Tagged: the nineties

a clarification + some of the things I’ve been staring at this week

In the grand tradition of other people for some reason caring what you’re putting in your mouth enough to comment on it, I’ve already been getting some of this stuff: “Wait, you’re not eating cheese? Why are you vegan? WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN?”

…it’s a couple of weeks, people. So I don’t think it really needs to be addressed. But, just to be clear, I’m not turning my nose up at animal products out of any sort of conviction about anything. Sometimes you need to interrupt your food habits, though, and any rigidly restrictive diet will definitely help with that. (Eating out a lot is a more fun option, but I don’t have the money to be That Kind of Food Person.)

That said, I already know what my first meal is going to be when I stop this, and it’s eggs and scrapple fried in bacon grease, so hopefully anyone concerned for my well-being can relax now.

It could be argued that almost anything would be more interesting than this. Here are some candidates:

If I were more creative when it comes to swine puns, I’d totally enter this contest to get into the opening party for Pork Slope. There’s one day left for you to do that, though, if you’re gifted in that arena.

I particularly liked Adam Erace’s review of The Industry, but then I think I’ve also favorited at least 3 different tweets just because they included photos of the lamb neck gravy, so I might be easily bought in this regard.

Also from Meal Ticket, this Mushroom Wiz Wit burger pocket whatsit has found a place on the list of meaty things I’d like to ingest, but then, I am awfully hungry.

Does anyone actually like these WHAT DOES HE HAVE IN HIS FRIDGE features? Spoiler alert: Danny Bowien has some mustard at home. And an almost-empty jar of pasta sauce?! Chefs! They’re just like us!

I’ve had this tab cluttering up my browser for over a week now. It’s not about food, but it is one aspect of the broader American culture of “It’s not us, it’s you” that I’m kind of fixated on in general. Fact: 9 times out of 10, when someone tells you there’s something wrong with you, they’re either trying to absolve themselves of some responsibility, or they’re trying to sell you something. That’s just hard math.

This was a good gotcha moment from Eater (and as it turns out, it was also the only way anyone, including Newsweek, has brought Newsweek to my attention in about 8 years). And also: seriously? Is Newsweek hiring middle schoolers now? And if so, will they hire me, I sort of dress like I’m 12 and tweet about boners a lot??

I cannot believe I signed up for a SkillShare class. But, in my defense, I do like to keep tabs on Eddie Huang and—far more importantly—it was free. I think it might still be free, if you’re dying to know what Eddie Huang has to teach about branding, but not really dying enough to pay $10.

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things are looking up

Going into this vegan-macrobiotic diet, I knew I was getting into something absurd, as written by some idiot actress. I thought it would be sort of fun in that way that doing any stupid thing on a lark is always fun. And I thought that, since some people I’ve known and some people I don’t know (@foodsyoucaneat, obv) have said that going vegan did actually make them feel great, maybe I’d be surprised by some positive physical results.

I was wrong.

The Kind Diet is exactly what it looks like: a horrible nightmare diet full of bland and sad, designed for people who hate both food and themselves.

To be fair to veganism, I already regularly eat a number of meals that happen to be vegan and that also happen to be delicious. (The beauty of not being a vegan, though, is that if something you try doesn’t quite work, you can always blanket your missteps in cheese.) The problem here is more with 1) macrobiotics and 2) Alicia Silverstone’s horrible recipes.

As in all books of this ilk, there is a suspiciously overenthusiastic barrage of reassurances that the food will be awesome, that you don’t lose anything by giving up animal products. Well, you do obviously give something up just there, but if you also give up salt and sugar and fat, and then start dousing everything in umeboshi byproducts? Just admit that enjoying food makes you feel dirty and sinful. Please. I mean, hell, I’ve read pro-ana message boards less quick to label foods “naughty” or “nasty” than The Kind Diet is.

Three days in, I had already sucked down half a pan of peanut butter crispy treat things, because they were the only thing from the book that I found edible. As such, I have consumed about half a jar of brown rice syrup. I don’t think that’s really part of the plan, but you guys, I was so hungry.

She claims you will get plenty of protein, and when giving an overview of how to build a macrobiotic meal, says to start with a grain and then “add a bean or bean product. And eat a wide variety of beans.” But then, if you look through the sample week-long meal plan she provides immediately thereafter, actual beans show up once and tofu shows up twice. Realistically, she’s asking you to live on grains. I already like to eat whole grains, but in normal life I have the option of adding an egg or some cheese, and then I’m not starving again 45 minutes after I eat.

In my current grumpy, sleepy state (I fell asleep on the couch at 4 pm yesterday, which is extremely not normal), I’m also less willing to laugh off the shitty logic that forms the basis for eating like this in the first place. Am I saving myself? Not too likely, given that I’m already pretty healthy and now I just feel stressy and mad. Am I saving the planet? Well, let me think about that for four-and-a-half seconds. Let’s take one of Silverstone’s big arguments that if we switch to a plant-based diet, we’ll be saving the rainforest, because the majority of rainforest destruction is a result of clearing land upon which cattle may graze.

