The Evolution of Food

As Dwight Schrute of The Office would say, “There’s too many people in the world. We need a new plague.”

Dwight might be a bit extreme, but there is certainly an overabundance of people walking around this Earth. The population has effected our environment in many, many well-documented ways, including how we grow our food.

A few days ago, we went out to dinner with my grandmother. She’s the diet queen in that she’s too full to finish her dinner, but never too full to eat a bag of Oreos. She also doesn’t like sweets….but she does know a few things. Food was different when she was young. My sister has undetermined stomach issues (I believe it’s lactose intolerance, but I’m not doctor) and with my working on going vegan, and our discussions of Celiac and gluten-intolerance, my grandmother couldn’t help but ask, “Why do people have so many problems with food these days?” It’s a good question, but there’s a simple answer. What we eat now is drastically different from what people used to eat.

It’s just another reason why I believe in proper labeling, including labeling for GMOs. To know what’s in my food sounds so simple. When I’m eating corn, I want to know if this is real, true corn, or if it’s genetically modified that may or may not cause potential issues for my health down the line.

Part of the argument against proper labeling is that it will get too confusing for consumers. At first, I was insulted. Do they think we’re too stupid? But no, they know how smart we are.  They know that if we find out what is truly in products that we purchase everyday, we might stop buying those products. Giving the consumer real power is scary for these companies. They bank on us not knowing that we already have the power and they certainly don’t want us to realize that we do.

It’s going to be difficult to convince the FDA that things need to change because they’re comfortable in their ways, and there are outside pressures. But with parents like this, things may change sooner rather than later.

How do you take a stand as a consumer?

September 19, 2012 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

Meatless Monday & Tofurky Product Review

On Friday, I was babysitting for a friend after work, so I didn’t have time to cook anything. It was the perfect opportunity to try out my Tofurky Italian Sausage & Fire Roasted Veggies Pizza. The box advertises “Cheese that really melts!” but no brand of cheese. It melted, tasted, and felt like Daiya, but I can’t say for sure. The sausage was made from tofu. Overall, it was good. The sauce was tasty and the crust was crunchy enough. My issue was the cheese because I’m still getting used to vegan cheese. It’s something I would try again, for sure. My family eats pizza often and I know I’m going to feel like I’m left out quite a bit. At least I’ll have my own pizza to enjoy.

Meatless Monday was a success! I ventured into the land of Spaghetti Squash. I absolutely love how it just breaks apart. It looks like and has the texture of spaghetti (obviously). Our meal was Spicy Spaghetti Squash.

Stuffed with beans, corn, onion, cilantro, lime, and chili powder, it was tasty. I topped mine with guacamole and ate it with a side of Spanish Rice and salad. I wasn’t sure it’d be very filling, but there was no issue there. I definitely recommend this recipe as it was tasty and simple. It took 45 minutes to roast the squash, but after that it was sauteing the ingredients, then stuffing the squash. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

September 18, 2012 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

Don’t worry; be happy!

Looking back on recent posts, there’s been a bit too much negativity! Yikes, let’s reverse that, shall we?

There are those people who like to say that it’s so much easier to be positive than hold onto the anger, the hate, the resentment – the negativity. They usually follow up with how many muscles it takes to smile versus how many muscles it takes to frown, which is, of course, exorbitantly more than it takes to smile. I like to be honest on this blog though, so let’s get real. It’s way freaking easier to just be grumpy! When life hands you lemons, I’d rather just sit with the lemons all pissy than get off my butt and go through the tedious job of making lemonade.

But in the end, it’s not better for us to hold on to that negativity. And I truly do believe that. As a female, I believe in releasing the emotions. Sometimes I’ll put on a song that I know will make me bawl and just let go. There’s nothing wrong with that. The key, though, is truly letting go. That’s the hard part, and it’s the reason that positivity is so much harder than negativity.

