Sunday, September 02, 2007

Go vegetarian and save the planet

PETA is going after carnivores like Al Gore who are perhaps avoiding another inconvenient truth -- that one of the major causes of global warming is the raising and slaughtering of animals for human consumption. A recent NYT article examines the work of a number of environmental groups that are banding together to promote the idea of going vegetarian to save the planet.

My meat-eating friends don't want to hear about it, and I'm guessing Al doesn't either. There seems to be something almost sacred about meat-eating to those who will not or cannot give up animal products. I stopped so long ago that I can't remember what it was like to load up the plate with slices of cow, pig, lamb, chicken, turkey or fish. I've forgotten what it is like to pick up bones from a plate and gnaw on them, and I don't ever have to bite into a burger or hot dog and crunch down on bits of gristle any more.

But aesthetics aside, the facts remain: the production of meat is not good for the soil, the water or the atmosphere. A UN report issued within the past year states that meat production produces "more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined."

Which is going to be easier, getting Americans to give up their SUVs or their steaks and burgers? I'm betting they'll switch to hybrid cars faster than switching to a soy-based diet.

But for those who are interested, there are plenty of great resources online and off. One of my personal favorite cookbooks is called Soy Not Oi. Created in the early 90s by an anarchist collective of punk rockers knowns as Hippycore, this little cook booklet has practical and fun recipes for going vegan. The writing of these recipes makes you want to run to your kitchen and to your stereo and start cooking. Here's an example to give you an idea of the style:

"The Best Goddamn Fried Potatoes You've Ever Eaten by joel.
Cookin' Tunes: Last Option "Burning" (It's a great LP plus Jeff is a total potatohead)
"Exclusion" compilation LP

This is a fucking great thing to cook, it's so goddamned delicious. It's best eaten after you win a tough hockey game 7-4 in the playoffs against the best team in the league and you're a bit buzzed cos you drank too much post-game beer and you have the total munchies, but uh, I make it for dinner a lot, too.

potatoes, 9-12
onion, 1-2
green onions (scallions), 1-2 bunches
tofu, 1 pound
corn on the cob, 1-2 cobs
kidney beans, 1 can or 1 cup cooked yourself
green bell peppers, 2-4
mushrooms, handful or two
zucchini, 1 if you feel like it
tomatoes, 2-3
spices: garlic powder, garlic salt, lemon pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, curry powder, ground basil leaves, black pepper, chili pepper, etc.
Any other veggies you may fancy (like chile peppers)

Take the potatoes, wash them well, and dice the fuckers up, The smaller you dice 'em the faster they cook' do 'em about thumbnail size, You just do that, then put a good bit oil in a wok or BIG frying pan, Heat the oil, then put the potatoes in. Put in a healthy dose of all the spices and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are 2/3 cooked (guess at this). Stir constantly so the potatoes don't burn, Quick, you're losing your buzz, so grab a homebrew. Whew, okay. While this stuff is frying, chop up the onions, scallions, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, corn and chiles (if you got 'em).

Grab another beer. Like I said, when the potatoes are 1/2 - 2/3 cooked (kinda soft but still crunchy on the inside) sloppily dice up a 1 pound block of tofu and dumpot it in the wok with the potaotes and spices. Be amazed at the loud popping noises as water meets burning oil. You may need to add more oil once while cooking, as potatoes soak up a lot. Okay, fry this up until the tofu is mostly done (ditto for the potatoes) and dump in your diced veggies and the can of kidney beans. Add a fuckload more spices at this point, too. Keep stirring constantly. Cook 'til it's edible to you, tossing in some tomato wedges at the very last second (this keeps them crunchy and adds a lot to the texture).

Turn the stove off and dallop yourself up a huge portion (I like to place a huge chunk of vegan margarine on top and sometimes a little soy sauce, when I'm feeling a little crazy) with another beer and some saltines and pig out. Now, you're tipsy, you're full, you're tired, the record's over, and you're stoked. Go to bed, and save the rest for lunch tomorrow."

Rather than bashing our meat-eating friends over the heads with dire warnings about global warming, I'm thinking buying them a copy of this cookbook might be a lot more effective. It is available (along with other fine vegan zines) from Vegan Action and you can order it here. It even includes instructions for making Hippycore Homebrew to go with your fried potatoes!