Unfortunately, while meat does contribute its fair share, it’s not only meat production but agriculture in general that leads to deforestation. What’s more, most of that is subsistence farming, not commercial, and that first one has nothing to do with my appetite for beef. To go even further, a huge segment of that commercial agriculture contributing to deforestation is the production of palm oil. Walk through Whole Foods or the “natural foods” section of your grocery store sometime, read some labels, and try to tell me you don’t completely lose count of how many of those products contain palm oil. So when Silverstone or PETA or anyone else says that eating a whole-foods macrobiotic vegan diet is best, but that eating a vegan diet built around soy substitutes and processed convenience foods is somehow “still better” than eating any animal products, how does that follow? If you lend any of her arguments credence, they don’t in any way point to a vegan diet (unless, again, you just feel guilty about eating an animal or anything they produce—which is fine, but not really an argument so much as an opinion). There is probably something there to further the idea of lessening dependence on large-scale agriculture that destroys the land (in which case, I hope you’re looking pretty closely at where you’re getting grains in such quantity), to eating more foods lower on the food chain and more wild foods. But eating always means death, it always means robbing something else of its reproductive raison d’être, and feeding the number of people we have to feed is going to mean interrupting the “natural order” of things, whether those people are eating eggs or not.

Anyway. I initially figured that as long as I had a book by Alicia Silverstone around, I should give the diet a fair shot by remaining faithful to her vision and using her recipes. As it turns out though, I’m not strong enough to keep this up, because it’s gross. Last night, I celebrated my independence with a meal based around vegetables and defiantly lacking in grains, and I instantly felt better. OK, actually, first I celebrated with a truly massive order of cheese fries. But then I went back to being vegan and ate this stuff for dinner:

Bicolor corn, lightly marinated cucumbers, and a raw beet salad, with all the vegetables coming either from the local farmers’ market, the CSA share I inherited for a couple of weeks while my sister-in-law was on vacation, or our backyard. A small black bean burger completed the meal (not actually vegan, because it was left over from a few days ago when I was still eating eggs). No umeboshi anything, no outsized sugar cravings from eating so many carbs, none of the bleakness that comes with eating gruel prescribed by Batgirl.

So for the sake of science, I think I’ll continue with the vegan thing for a couple of weeks or so like I said I would, but you’ll probably all be happy to hear that I’m dumping the macrobiotic bit and you won’t have to read all these super-timely Alicia Silverstone jabs anymore.

Though, I have to say, I will miss her unique brand of namedropping or whatever this is:

But I guess everything has to come to an end sometime. For now, I’ll leave you with the recipe for the beets, because I guess this is mostly a beet recipe blog now.

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a kind of diet

A couple of weeks ago, as you may recall, I took out a bunch of books around the theme of meat consumption—this despite the fact that they were mostly three years old and I’m not really particularly interested in vegetarianism. Far be it from me to resist the siren song of 2009 Alicia Silverstone, though, and so here we are:

Look, I don’t want to shit all over this book. Beyond the fact that I’m a bit late to the party for that, it just seems a little too easy a mark. And I’m sure the hearts of all the people involved with it were in an OK place, if not necessarily what I’d consider the right place. I agree with vegans on a lot of things at least at the base, and even when I think they’re wildly misguided, I’ve never moved my tent over to the camp that seems to think it’s necessary to ridicule vegetarians as loudly and as often as possible. It’s just food. If you want to rail against something, well, PETA’s leadership is pretty fucking awful—maybe look to them.

Also, on a less-political and more-personal level, I have to split from the most vocal meatophiles and anti-veg*n backlashers on one big thing: you won’t see me leading any rallying cries for eating absolutely anything you want in any quantity you want. I mean, I don’t care if you do; I eat plenty of junk sometimes myself. I just also suspect that my diet and activity level directly affect my mental health, and I can use all the help I can get in that arena. So, no, this sort of book is not all nonsense to me.

All of that said, the intro alone really tested me.

On the very first page, she asserts that “when you begin to…abstain from crazy-making foods like white sugar, you will see how amazing and joyous and peaceful life really is.” Just like that, huh? Pardon me for going so far out on this limb, but if white sugar is the only thing standing in between you and AMAZING JOY, you might be speaking from a place of tremendous privilege. It’s OK; all those Aerosmith videos and grueling animation voiceover work can do that to a person.