Say a girl walks by and you think she looks bad in her outfit. It’s easier to just blurt out “Look at that hot mess!” than it is to shut your mouth. You have to hold it in. You have to let that urge to be ugly (if you’re not in the South, it’s another word for bratty) pass. Is that difficult? When it’s not what you’re accustomed to, absolutely! Reacting negatively to a situation that doesn’t please you is just what you do. So it’s an active, conscious choice to think the opposite.

So, along with the many other life changes I’m working on, I’m working to be more positive. To wake up a half an hour early and start my day with yoga. It’ll set my brain in the right direction and I won’t be rushing around like I usually am when I jump out of bed with barely fifteen minutes to get ready. When things aren’t going my way, I have to remember to just take a step back. There are times when I will misstep because we can’t be on our game all the time. The important thing is to not let it defeat me.

What are your tips and tricks to staying positive?

September 15, 2012 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

A Letter to Tofu

Dear Tofu,

I have one question for you. When will we be friends? I have tried many times and no matter what I do, you just won’t be my friend! Why? WHY?!

Love, Briana

You might have guessed that I tried another tofu recipe and it didn’t quite go as planned. I got the recipe through Pinterest. It is well documented that I am obsessed with Pinterest and I try several recipes found through it; despite the fact that these recipes sometimes fail miserably, I keep trying. That seems to be a pattern. I’m obviously a glutton for failure. Still, I’m determined to make tofu work because it’s so easy to make flavorful and so many vegan dishes use it.

I blame my inability to cook tofu on the fact that I don’t have a tofu press. I know you can stack books and bricks and plates on top of tofu to smoosh it, but that didn’t work in the past. On Tuesday, I attempted to just smoosh it with my hands, which just smooshed the tofu. This made it super difficult to cut into the neat little strips that it was supposed to be cut. So right out of the package, this was already going wrong. In short, feel free to buy me a tofu press.

Saturday, I’ll be using the left over tofu in a scramble and I honestly (somehow) believe that this cannot go wrong! I mean, how simple can it be? Break it up, add in spices and veggies..BOOM scramble. Just everyone do me one favor: Friday night when you’re cuddled in bed, say a prayer for me to vegan gods. “Dear Vegan God(dess), please let Briana enjoy tomorrow’s breakfast so she doesn’t have to turn her back on tofu forever.” I’ll appreciate your thoughts!

September 14, 2012 at 3:13 am Leave a comment

Football Season with Non-Vegans

First, I’ll start off by saying I still consider myself to be non-vegan, as I have not fully made the switch. Maybe I should refer to myself as exploratory vegan, instead? I like the sound of that. So I’m explatory vegan while everyone I know and see on a daily basis is non-vegan. It’s not a big deal, really. But I deal with plenty of comments. The comments and digs are multiplied when I’m at a gathering and I bring a dish. Everyone wants to know what it is. It’s football season, so I’ll be dealing with this every single Sunday!

Yesterday, for the first Patriot’s game of the season (or, official season, right?) I brought over chili and Oreo Cheesecake Cookies. Everyone is familiar with the chili, as I made it several times last season, but there were still questions. “What is it?” I replied with, “It’s the same chili it always is. If you liked it last year, you’ll like it this year.” Naturally, I would scoop out my serving, take a bite and look to the other person in the room eating the chili (who also happens to be the one most known for making comments). “This doesn’t taste the same,” I say. And he says “No…it doesn’t.” Now, he’s a spicy food addict, so he went into the kitchen, added a dash of super spicy Thai spice and devoured the bowl. I was left wondering why the hell it wasn’t the same.

I decided it was the fact that I had gone to a different supermarket, which meant I had different store-brand tomatoes, I used 3 different brands of beans, Boca crumbles (which have egg whites in them, BOOOO) instead of MorningStar, and I had added flaxseed oil. Eating it leftover today for lunch, it tasted better, but I guess those changes were enough to make it totally different from last year.

