish mold. In which case, no. Just no.
MarjorieHundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found perusing old cookbooks, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at Progressive-Strength.com .
Feature photo credit: Roman Koester, via Unsplash.
Does running risk upsetting your stomach? Do you have to treat it tenderly when you get back home to ensure you’re comfortable the rest of the day? How do you balance your nutritional needs with that overwhelming desire to live off of starchy carbs?
Saturday, I wrote about some of the meals and foods I can enjoy for breakfast that help me feel better during my runs. Now, I want to address the post-run meal. I come back from my runs ready to enjoy something, but not ready to eat. I also want to reset my gut so I can enjoy more fibrous vegetables and satisfying meals with more protein and fats than I have usually put into that day’s breakfast. Here are the “rules” that seem to work best for me post-run to help me avoid an upset stomach and get me back into my regular eating routines.
Rule one: Have a recovery beverage asap. I read somewhere that dehydration can add to that sour stomach feeling, and maybe it’s a factor for me. So, I make sure to have some water with a little juice or other sugar in it right away. I might not be ready to eat immediately, but I find having something cold and refreshing immediately following my run really helps me to get back to feeling normal faster. I’ve put two of my favorite ways to rehydrate below.
Rule two: Keep food easy to digest for the next few hours at least. Cooked veggies over raw, moderate fat, some low-fat meat is fine for a protein boost.
Rule three: Eat when I’m hungry just until satisfied, not until full. After a run is not a time to stuff myself, which honestly isn’t a habit of mine in any case, but I have been known to keep eating when something is really delicious. That overfull feeling doesn’t mix well with my post-running stomach. It’s also not a time for a rich dessert.
If I follow these guidelines, I feel mostly normal and back to my usual eating options by the time for my afternoon snack rolls around. I keep hoping that someday I won’t need to negotiate so much with my gut before and after a run, but after years of running, I’m beginning to think that this is just how my body works. I enjoy running enough to keep doing it, at least one day a week anyway. But if I couldn’t find a way to work with my eating challenges, I’m not sure that would be true. I’m happy to have found solutions that allow me to integrate running into my weekends and still feel like I’m taking care of myself nutritionally as well.
Homemade Orange Sports Drink
This is my go-to beverage after a run. I mix it up and either keep it in the fridge ready to enjoy when I return, or if I’m running outside of my neighborhood, keep it in the car to enjoy as soon as I get back to it.
Mix together orange juice concentrate with twice the cold water recommended.
Add a dash of salt.
If you’re a meathead like me, you can put your daily creatine powder in this as well, to check off that box for the day.
Stir or shake together until fully combined.
Ginger-Apple Frothy Recovery Drink
Ginger has natural happy-tummy abilities, reducing nausea and upset stomachs. This is a great option for days when you’re really struggling to set your stomach right.
In a blender, combine until the texture of a slushie:
Apple juice (or concentrate plus water)
Maybe half a frozen banana
Pureed Vegetable Soup
Whenever I get around to lunch, I want to get back to my full serving of vegetables, since I’ve avoided them before my run. This soup really works for me.
In a large stock pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and 4 cups chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Frozen is fine. Don’t bother to chop anything really finely, because you’re going to blend it all up later.
Add another 4-6 cups chopped other vegetables of your choice such as more carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, etc. I also like to add a red garnet yam for the sweetness. Again, you can “cheat” and just throw in some frozen veggies, if you want to save time.
Flavor with 4-6 cloves of crushed garlic and 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger root. If you want curried soup, also add 2 tbsp curry powder, 1 tbsp each cumin and powdered coriander, and some hot pepper (to taste).
Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft. This can take an hour or so, but you don’t have to pay attention to it most of that time. It can burn as it gets close to being done, so check on it every 5-10 minutes or so near the end and give it a good stir.
Add 8 cups of (preferably homemade) vegetable or chicken stock.
Use a stick blender to blend it all together until completely smooth. Add salt to taste and adjust seasonings. Allow to simmer a bit to combine flavors.
I freeze this in 1-2 cup servings and pull out one each weekend. It makes 10-15 servings, depending on how much you eat at a time. When it’s time for lunch, I add some shredded chicken and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. I make it a balanced meal with some toast or a muffin on the side.
Do you have dietary “rules” you follow to help you feel good after a run? Have a favorite post-run food? I’d love to hear them.
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found slowly cooking vegetables on the stove, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at Progressive-Strength.com .