While it’s beyond chintzy to act as if no change or happiness is possible if you’re broke, being poor usually means you’ve got more holding you back from unimaginable peace and joy than some processed carbs. And Silverstone does anticipate that argument and respond to it… kind of. She asserts that beans and grains are cheaper than steak, which (unless, for you, it’s Rancho Gordo or nothing) I’d be hard-pressed to argue with. Her advice to save money by shopping at farmers’ markets is a little more dubious (I’m looking at you, this season’s local strawberries, with your $7-a-pint price tag). In general, her arguments here are, at best, more intellectual than sound. She seems to be willfully addressing an audience without any substantive day-to-day problems and, as such, is content to rest on shallow platitudes.

And, well, then this happens:

(Insert David Cross here.) So yeah, needless to say, I’m sold. I’m absolutely going vegan. Not right this instant, mind you, but in a few days. Once I’ve had the chance to shop and maybe go consume half a pig at Blue Belly, I’m in. I mean hell, why not, right?

Early on she claims that “after only 2 weeks of being vegan, people were beginning to ask, ‘what is going on with you? You look amazing!'” …so I figure I’ll only have to do it for, like, 2 and a half weeks, tops. For the record, I’ve been promised “tons of energy, mental clarity, gorgeous skin, and a zest for life you won’t want to miss.” (And she “can promise that, because it happened to [her]”…um, has Bittman been spotted hanging out with this one lately, by any chance?)

Now, I have to say, I’ve never been the “don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!” type. It’s not that I’m not open to new experiences; I just think it’s a wholly idiotic thing to say. I never had to live under Idi Amin’s regime, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you that, I don’t know, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. Sometimes you know just looking at a food that you’ll hate it. You should probably just sack up and try it anyway, but feel free to knock it before, during, or after, as far as I’m concerned.

But I can’t really know if veganism will make me feel great just by looking at it. Or a macrobiotic diet, for that matter, which creeps into the book early on and later inspires the “Superhero” plan of eating I figure I might as well partake of. (She provides separate sets of guidelines for people who only want to reduce their animal intake, for those who are ready to go fully vegan, and for those that wish to unlock the special powers that only the macro life can give you.)

Whenever I’ve read interviews with macrobiotic eaters, I’ve been able to hear nothing but the unique brand of wide-eyed joy an anorexic feels upon discovering an officially-sanctioned eating disorder. So yes, I think it’s dumb. And I’m skeptical when Silverstone talks about how she struggled with the idea of eating animals for years and flirted with vegetarianism countless times—but that after she went vegan, she felt “lighter” and happier, without all that animal protein literally weighing her down. Is it just me, or does that maybe sound like the relief of shrugging off guilt, and not necessarily one particular set of proteins? As a non-guilt-ridden eater of animals, I might as well test this out.

To be clear: this is not intended to be in any way scientific. I’m not Kenji fucking Lopez-Alt; I’m not going to conduct one measly, poorly-conceived test in my kitchen and then pass the results off as gospel. My conclusions will be based on feelings alone—no hard numbers to confirm whether or not my health has improved in any way—because I’m also not Morgan Spurlock, or even a “person who has health insurance,” for that matter. And yes, dear christ am I ever going into this biased. Trust me when I say that I rolled my eyes through this book even harder than you probably assume one would roll their eyes through a Cher Horowitz-penned macro/vegan screed.

I mean, let me be clear: this is an almost fat-free diet. She says you can have nuts but should “limit them to about a cup a week,” and I’m not seeing anything else here with more than a trace amount of fat.  She wants me to chew each bite 50 DAMN TIMES. Many of her arguments against meat are either 1.) not about meat but factory-farming (“meat is full of hormones and antibiotics”), 2.) reliant on the idea that you’ll be eating nothing else with your meat (“meat contains NO fiber,” so how could you possibly digest it?), or 3.) based in the notion that eating something cute is wrong.

But no matter how dismissive I am of her arguments about saving the planet or her frowny-face harumphing over eating snuggly little sheep, I’m definitely up for a few weeks of miso soup for breakfast in the interest of seeing how spectacular it might make my skin look. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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…that’s a Reviews of Some Maybe Gross Things I Bought at the Grocery Store Postscript, in case it wasn’t obvious.  For reasons previously touched upon, I’m not eating much of interest this week – and if I’m not eating, I’d rather just avoid the subject, so this is what you get.

Do you remember how, sometime around 1998 or so, someone at some alternative beverage company or another realized that you could print stuff on the underside of a bottle cap?  And then remember how everyone really ran with it?

OK, sure, we all remember that fact that I just sort of made up and can’t substantiate in any way.  But, Did You Know: this is still happening!  I sure didn’t.  For some reason (optimism?), I always think stupid trends will just come and go really quickly.

I get disappointed a lot.

Anyway, somehow I managed to write an entire post about this dismal drink without so much as mentioning one of its most noxious traits:

I mean, come right the fuck on.  An inspirational Beckham quote?  Is this really what the demographic for organic nonsense “infusions” is supposed to be interested in?  Could they not at least have opted for something he’s said about a “smoovie” in a Burger King commercial?  Does no one aspire to greatness anymore?!

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