The cookies, however, were a hit. I got asked the “What are these?” question and I answered “Oreo Cheesecake cookies.” Of course, the mention of cheese meant another, “Yeah, but what is it really?” “Well, it’s vegan cream cheese and Oreos are already vegan.” Then there were the questions about what vegan cream cheese could possibly even mean because there’s no cheese if the word vegan is in front of it. More digs.

I can take the digs when the dish is a crowd pleasure. It’s when something goes awry, that the digs kind of suck. To me, it’s just another reminder that I’m still not that good at cooking. And I feel like it doesn’t put vegan cuisine in a positive light. I could look at my mistakes as challenges to get better, and I suppose that’s exactly what I should do. Football gatherings are going to be every single Sunday for the next few months, so I have plenty of chances to prove them all wrong.

The Oreo Cheesecake Cookies recipe came from This Can’t Be Vegan. They are sweet and soft and defintely a crowd-pleaser. I found the recipe via Pinterest, which is how I find pretty much every recipe these days. Some are knockouts and some are complete disasters. Thankfully, these were a knockout. I think there were two left out of twenty-four by the end of the night.   I take that as a success.

For next week’s gathering, I think I’ll tap into the flavors of Fall. I’m feeling very pumpkin-y these days.

September 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

The Great GMO Debate

There’s big news in health and nutrition this week. It’s an issue that’s much older than just a few days, but it’s hot button topic right now. #Prop37 is a trending topic on Twitter and it deals with GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

I guarantee that acronym is familiar to you, but maybe you don’t know exactly what it means, or what the big issue is. Let me give you a quick run down. A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using another organism’s genes to obtain desired traits. It’s a preferred method because food can be genetically modified be resistant to herbicides and/or produce their own pesticidal proteins. The company Monsanto is the largest producer of GMO food crops.

It sounds great, right? The issues is the fact that we don’t know what the effect is overtime on humans. Rats that were fed GMOs showed liver damage. Despite this, the FDA says that GMOs are “generally recognized as safe.” GM crops were supposed to increase production with less use of pesticides; however, that’s not what’s actually happening.

The bottom line is do we want to consume foods that might hurt us down the line, or are hurting us already? The issue lately is Proposition 37 in California. Proposition 37 is all about making it mandatory for food companies to properly label foods containing GMOs. Europe is already doing this, but we don’t have it in America. It’s predicted that the direction California goes (as in voting yay or nay), the rest of the country will soon follow.

Some big companies that consume every day are donating BIG bucks to make sure that this gets voted down. Monsanto, the biggest producer of GMOs and a huge abuser of farmers across the country (have you seen Forks Over Knives?), has donated 4 million bucks to ensure that you don’t know what you’re eating.

What’s worse, a lot of awesome veg brands who are owned by non-veg parent companies are involved. Dean Foods, parent company of Silk, donated $253,000. Silk will adamantly deny involvement and will declare that they have been properly labeling their products, and they have. Other brands, such as Lightlife, Larabar, and more are involved as well all because of their parent companies.

My problem isn’t specifically with these companies. You can’t blame the child when it’s the parent’s fault, right? My issue is that these companies have completely different values from their parent companies. Dean Foods is a dairy company, yet Silk commercials promote not drinking milk! Meanwhile, the dairy industry is laughing at us when we think we’re making an environmental difference when we choose Silk over dairy. Either way, they profit.

So, what can we do? First, look in to Proposition 37, even if you aren’t a resident in California. Maybe GMOs are totally harmless, but I want to know what’s in my food. There’s a reason these companies don’t want us to know what’s in the food. I’m tired of big money companies having the power over what goes into my body and having no concern of the negative consequences. Second, look in to GMOs and learn everything that you can learn.  Buy products that label with No GMOs. There’s a great app for the iPhone called ShopNoGMO – look into it! Third, check out Monsanto, but not just their website. Watch Forks Over Knives and Food, Inc. to see behind the scenes of the food industry and learn how Monsanto is changing the farming industry, perhaps not for the better.

The best thing we can do is be informed consumers. An excuse that the big companies like Monsanto use to fight Proposition 37 is that a change of labels and including GMO ingredients would just confuse the consumer. They don’t think we’re smart enough! Prove them wrong.