Here's a photo of my well-used copy, covered with various food stains and the grime from the fire that destroyed our veggie commune back in the early 90s. No, it wasn't a cooking fire!

By the way, Soi Not Oi is a vegan cookbook. Your meat-eating pals might not be quite ready to give up the eggs, the dairy products, and the honey, but nevertheless, this cook book is so entertaining with so many great recipes, it may inspire folks to at least try vegan, if only once a week.


Dave P. said...

Great post. We've been vegetarians for nearly 17 years, and amazingly, we still get crap about it from some folks. I long ago gave up trying to proselytize -- if people ask about it, I'll tell them why I do it, otherwise I don't bother.

Not only will people switch to hybrids before they give up their burgers, they'll drive to work in little Shriner buggys before doing so. Anything but cutting down on meat...

Village Green said...

Have you found that people will ask you about reasons for being a vegetarian while at a meal, usually one where they are eating meat? Then the quandary is whether to start talking about alaughter house conditions, hormones & grain grown with pesticides, or how much petroleum it takes to bring a calf to full grown chunk of meat. Who wants to talk about that stuff at the dinner table?

viola said...

Ingrid Newkirk of Peta was Bill Maher's guest Friday night. She drove home the point that meat is the big villain when it comes to wrecking the earth and destroying the environment. Meat producing creates a multitude of environmental problems from devoting masses of farmlands to raising crops to feed the animals we eat to all the associated waste and the gases generated by the multitudinous animals.

terra said...

I'm always entertained by the meat eaters who, upon learning that I'm a vegetarian, will go on to say how much meat they don't eat. They say, "I really don't eat much meat, just chicken, fish, and burgers." Or something like that. I had a friend tell me that he watched a movie about factory farms and was going to give up eating meat because it was so awful. Then he took a bite of his hand sandwich. I just laughed.

Thanks for raising the point that the meat industry is one of the worst polluters.

KevinBBG said...

If the fate of the world depends on my becoming vegetarian then we are doomed, nor do I feel a twinge of guilt over it. The longest I've been a vegetarian is 3 days, then I started gagging on my meals. I could easily give up eating veggies completely and make my meals all meat all the time.

Village Green said...

Ah Kevin, I love ya, but sadly, you just proved my point. Meat-eaters are the stubbornest folks I've ever met, next to anti-smoking ban people.

Last Op-Sean said...

Last Option Rocks!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

i have talked to many people about what is their reason for eating meat and its pretty much the same thing always. "it tastes good" or "vegetables dont taste good". well the surprising thing is that you dont have to live by eating salads only. indian food especially the tradicional, is like super awsome, i urge people who arent vegetarians to try out indian food and then see if it is possible for them to switch.

Anonymous said...

Which is worse...eating a soy burger in Austin, TX that is trucked in from a company in CA or Oregon...Or eating moderate amounts of locally-grown, free-range/grass-fed beef or chicken once or twice a week?

Village Green said...

Good question, Anon. Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma goes into that sort of question in great depth. I'd go for the soyburger, even with added transportation costs at the very least you are not eating a creature born and raised to die for your pleasure.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that the creature was raised for my pleasure, although it is often a pleasure to eat. I wouldn't wear an unnecessary fur coat, but I would wear good leather boots instead of something made from petroleum. I wouldn't eat a factory-farmed cow that had never been allowed to thrive and certainly not a veal calf that had been tortured for the "pleasure" of eating it's young flesh, but I would eat a humanely-raised, pastured, truly free-range and truly organic cow that had not been caused to suffer during its life or death.

I do rarely eat meat, and when I say rarely, I mean I eat any kind of flesh (including fish) maybe once a week if that. But the reason is not that I think eating meat is wrong but that most of the meat for sale has been tortured with terrible feed, terrible living conditions, and terrible hormones and antibiotics. I also simply don't feel the urge to eat meat all that often.

That said, there are plenty of problems, as you know from reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, with our commercial agriculture. And plenty of animals are killed all the time due to the pollution caused by those farming methods. If I were to become a strict vegetarian, I'd be very, very careful about where my soy came from and the farming methods used to grow it.

I guess my main point is that I would rather eat an animal that is killed with the intention of causing as little suffering to it as possible than eat a commercially-grown soy burger that inadvertently caused the suffering of many animals as an unconscious byproduct.

BTW, have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?