The Shameless Carnivore, Omnivore's Dilemma and the Moral Vegan

It is no secret, if you've followed my blog, that I have struggled and gone back and forth in defining my own nutritional and eating philosophy. Now, I find myself having come full circle to where I was when I was in culinary school, what I have summed up by pointing to the words of Michael Pollen in "In Defense of Food" i.e. "eat food, not too much. mostly plants". But that also means I am reincorporating meat, eggs and very minimal dairy and only the kinds that fit my nutritional philosophy. I want to be eating what I think I am eating. It is a nice place to be, I have relaxed and am doing what my body demands. After a year of never craving meat, a month ago after my long run, all I could think about was turkey and I never in my life liked turkey. It was funny, but I listened to my body. The rest of the week, I had less than no desire for meat and then again, the next sunday after my long run, the same occurrence.

Last night when I was running, I was thinking about The Shameless Carnivore, The Omnivore's Dilemma and the Moral Vegan. The first two are names of books and the third I am sure will be one at some point. But moreso, I was thinking about how they represented schools of thought, or in some cases armed military camps. I do believe in alot of the moral/compassionate part of being a vegan in the way that the Buddhists do, though I have never and will never consider myself a "moral vegan". Being a Moral Vegan is viewed as meaning something different in our society in alot of ways, it has certain conotations. But while I do believe in the aspects of compassion etc, I do not find myself in a place where nutritionally I am able to continue being a vegan. I became vegan to be healthier, more fit and a better runner and instead became less healthy, tired, and only able to run at 75% of my ability due to the thyroid problem that was onset therein. The combination of health problems that onset during this time had my doctor exclaiming, "I don't know how in the world you are in one piece, let alone running so well." I am not attributing these problems to veganism, but it is clear something isn't working and that (veganism) is the only major factor that changed in that time. And so now, I have to change it and I am changing it back to when I felt most healthy (summer 07), when I was "eating food, not too much. mostly plants", but that means yes there is/was meat, eggs, etc on occasion. Very clean, organic, local and not from the center of the grocery store. I do not find this to be a moral dilemma, I do not feel like I am therefore not compassionate for the lives of animals. Point of fact, even the Dalai Lama eats meat for health reasons. Is he a less compassionate person for it?

When I think about those three camps (Carnivore, Omnivore, Vegan) in the current political climate, I cannot help but liken it to politics. On each end you have your extremists. In food, your extremists are your Shameless Carnivores and your Moral Vegan. I do not mean extremists in a pejorative way, I mean it in a way as meaning further from the middle and usually with a stronger commitment to their stance. Omnivores are somewhere in the middle and pick and choose what they want from each, that does not make them better or worse, stronger or weaker, but it does make them more moderate. I find myself now, firmly, comfortably and healthfully in the middle. I have and probably will continue to receive some flack for this decision, but the fact of the matter is, the one thing in all of my nutritional/foodie wanderings that HASN'T changed is my moral compass. Quantifying an Omnivore who chooses to eat meat as "Pro-Meat" is like labeling someone who choose to have an abortion "Pro-Abortion". I am not correlating or putting eating meat and having an abortion on the same level by any means, but I am correlating the idea of the right to choose and still be a moral individual.

I was talking to my friend/Vespa sponsor Peter Defty the other day and he worded it best, "I can get on my soap box," he said, "but it is slippery up there." We all choose our battles, get on our soapbox for different things, but what battles we choose to fight are not the sum of our person. Just as it is not a true moral quandary for a Moral Vegan to be "Pro-Choice", or a Shameless Carnivore to be "Pro-life". Just as a Moral Vegan is more than the literature they hand out about the treatment of animals, so is a Shameless Carnivore more than the cheeseburger they consume. We are all more than that. We are all in a position where we can easily lose our footing on our soapbox because we are made up of much more than the issues we get up there for (on the soapbox). Personally, I am letting go of the guilt I first felt when I gave up Veganism, because I realized that my inner moral compass had not changed, no matter how many times others tried to tell me it had. I realized that as complicated and difficult as it was to get where I am on this issue, I am even more infinitely complicated than that. So back on my soapbox for a second, remember whatever you are Shameless Carnivore, Omnivore ('s Dilemma) or Moral Vegan, that the person looking back at you across the line, may share and value alot more of the same things than you might suspect, so why don't you step off your soapbox for a minute, make a real human connect and find out?

I wanted to include two very interesting articles that I literally Stumble!Upon:
Back Aboard the Meatwagon
I found this article amusing and I have heard many similar tales of denounced veganism. I want to read his book, The Shameless Carnivore, I think it would be fascinating not only to read his experiences but also read his several chapters devouted to vegetarianism. He seems to have a deeper perspective than "vegetarians are just plain wrong and crazy to boot."I'll post a full report when I do read it.

Happy, Fat and Meatless
I think particularly in the second article I liked the reminder that being a vegetarian/vegan does not guarantee better health and that in some ways it is more common to eat "unnaturally" through the consumption of faux and replacement products. While I myself, shied away from as many faux or unnatural products, I have known many vegetarians who would go through an entire day and not eat any, well, vegetables or fruits for that matter!

Adventures in Indian cooking



One of the things I am attempting to do is get myself off Iron Supplements or at least, lessen my dependency on them. To that end, I incorporate lots of iron rich veggies, but its not quite enough. Iron is essential in running, helping with the oxygenation of the blood and what not. Low iron equates to slow moving blood, which means slow moving body. I was watching Grill It with Bobby Flay, when I got inspired to make some Indian inspired food. I had been thinking about lamb and ironically, when I went to Whole Foods to pick up some ingredients for dinner, lo and behold Organic, grass fed, etc etc Lamb was on sale. I picked up some ground lamb and headed home, ideas churning in my brain about what to make. In the end I made, a curried lamb burger with a cucumber mint yogurt sauce & heirloom tomato slice and a side of Gobi Masala. It was delicious and the flavors danced across my palate. For those of you for whom gluten is not the enemy, I would recommend homemade pita or naan (ok store bought would do but make sure you warm it up)!

Curried Lamb Burger with Cucumber Mint Sauce
Serves 1:

Ingredients Burger
1/3 lb ground lamb, lean as you can get it
1-2 tbsp curry powder
slightly less than 1/4 cup, minced red onion (to taste & desired texture)

Ingredients Sauce
1 small container plain Greek yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
2-3 tbsp fresh minced mint
salt

For plating:
Sliced Heirloom Tomato

Directions:
Turn on grill, broiler, gas, whatever you are going to use to cook your burger. In a bowl, mix the ground lamb, curry powder and red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Form into a patty and grill to your liking!

While you're grilling, in a small bowl mix together the yogurt, cucumber and mint. Salt to taste.

To plate (for those not using a pita or a bun!) place a slice of tomato on the plate, place burger on top and then spoon some yogurt sauce over top!

Gobi Masala
Serves one

Ingredients

3-4 tbsp gobi masala seasoning (you can find this with the ethic foods), you can make your own if you want, but it is simply a good balance of the spices. OR you can use curry powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 of a large head of cauliflower
1/2 cup minced onions
1 cup frozen peas and carrots

Directions

Heat oil in a skillet over med high heat. Add onions and saute briefly. Add cauliflower. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add seasoning, coat cauliflower well. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-9 minutes. Add frozen peas and carrots and cook until peas/carrots are heated through.