Info from Say No to GMOs

August 22, 2012 at 12:52 am Leave a comment

Fak’n Bac’n: to Eat or Not to Eat

It’s a big question in the vegan community. Are we screwing “the cause” by eating vegan meat-like products?

I read a blog  a couple months ago and, unfortunately, I cannot find it to post. The entry discussed that very question. After finishing the article, I commented with my most immediate reaction. A good life tip: that’s usually not a good idea. Take a moment and really think about it.

My first reaction to this was go ahead and eat fake meat! It’s a substitution for all the vegans of the world who weren’t born vegan and it eases the switch. More importantly, fake meat is just that – fake! Not one single animal suffers for the production of vegan fake meat. How does this harm our cause at all??

Weeks later, I’ve got to thinking. A couple days ago, I stumbled upon another blog (which, of course, I also can’t remember) that posted a video from Gary Yourofsky. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s a HUGE animal activist and vegan. He started ADAPTT – Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today & Tomorrow. Among other things, he did a college lecture tour. He’s a fantastic lecturer and I’m sure he convinced many, many students to make the switch. His presentation included two videos: one of a slaughterhouse and the second at a dairy farm. If you’re wondering which was worse for me it was the dairy farm. Seeing the animals get slaughtered was brutal and disgusting, but at a dairy farm in Ohio, workers were literally BEATING defenseless animals for absolutely NO reason. One actually said, “I don’t think it hurts ’em. I just keep going until I hear [moaning cow noise impersonation].” How stupid do you have to be to think that, nevermind actually say it out loud? Let me kick YOU in the head and ribs and we’ll see if it hurts. It amazes me that someone would actually think that an animal wouldn’t feel pain. I mean, we all know animals feel pain. Have you ever stepped on your cats paw? They freak out because they feel PAIN just like us.

Moving on, Gary does a LOT of promotion of several different fake meats, milks, and cheeses, stating that he’s tried all of these products and more and the products he discusses are what he enjoys most. His lectures are done in front of college students, most of which are unlikely to be vegans, so this is a great way to get them to see the options that they may not have known existed. My issue was when he said that these products have the same (or similar) taste and texture as meat. I haven’t tried ALL of the products, but for what I’ve tasted, that’s simply not true. And I think it’s more of a turn off to walk into veganism thinking nothing will change only to find that everything has changed and nothing tastes the same. That would send me right back on the path to Meatville. And it has, multiple times.

Now, back to the question – does fake meat harm the cause? Gary is deep into the cause. He’s been arrested several times and is banned from multiple countries all in the name of animal rights. And here he is fully promoting fake meat products. I honestly don’t believe that consuming fake meat products hurts what vegans are trying to do.

Lately, the vegan movement has become a health movement because that is what people want to hear. “This is healthy and better for your body, and by the way, you’ll be helping the world, too!” People are selfish and want to hear how something benefits themselves first. Well, veganism is the opposite of selfishness; it’s a sacrifice. “I’m choosing to give up foods that I love and traditions that I hold dear to help the animals of the world.” That might be what encourages vegans to not partake in the fake meat industry. They don’t even want to substitute meat. And, truth be told, fake meat isn’t the healthiest stuff you can eat. It’s loaded with sodium and can include preservatives. Some are better for you than others, but nothing beats full on whole foods made in your kitchen.

I think there’s a compromise here, though. Variety. Most of the time, you should be eating whole foods, but sometimes, you can include fake meats. Honestly, I think they are good for meat eaters to get a glance into the vegan world. Tacos with Fieldroast Mexican sausage or with meat crumbles are delicious and the meat eaters in my family enjoyed the sausage more than I did! The important thing is not to take a bite of a chik’n nugget and think it’s going to be identical to a chicken nugget. As for that question you may get from an omnivore, “Why do you eat fake meat if you don’t want to eat meat?” you have the answer: “No animals were harmed in the making of this meat.”

August 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

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