You laughed when you saw me standing on the sidewalk in front of Renys eating organic black beans straight from the can. You asked me to come to your house and remove the package of half-eaten vegan cheese from your fridge that I brought to your barbeque or else you threatened to use it to shingle your roof. You knew that when I declared myself a vegan after reading books by Alicia Silverstone, Kris Carr, Peter Singer, Lori Gruen, Jonathan Foer, and Moby, it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t; inspiring writers all, the failure was completely mine. My most recent promise to reboot my karma and remain a vegetarian for one whole year lapsed after about a month. Let’s all agree: my commitments to diets or lifestyle changes or whatever you want to call them has been about as firm as my commitments to quit Facebook and Twitter. Yes, I’m a chronic lapser. Well, here I go again. I watched a documentary on Netflix last night called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. It chronicled the journey of an Australian man named Joe Cross, who used a 60-day juice fast to cure his chronic idiopathic urticaria, a painful autoimmune disease. And guess what? It worked. That film, and the time I spent in Woodstock this past weekend, where you can stand in one juice bar, throw a wheatgrass muffin, and practically hit another juice bar, has inspired me to make some changes. I’m thinking of a line from a Mark Eitzel song that goes, “I’m sick of food/so why am I so hungry?” That’s where I am right now; sick of food but hungry for a dietary rebirth. So starting tomorrow, I’m drinking nothing but juice for 30 days. I’ve got my NutriBullet and my Jack Lalanne. My only cheat day will be next weekend when my wife and I go out for one our regular sauna and sushi dates, when we go here and then here. Like Thoreau immersing himself in a bog, I’m going to immerse myself in green juice. Now, for that one last cup of coffee…
Made you look. No, I didn’t eat these during my recent trip to Providence, RI. I grew up in upstate New York and have visited New York City many times, but I have no idea what system is being represented here. I’ll leave that for the foodies. However, I did discover a few more crushes while dozing on my bed in my suite at the Biltmore. And some I discovered before I left.
1. The novels of Tao Lin. Despair with a splash of humor and a hope chaser. His new novel Taipei drops on June 4.
2. Adrian Yonge Presents The Delfonics. I heard Adrian on Fresh Air last night and he talked about “dirty” drums and “bass lines like Curtis Mayfield” Not to mention that William Hart’s falsetto is still in business after fifty years. Next up for Yonge, Ghostface Killah’s new album. A man of many talents.
3. The Magnificent Pigtail Shadow, a new film by my friend and multi-talented artist Steven Cerio. I was lucky enough to meet up with Steven when he made it up to Portland a few days ago for a screening of his film at Zero Station on Portland’s East End. It was an emotional, psychedelic ride. Steven also wrote and performed the soundtrack, and the film is narrated by the great Kristin Hersh.
4. Good & Plenty. Not really sure what’s going on here. I’m up to a box a day. Maybe I’m trying to relive childhood memories of matinees at the old Genesee Theater in Syracuse. I used to search for the freshest, but now I crave the stale ones from the office vending machine. They last longer.
5. Vegan Before Six, or VB6 for short. A new book by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman. By being one of the first 200 people to tweet Mark the day he announced his book on Twitter, I got an advance copy from Random House. That was about a week ago and I’ve been following his philosophy ever since. That is, eat no animal products before six o’clock (or whenever you happen to eat dinner). Then, eat what you like, in moderation and still mostly plants, but meat is allowed. It’s good for your health and for the planet. A little more from Mark about this lifestyle here. I’ve been drinking delicious green smoothies for breakfast and even made my own homemade cold breakfast cereal, based on recipes from the book. It’s not radical. It’s rational.
6. The NutriBullet. Thanks to my friend Abbe Aronson, I am now the proud owner of what I can only describe as a blender on steroids. It pulverizes everything you throw into it, and will make the kale/banana/strawberry/flax seed smoothie of your dreams.
7. heavenmetal from Chelsea Light Moving, Thurston Moore’s new band. Not his best, or even close to Daydream Nation, but this first cut contains the line, “Be a warrior/Love life.” Good advice, and worth a listen.
8. The bookstores of Providence, especially Cellar Stories a huge used bookstore with shelves to the ceiling, and Symposium Books, which just sells remainders. They don’t make them like this anymore.
8. Twinkies should be back on the shelves by early summer. And if you have any left over from the last batch, they are totally still good.
10. Reid State Park in March. See below. I took this a few days ago. I’ve never been to California, except for my clandestine trip to Sierra Hot Springs, so I’ve never seen the Pacific Ocean, but I imagine it looks something like Reid in late winter.
