Vegan eating for the people

My sister asked me the other evening the reasoning behind being a vegan. (This was not the first time she asked this, but it often comes back to our conversations). Although I am sure lots of people have their own reasons, I generally broke it down for Leah with 3 different reasons.

1. Some people choose to be vegan because they are petrified of hurting any type of animal ever. This could be for religious reasons, although, in this country, I assume that is not really the case for the majority of American Vegan community. (You can correct me if I am wrong, but that is my impression anyhow).

2.  They are white college hipsters who can.

3. Or they are aware of food justice issues and/or are generally trying to eat "cleaner" for health reasons.

Again, there might be more, but that's how the conversation went down.

Honestly, I told her, I think the first reason is fairly out of touch with the reality of agriculture and domesticated animals. Secondly, I think to have a real life conversation about veganism one must bring up white privilege. Being a vegan while maintaining a balance diet is not really an option for poor people living in food deserts. True, I might feel like a hipster eating my homemade cashew cream and almond milk (not together), but I need to remind myself that this is clearly a privilege that, as a white person with a decent income and easy access to grocery stores, I can choose for myself. Moreover, I believe in food justice, but understand that during this time of year, my vegan meals aren't "food justice friendly" either. (The Farmer's Markets have closed).

I have no intention of going vegan. (Dang, I love cheese). I do, however, love a good cooking challenge. Cutting out all animal products is such a challenge, especially since I can't find a lot of the ingredients in hardcore vegan recipes. I am forced to be creative.

Besides the challenge, I like to make an occasional vegan recipe because I think the over consumption of dairy products is starting to effect my digestive system. (Gross, sorry, but that's real life). Also, I am very aware of my need to up my fruit and veggie intake. When I cut out animal products, I am forced to eat more veggies.

This past weekend I went to Madison, Wisconsin to shoot a wedding. Since I flew, I allowed myself to indulge in my guilty pleasure: buying the latest issue of Glamour. In the October issue, there was an article that talked about how the food we eat effects our skin and how many break outs we get. This topic has been debated a lot and there isn't any significant evident providing it's true, but this article made a lot of sense to me. What we eat effects our bodies, including our skin. Although the article was not a battle cry for veganism, there were some hints of it, encouraging readers to eat a lot of raw fruits and veggies and less animal products. Here were some of the article's basic guidelines.

1. Steer clear of the white food family (like white breads, crackers, etc).

2. Eat more fiber-rich carbs

3. Cut down on dairy.

4. Avoid processed meats

5. Fill your plate with colorful antioxidant rich vegetables

6. Pass on meats, but not fish (Eat wild-caught oily fish)

7. Cook with olive oil instead of corn or vegetable oils

8. Cut down on alcohol.

It made a pretty good case (especially for someone like me - a 25 year old who still has terrible ache breakouts). So I think there is a good argument to try out vegan recipes as the health benefits seems to be greater.

I've been thinking about this blog post for awhile. So I was delighted to find that one of my blogs I follow decided to "go vegan" for a week, featuring some practical vegan recipes. (You can find Deb's blog here). There are a lot of recipes out there that are vegan but are far from the "hippy-crazy" style that "red meat eating Americans" fear. So it doesn't always feel impractical. It feels like eating beans. Sometimes, like this evening, I make supper and don't even realize it's vegan until I look back at the recipe.

This evening I made a Lentil, Black Bean and Chick pea soup I found on the Runner's World website (via a friend's pin). I also happened to have vegan rolls in the fridge. (Though, confession, I still put butter on it). So, in this case, my vegan supper was pretty economical (which is why I love baking vegan breads. Not having to use eggs or milk saves a lot of money in the long run).

This is vegan eating for the people.

So, you see, eating vegan doesn't have to tricky... at least not all the time.

Lentil, Black Bean, and Chickpea Soup

Saute in a little olive oil:
Half an onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced

When translucent add:
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t paprika

Add and bring to a boil:
1/2 c lentils, rinsed
1/2 c tomato paste
3 cups veggie broth

After soup has boil, cover and simmer until lentils are soft. (I used brown lentils so it took a little longer, like a little over an hour. Since they took so long to cook, I made sure to watch my liquid levels. If needed, add a little more broth or water. I am not sure exactly who much I added, but I knew I wanted this to be a soup, not a stew).

1/2 t salt
dash of pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed and slightly mashed
1 can chick peas, rinsed

Bring to a boil again and let simmer a few minutes before serving.

Source: Adapted from Runner's World