No, it’s not the prequel to the Eminem movie. It’s time to simplify. I tried a vegan diet for one month, to mixed results. Despite the predictions I had read in various books and websites, I did not miraculously lose weight or start glowing by giving up all animal products. In fact, I got fatter. Maybe this was because I overcompensated for my non-violent piety by eating tons of dark chocolate (vegan) and drinking lots of beer and red wine (also vegan). I took Omega-3 pills and B-12 supplements, but I was still tired all the time. I also lost my motivation to exercise. Maybe I thought if I just gave up milk, meat, and cheese, I’d suddenly lose 20 pounds just by walking back and forth from my car to my front door each morning and evening. This is not to say that my little experiment didn’t have its benefits. I discovered sauteed collard greens, Earth Balance butter, and red beans and rice. I learned all about factory farms and how our food is made by reading books like Gristle, Ominvore’s Dilemma, The Jungle Effect, Food Rules, and watching films like Food Inc. and King Corn. My wife and I decided to buy a farm share again, and I found a local farm that sells fresh vegetables and makes its own Maine maple syrup just a few miles from my home. I learned that cows were never meant to eat corn, and that’s why there is so much e.coli in the world. That most of the antibiotics in this country are given to healthy farm animals on industrial feed lots to overcompensate for crowded, unsanitary conditions. My vegan month was an eye-opening experience, and it’s true that once you know something, you can’t unknow it. I’ll never eat at McDonald’s again unless I’m on the verge of starvation. I don’t miss meat, but I also know that I probably haven’t had my last cheeseburger. I certainly haven’t had my last Greek yogurt. But if I do have a cheeseburger again one day, I’ll try to make sure the beef was grass-fed and came from a small organic family farm. Do I feel like a failure? A little. But I can live with that. We are all evolving. We are hopefully becoming more moral, more just, more forgiving, more loving, more compassionate, more generous. So I bow down to the vegan gods, and Alicia Silverstone, for forgiveness. I’m not a Superhero yet. Maybe someday. For now, I need to simplify. The days are getting sunnier, longer, and warmer. Summer is close. I need to lose 20 pounds, and I am going to do that by walking six miles a day, swimming on my lunch break, doing the Hundred Push-Up challenge, and taking a day off once in awhile, maybe every Monday. Now I’m going to go get a slice of Buffalo chicken pizza….
I’m a vegan. There, I’ve said it. Actually, I’ve only been a vegan for a little over two weeks, but I don’t foresee going back to my old meat-and-dairy days. Not unless, like the Dalai Lama, my doctor tells me I have to eat some meat or else I will die. This strange and surprising transformation of my eating habits and, by extension, my life came about unexpectedly and completely on accident. After a wonderful week visiting my family in upstate New York, bingeing on chicken wings, pizza, and steak, I came back to Maine feeling that I had turned a corner in my dietary habits. The time I spent with my parents and my sister and her husband were great, but the food I ate while I was there was certainly not. Perhaps subconsciously I was already plotting my own personal food revolution. I started investigating vegetarian and macrobiotic diets when I came across a book written by Alicia Silverstone called The Kind Diet. Yes, the girl from Clueless changed my life. I always knew that meat was bad not only for the human body but also for the environment, but I never thought the same way about dairy products and eggs. They seemed so benign compared to the massive amounts of suffering and death associated with meat production. Did you know that dairy cows are kept pregnant all the time so that they will keep producing milk? Or that male calves born to dairy cows end up in the beef industry, usually as veal? Did you know that we use more farm acreage in this country to grow food for animals that we will eventually kill for food than we do for food for humans? Maybe you know all this and still want to eat meat and dairy. That’s fine. I certainly don’t want to come off as a hellfire-and-brimstone-preaching vegan. Less than one month ago I ate a huge steak dinner and had creme brulee for dessert, and it was mighty tasty. So I’m not going to go all Brad Pitt-in-12 Monkeys on you. But I do notice strange and almost hostile reactions from some people when I mention my veganism. Most are the “That’s nice, dear” variety. But some insist that we are at the top of the food chain and that as humans we were born to eat meat. I think there is some weird karma going on here. I can’t help wondering if people’s own buried guilt at eating meat isn’t somehow manifesting itself in these reactions. I touched on this is an earlier post when I talked about Thoreau’s vegetarianism. Thoreau once mentioned that after catching and eating a fish or some wild game, he felt that for all the slaughter and trouble, some bread or a few potatoes would have done just as well. I also notice in myself that in becoming a vegan, I almost feel as if I have joined some underground animal liberation rebellion (12 Monkeys again). I feel like an outlaw, like an eco-terrorist on the lam. And yet, did you know that raising animals for food production is one of the leading causes of global warming? I’ll get off my soapbox now and close with a few quotes from my main man. “Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.” Or this: “One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.”